Groove and Soul
What is soul? Moreover, what makes a group of people into a living and breathing team, moving as one and “getting shit done” together, for one another and for the greater good? This is the million-dollar question, the answer to which dwells in the various points below…
Human Frequencies - individuals in the team need to come together at some point in the day but don’t have to stay “in step”all the time - in fact individuals and factions should be encouraged to diverge and riff in their own space, then be welcomed and heard when they return with ideas. Keep everyone included and well-versed in why the team does what it does. Keep that message strong, then allow people the space to be creative
Groove - where the team soul resides. Team soul is the collective feeling of belonging and feeling heard and appreciated by others. It is never evident in teams who gossip, bitch or tread on each other to get ahead. That is the poison that will kill the team, (along with the other killer, which happens when good people watch the boss tolerate bad behaviour and poor performance in others, time after time). Have each others’ back. Know your worth and appreciate it in others. Do your job because you love it. If it’s not a “hell yeah” then don’t bother. Go and get a job you like, with people you click with.
Passion - the dynamo behind the team. The mission is their passion - make sure you have crafted this with care and AS A TEAM and that you all “get it” and feel strongly compelled to advance in one direction. Passion begets creativity, ingenuity and tenacity and also inimitable style.
Momentum - arises from passion, collaborative effort, good comms, strong direction and is fuelled by team spirit and strong identity with the mission or cause.
Direction - from careful and accurate observation and intelligence gathering - focussing inwards on what the team can do brilliantly, why it wants to do it and encouraging it to DEFINE the hole in the market to suit their strengths and ideals (Apple) rather than react to it ( like many of the retailers who fell by the wayside in Covid) - because you’ll always be behind the drag curve, playing catch up and having to change tack and plug holes - and also that’s where most of your competition resides. Eeeeuw. Often, people don’t know what they want or need until they see it in action or laid out before them. Be steadfast, consistent and shine bright and have each others’ backs. They will come.
Communicate with soul - (if everyone actually did this one thing….) Talk, smile, look into the eyes of the people you talk to. And listen. Bloody well listen. Drink in the body language, the unsaid words, whether the tone, register, delivery of message is congruent with their body language and facial expression, so you notice how they are and genuinely care about the response. Stop formulating your reply as they talk, and practice NOT having to fill the airspace. It’ll be a revelation! Notice how much more you can learn when you shut up.
Authenticity - Allow people to be themselves, be comfortable with who they are and what they have to offer. Do not give credence to “busyness”, victim mentality or smartarsery; instead, work on creating an environment to encourage and nurture smart, loyal and effective team players who want to make a difference and who clearly believe in what you stand for as a team / company / brand and moreover, who believe in themselves and what they have to give.
Selection and Interview - Remember the previous point when you put your selection process and interviews together. Now, there is a time and a place for a recruitment company. But as a team leader, you should never exclude yourself from the process of hiring a new team member. Ask yourself the right questions first about what it is your team does and what/who it needs. Then concern yourself with finding out about the PERSON. If you outsource the whole process, then how the fuck can you be assured that they choose the right people for YOUR team? You may have attracted a cracking candidate and fabulous human being with an advert, only for an outsourced agency to put them off or filter them out, all because you were “too busy” or reluctant to bother your arse with the interview process. You need to invest in your team and stay invested, be interested and give them your time.
How to start a conversation - Get on the phone from wherever it is you have to be, make it less formal, but just get on with it and do the interview (or one of them) yourself. Think about it a bit but don’t overthink it. All you want is some decent free-flowing conversation. Ask the right questions ON BEHALF OF THE TEAM (whom you have consulted, obviously!!!!) , be honest with the candidate, be yourself, have a human conversation and listen carefully. Let them talk. You don’t need some poor hapless recruiter asking bone questions about competencies, in the absence of any better input or guidance from you. If you are stuck for a starter for ten, remind yourself that your question needs only be sufficient to elicit a full response from them (this isn’t about you, so get out of the way!!). Start off easy and ask them something they know the answer to, for example “what was the thing you have most hated doing at work” “is there anything that really irritates or bothers you?” Or “what do you like about the idea of working in xxxx and what are you looking forward to doing?” That should break the ice. Or start with hobbies first, and ask them what it is about it that they enjoy most. Allow the candidate to shine and enjoy the conversation. It really is that simple. You need to be confident that the values of the person you interview are entirely congruent with those of the team as a whole. Trust your hunches. Get creative about enabling a cracking candidate into that space, regardless of whether they tick every last box in experience or qualifications.
Fixing wobbles - Never allow a team member feel inadequate or scorn their efforts - if it’s not up to par then they haven’t understood the brief and there is a communication issue to solve here. Only sack a disingenuous arsehole. Learn to talk to the team members both individually and together and learn where / how they see themselves fitting in. If you interview them correctly in the first place you would know. Be flexible and prepared to reshuffle jobs and responsibilities to suit, and also their t&cs so remuneration is appropriate. Err on the generous with pay and development opportunities for staff and do not fucking shoe-horn people into soul-destroying training. Be flexible with work arrangements if you want a happy worker whom you will retain because their work fits in seamlessly with life and requirements. Feed their soul by developing them as a professional person. Help them attain in areas that give them the most fulfilment. That, by the way, is a key concept. Fulfilment.
Be interested in the people in your team and whether or not you can make things work better for them. A fulfilled and appreciated team member will pay you back tenfold with output, creativity and loyalty. Fulfilment, and a sense of being known and wanted, is what the soul craves. If the team ticks those boxes for the individual, then the individual will tick the boxes for the team - and will work hard and long to do so. The moment equilibrium falters, it must be addressed without delay, or it will throw the whole thing out of kilter. Stay vigilant and if the ride gets bumpy, check in with your team and LISTEN hard to their response.