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Team Building In The Modern World –How To Improve Your Own Performance And Develop Your Team At Work

Written by: Will Soprano, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Will Soprano

Foster psychological safety and professional growth in the workplace to improve results.

A modern approach to all things work typically involves data and performance metrics, but in order to fully develop a team and increase satisfaction for yourself (regardless of your station), data is not going to cut it.

Much has been written about psychological safety and professional growth in the workplace from the manager’s point of view, but few words have been written about what all members of the organization can do to create environments that foster the kind of workplace and team that enables growth.

So if you want to learn how to improve your results, team’s satisfaction, and upgrade your relationship with your boss then keep reading. This is for you.

Why do relationships at work matter?

Research shows that authentic, trust-based relationships increase job satisfaction. But they also increase your results personally, increase engagement with your projects, and improve your mental health. Workplace relationships can do all of that and so much more.

Millennials popularized doing work things that matter beyond the bottom line. Doing things for the greater good, believing in the work that you’re doing, or feeling like you make a difference are all now all proto sentiments. And relationships are the very thing that make work worth working and enable humans to make a difference regardless of the product created.

But beyond the popular ideal of “doing things that matter” there is real work to be done. Market copy to be written, code to be shipped, and products delivered. How we accomplish these tasks makes the biggest impact on the very quality of delivered work.

How do relationships impact work quality?

To elevate your work, improve team performance, or impress your boss you won’t want to look any further than the very relationships that you have within your organization. Whether you’re a manager or not, this is something that YOU can do. You don’t need to wait for a leader to have office hours on psychological safety, you can just begin improving and deepening your relationships. Your boss will thank you for it. And so will your team, even if they don’t know why they’re thankful.

All of the data points that executives use to make decisions about the business are directly impacted by the relationships that exist within teams at the organization. Research confirms through the “Need to Belong Theory” that our desire to feel seen, heard and recognized is a fundamental need of humans. And that impacts our motivation (as outlined in research on self-determination theory).

My very own adaptation in the workplace

I was a high performer as a young professional; seeing inefficiencies and attacking them with a fervor. And when my actions returned high results I would push further into the next with more confidence and even less tact.

I leap frogged from solo contractor to startup employee to mid-sized company manager to fortune 500 senior management all before I was 26. Pretty cool, huh? What I’ve left out of the previous sentence is that I did so without any regard to the needs of my bosses, coworkers or subordinates. All I cared about was results for the project, product or company I was working for. And I had great passion for them, but so little understanding of the effects my actions had on those around me.

Today I am quite the opposite, and I’d like to share with you how I am achieving the same killer results as before, while also fostering a psychologically safe workplace that helps my team grow professionally.

How my bosses help me grow today

Knowing that relationships are the very thing that make life worth living, work worth doing, and products worth delivering for a customer, I showed up ready to build deep and meaningful relationships with my team. But it’s the work that my bosses have put in with me that have helped me leap forward.

As I noted above, the younger version of me acted quickly without regard for others. Through years of trial and error, wearing out my welcome, and an eventual bottoming out, I’ve had enough pain. With the pain threshold met, I decided to try something new: Ask more questions than answers given.

Through this paradigm I started in my role here at Mojotone. And it just so happened that I had a couple of rockstar examples to learn from. My direct boss, the VP of Operations and Sales Andrew Simmons, is incredible.

Andrew is patient with me, helps me understand our business from every angle, and levels guidance when asked. From day one he’s taken an interest in who I am; asking questions to better know and understand me, and finding ways to meet me where I am.

How to impact your relationship with your boss and peers

I play a role in this relationship too. And I want to learn from him. So how do I do it? Well, it’s pretty simple: I ask questions, I ask permission, and even when I have a misstep I am sure to go back and talk it through with him. But most importantly, when Andrew gives me a direction or task I do it. Without regard to my own ideas or wants, I focus on what he needs me to do.

You see, if I want to have a psychologically safe workspace I have to remove my own ego, my own delusions of grandeur or perfect plans. Once this ideal has been adopted I then turn that into action by doing as I’m writing here.

Coaching teammates 101

When I overstep, misstep, or outright fail then my bosses are there to correct me. And that’s okay! In fact, it’s needed and helpful. When Andrew corrects me he does so directly, face to face, and allows questions to be asked.

Maybe what’s most important is what he doesn’t do. He doesn’t question me on group threads or make adjustments to my work in front of our team. And especially leaves no room for doubt. He is clear, to the point, and concludes the conversation only when I fully and completely understand what’s asked of me.

What are the results of our relationships-first approach?

Well, I’m glad you asked. The results are amazing all the way around. Our inputs (actions) are consistent, and the outputs (results) are better than ever. We are on track to grow one part of our business more than 15% year over year, our team is excited about working together, and our industry partners are more engaged than EVER.

We are doing all of this through building relationships internally and externally. Obviously these are not new ideas. But relationships are something often forgotten in a world driven by data, short videos and Zoom meetings.

If you’ve been following along you might have noticed that a lot of what we do here on my team is called Psychological Safety.

What is psychological safety in the workplace?

Psychological safety refers to the feeling of being able to speak up, take risks, and make mistakes without fear of negative consequences. The term psychological safety was first coined by Amy Edmondson, a professor at Harvard Business School. She described it as a “shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.”

Edmonson also noted that psychological safety is “one of the strongest proven predictors of team effectiveness”

How I am growing professionally within the workplace

I’m becoming a person that my teammates and organization at large can count on. But I’m not doing it alone. This is possible because everyone has bought into psychological safety whether they realize it or not. From executive leadership on down – everyone here is pulling in the direction of deeper, meaningful relationships.

And their buy-in is impacting me and my results. The role that I play is by asking way more questions than answers given. When working with my teammates I ask question after question until a path is found that everyone is comfortable with.

Andrew has given me the confidence to fail by his demeanor and approach. I know that when I fail it’s an opportunity to grow, and not the end of the world. I know that through his approach. Because of that I ask him more questions and run more things by him. And the result of that has been an improvement on my own work. So by helping me he’s helped himself and our team with one relationship.

How I’ve improved results at work through psychological safety

Words are wind. So to improve results actions must be taken, both for my bosses and my team and myself. The three things that I work to grow are: trust, development, understanding. That means we trust each other, we grow together, and we understand both our teammates and our team’s goals.

It all starts with trust. I build trust by celebrating my team’s work, asking for input on my own work, and remaining composed under pressure. I take all responsibility for issues, and zero credit for success.

The next step is to build a working relationship that works for them (not me). That means communicating the way my teammates and bosses want, providing feedback the way that they need, and allowing them the visibility to own roles they choose.

And from that foundation I begin asking questions. This is where the real return comes. Continuing to ask questions for context to help them to a better understanding of opportunities and products and situations and roles. And just when I think I’ve asked enough questions… I ask more.

Through these questions we find data, research, and a deeper understanding of the opportunity at hand. And when humans have a deeper understanding.. Well I don’t have to tell you that humans are capable of doing great, ungodly things. All we need is a little more context. We’re that close to our next big breakthrough.

What’s next for our team

With 2023 being the year of foundation, 2024 is the real year for growth. Not only do I hope to continue to grow personally, and dig deeper with my teammates but our goal is to create new opportunities for others to join and grow with us.

So here’s to more understanding, deeper relationships, and determined growth. Verified in the data, driven by teamwork: The business grows when we grow, and we grow together.

Learn more about Will Soprano on LinkedIn and his personal blog.

Will Soprano Brainz Magazine

Will Soprano, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

From writer to all things dev & tech Will has spent a lifetime trying, failing, learning and growing. In nurturing his ability as a writer he found that he had a knack for supporting software developers & connecting orgs across functions. As his career arc was hitting its first peak he found himself broken physically, emotionally, and professionally. That was the beginning of his personal growth. After years of trial and error he finally realized that sobriety was the answer. With nearly 4 years sober, he's not just a new person socially but professionally as well. The mental health community and his peers professionally have responded to his willingness to serve and authenticity.



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