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This type of team bond can ensure your company’s post-pandemic recovery is a success

Rebuilding your team is more impactful when you approach the process in this way.

This type of team bond can ensure your company’s post-pandemic recovery is a success
[Photo: Luis Alvarez/Getty Images]

I recently talked with a friend who serves as the president of a large tech company. He had a unique perspective on the record-shattering mass exodus of nearly 48 million workers in 2021, known as the Great Resignation. The “Great Resignation,” he posited, is now turning into the “Great Regret.” When I pressed him further, he said, “So many people who left for greener pastures have realized that the ‘lawn’ is no different on the other side.”

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That doesn’t mean people are groveling before their ex-employers, though. If they’re going to return to their old jobs, it’s not going to be on old terms. People aren’t willing to continue being unsatisfied, and they likely won’t be herded back into offices without putting up a fight. Most of all, people are tired of transactional business. They want their work to mean something and to know that they matter.

That’s why I believe the true remedy to the Great Resignation isn’t bumping salaries, adding more creature comforts to the office, or allowing employees to telecommute full time. Rather, leaders would be wise to facilitate greater intimacy at work. I’m not talking about romantic intimacy; I’m talking about cultivating a level of trust that connects your team members deeply and buoys them through any storm. After all, the one thing that can elevate us out of transactional business is stronger relationships. Here’s how you can foster intimacy at work:

Unpack issues as a group

We all carry emotional baggage, but we tend to be less compassionate when we don’t have visibility into what others are carrying. Cultivating intimacy at work means understanding and honoring each other’s tender spots, which requires vulnerability and openness so they can be revealed.

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Try doing a simple exercise with your team where everyone shares one thing they are carrying in their emotional backpacks. Of course, people will set boundaries around what they’re willing to talk about with their colleagues, and that’s valid. But when you create a safe space for sharing, you’ll be surprised to see how much people want to open up.

You set the tone, so go first and go deep. Perhaps share a challenging moment in your marriage or an experience caring for a sick parent or child. Though these conversations can feel hard in the moment, they change the way we interact, because they allow us to see the inherent humanity in our co-workers.

If the thought of this sharing exercise scares you, you’re not alone. I’d venture to say most people are terrified of sharing personal details at work, especially the messy aspects. But leaders won’t start seeing connectivity within their cultures until they create environments where employees feel safe to express themselves.

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Find your why

If a stranger approached you today and asked why you work for your company, what would you answer? In my experience, most employees offer responses such as these: “I had some early success and stuck with the industry” or “This was my first job.”

Neither answer is particularly inspiring—and neither is tied to what is unique about the person, nor does it connect to the company’s mission. That’s probably because 85% of managers and employees say they’re unsure or disagree that they can live out their purposes in their everyday work, according to McKinsey.

Members of my leadership group discuss this issue often, bouncing around ideas for connecting people’s purposes to their organizations’ purposes. There’s a clear reason for doing so: good things tend to follow when employees can articulate why they’re at their organizations and how they contribute to their organizations’ missions

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My suggestion is to lead by example: Figure out your “why” and share it with your team. People want to work with others who feel they truly belong, and two-thirds of employees wish they heard more from their managers and other company leaders.

Unearth a shared story

Our ability to connect with others is enhanced by our ability to connect with ourselves. There are numerous outlets for this, such as writing down the story that explains why you do what you do. Ultimately, however, there’s more value in sharing your story out loud with others. After all, healing is hard work, and it’s even harder (and slower) in isolation.

Giving people the freedom and safety to excavate their stories and feel heard will set off a positive domino effect. You’ll see your employees be more creative, innovative, and confident; they’ll be more willing to take risks at work. And as a result, they’ll realize personal and professional growth. Anytime we heal ourselves in any capacity, we show up with more grace and compassion for our fellow team members and customers.

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To unearth your story, think back to the time you first felt unsafe in the world and journal about it for five minutes. Then, consider what you did to feel safe again. That’s your superpower, and you’ve probably used it to battle your way to success throughout life. When people know the story behind your superpower, it’s intuitive for them to see how you were born to wield that superpower in the world.

Encourage your employees to unearth their own stories, which can profoundly impact how they understand each other and create more intimacy at work.


Corey Blake is the founder and CEO of Round Table Companies, a storytelling consultancy, as well as a speaker and educator, with his course “The Story Hero.”

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