Do you have a special “thing” with your team members? Is there something that you do only with them, either individually or together? If not, then you should.
As a team
There should be something special that you do as a team that no other team in your organization does.
Here are some real-life examples that I have either initiated as a leader or been a part of:
First Monday Donuts.
On the first Monday of every month, one of us was responsible for bringing in donuts. In retrospect, this explains why our performance on the first Monday of every month was abysmal, but it was worth it.
Team Meetings Over Ice Cream.
How many other teams in the company had regular meetings over ice cream? Exactly none. This was our special deal. And just getting out of the office and enjoying a treat made for some great meetings. (This is one I had actually forgotten about before I wrote this. Needless to say, it will make a return one day.)
Lest you think everything I do as a leader involves sugar, I include this. It may seem like a small thing, but I ran the only department that had daily stand-up meetings. And I mention this because it bucked company culture a bit. If you are in a position to do so, find something that no other part of the organization is doing and do it. Of course, we did these daily stand-ups for a reason (you can learn more on Tom Dixon’s guest post on meetings), but one of the benefits that developed was the feeling that this was our special “thing.”
This is the harder part for leaders, because most leaders think they should treat each person on the team the same. It seems there is some sort of egalitarian gene in most leaders that causes them to fear giving any special treatment to any one team member.
One of my favorite books on leadership, First, Break all the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, demolishes the argument that we should treat all of our team members the same. The reality is that you should give preferential treatment to your top performers and that you should provide special training to certain team members over others. But that is not what I am referring to here. These ideas are meant to build relationships in special ways.
Think of your friends. There is one friend with whom you play golf. One with whom you go fishing. One with whom you talk late into the night. You don’t necessarily do all of those things with each of your friends, but that doesn’t mean you prefer one over the other. The same is true with your team members.
Here are three examples of special things I did with my team members.
I had one team member with whom I habitually ate dinner. He managed a department that was under me and we always found ourselves working late. We were both young and single, while the rest of my team was older and married, so this was our special thing. We’d leave the office and by the end of the dinner, there would be papers all over the table with notes, emails sent to ourselves with reminders, and more. In short, they were massively productive.
I had another team member with whom we frequently met outside to play catch with the football. That was our “thing.” I remember fondly those warm Nashville days in February when it had been six weeks since we had one of those meetings. The sun would peak out, we’d break 55 degrees, and we would have one of our meetings. Sometimes we discussed a lot of business, sometimes personal stuff, sometimes nothing at all. Either way, it was a great break from the mundane.
Practical Joke Teammate.
I love to play practical jokes in the office. So I needed a teammate and I found one in a guy I will call Andrew. He and I plotted some masterpieces in our day. That was our “thing.” Anytime someone else saw the two of us whispering in the office, they knew we were up to something.
Leaders, it is your responsibility to do things with your team that no one else does. It is your job to make your team different. And it is your job to find that special “thing” that you only do with certain team members, to treat them as…individuals.
How have you created special “things” with your team? How have you seen other great leaders do this?