As we pass a year of Covid related social restrictions, there are many things we have missed, many things that have frustrated and saddened us, and many that we should be very thankful for, but as we all sit here working on a Friday in lockdown… One thing that I really miss is the Friday social. Whether it’s a cheeky lunchtime pint, a well-deserved after-work drink, a refreshing chit chat or even a few liveners with friends and colleagues to let off a little steam.
When leading and working within teams, the real way to gain belief and deliver results is by creating a culture of trust. Trust is not bought or manufactured by a hierarchical structure, trust is earned by investing in the relationships we share.
There are always smarter, faster, more capable people out there, but to be a great leader you need to create teams that fight for one another, with a common goal and a real belief that you have each other's back, not just to protect but to improve and excel.
To allow individuals to flourish and grow, you need to know who they really are, what they like, what they don't, what their skills are, what they respond to, and most importantly, how to make them laugh. That cannot be taught from a leadership book or a seminar, it is about being human and actually giving a sh*t.
To earn trust, to gain access to someone's inner workings, does not come for free, and there is no secret hack. It's about spending physical time with someone, understanding their background, challenging them and supporting them when you need to. Relationships don't come easy, the best ones, at times, falter and break, but are worked on and cultivated to grow.
Some relationships aren't meant to be, and that’s ok. You will quickly understand who is the right fit for you, the business, and who will help you create an environment for achieving more than you thought was possible.
We are all very busy, juggling work, family, life, whilst trying to eat healthily, keep fit, save the planet, embrace diversity and recognise the importance of mental health... all whilst being super home teachers, raising money for charity and clapping for the NHS. So investing time in others isn't always easy, especially when you don’t have two minutes for yourself, however, don't expect miracles if you don't put the effort in.
In work, as with life, when people do not invest in each other, this creates a culture that can be toxic. With no thought of the greater good, or for each other, this can breed unbreakable, negative cycles. That's why investing time in each other and human contact is critical. In this digital era, yes, things are easier, quicker and more efficient, but arguably disposable. When projects and teams have worked well, it happens by investing in humility, bad jokes and sometimes even a good old fashioned session.
Times change and so must we (alcohol is not essential :), but the fundamentals remain true. Invest in people, not just as a corporate slogan, but as your duty as a decent human being. There is no greater feeling than when people surprise you, back your corner, and let you learn together as you create bonds built from both success and failure.
With the roadmap out of Covid lockdown in front of us, we are all looking forward to the post Covid era, and with the lines blurring between work and life, let’s hope we take a lot of positives into our relationships and create a brighter more inclusive, fun world together.
Here’s to reconnecting, exploring new relationships and having the opportunity to grow (and go for a well-earned pint).