The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ‘cohesion’ as ‘sticking together tightly’. In a workplace
setting, it would simply mean a tightly-knit team working together closely on a common goal i.e. a team displaying professional cohesion.
Just having the best kind of talent in your team does not guarantee great performance. Leaders must ensure that the team talents and competencies are complementary with each other and the team members are getting the opportunity to unlock their true potential.
That doesn’t sound like something too difficult to achieve, but research shows that there is overwhelming evidence to point that ‘absent’ leadership behaviors are more troubling for people than outrightly destructive behaviors. Say you have a sailing team with the best rowers in the country, but their captain does not provide clear directions on when to speed up and when to slow down and conserve energy. In the absence of effective leadership, the team will probably fail to meet its objectives and team members will be disillusioned and unmotivated.
Almost everyone feels great if their contributions are recognized and they are appreciated for what they do. 63% of the people surveyed in an Interact poll highlighted not recognizing employee achievements as a issue that prevents effective leadership and reduces team performance.
Being ignored by a leader can also lead to ambiguity about the role you are expected to perform, anxiety and burnout, and talent attrition. All these factors contribute directly to hitting the bottomline.
If you are a leader, your biggest responsibility is to ensure inclusion. Unless you bring people together and provide them the psychological safety they need to express their ideas and views, people will feel isolated. Leaders must approach multiple forms of diversity (such as gender, race, sexual orientation, physical disability, and others) and embrace differences. In the sailing team situation, inclusion could be encouraging people to share suggestions and ideas on how to row faster or better and win or to identify areas of improvement from past performances.
In a stressful environment, people tend to look up to leaders as harbingers of clarity. As a leader, you must sift through the chaos to guide your team. Especially in the current Covid-19 scenario, the role of a leader is further amplified to help people in staying true to the common goal. Imagine the sailing team hurtling towards a whirlpool – without the leader quickly taking stock of the situation and guiding the team, it could be disaster.
Lastly, a leader must focus on modelling the right behaviors. People automatically gravitate towards leaders who simply lead by example and show the team what to do, instead of merely giving orders.
Assembling a team of great sailors will not be enough to give you a competitive edge. Tuning your team, training them to integrate and creating conditions that allow ‘cohesion’ will be needed to achieve greatness. As the designated leader, it is your responsibility to coach your team and ensure that every member gets opportunities to contribute.
Gallup research says that team leaders are directly or indirectly responsible for at least 70% of a team’s engagement levels, and also that engagement directly translates into performance. So, if you are a leader who is not actively connecting with people and acting as the ‘glue’ that binds them together, perhaps what is needed are not new team members but a new team leader.
Sumit has led teams in top firms such as Deloitte, Aon, Accenture, and GE for over 16
years, across multiple countries and industries before starting on his own.
He specializes in organization design, well-being, HR transformation, and performance
management and is an expert in storytelling and training facilitation. Currently, he is
advising clients on how to help employees navigate the murky waters during and post
the Covid-19 outbreak. Earlier, he has led research around the Future of Work and the Changing Nature of Work & the Workplace. In addition, he has also authored articles around workplace well-being and cultural transformation.