The ability to work together towards meaningful goals is powerful protection against burnout and staff turnover.
When people come to a workplace feeling as though they’re cared for and that they’re accomplishing meaningful work, it creates a team culture of high performance and engagement.
Shared goals turn a group into a team.
As research by Paul Zak (2017) has shown, collaborative activities, such as participating in a common pursuit, increase oxytocin in your brain which moves people from the ‘foe’ to the ‘friend’ category, leading to greater cooperation and engagement.
An increase in oxytocin, also known as the bonding neurochemical, is the reason that team building activities such as icebreakers and potlucks can be effective in improving team culture.
Fascinating fact: in one study participants who shared the same food, had higher levels of oxytocin than people who brown bagged their own lunches and ate together.
Though increasing bonding is an important part of building a team, even more important is aligning people to a common purpose.
Great leaders engage with WHY
As a healthcare leader whose team is experiencing burnout, turnover and poor culture, a very important task for you is to connect your team to a sense of purpose - to find their why.
When your efforts are aligned to a common cause, you gain clarity about where to put your time and energy.
Instead of allowing your brain to slip into it’s default mode of focusing on what’s negative or overwhelming, you can instead take action and make progress toward a larger vision.
For example, we recently were asked to facilitate some in-person sessions for two mental health and addiction organizations that are merging into one. As you might expect, there was a lot of fear and suspicion surrounding the unknowns of the merger.
During the session, we encouraged staff members to share their vision for the future and, perhaps not entirely surprisingly, they were able to see that they all really wanted the same thing; to care for their clients in the best possible way.
Once their sense of purpose was expressed, the staff in both organizations felt more aligned, supported and optimistic about their future together. In identifying a common purpose, they were able to see each other as collaborators rather than competitors.
As one participant put it, “Now that we can see that we both want the same things, it’s easier to start to trust each other.”
Engaging employees through alignment to vision: an inspirational example
Another great example of how alignment to a common vision can and improve team culture comes from Island Health in Nanaimo B.C., where nurse-manager Trina, after taking our Evolution of Thinking™ program, used what she learned about vision to move her team forward despite the pressure of the pandemic.
At a time when turnover was extremely high and morale was at an all time low, Trina learned the importance of a clear and compelling vision, and implemented it through her team with incredible success.
“Our vision is a simple one,” remarked Trina, “’Great Patient Care,’ and ‘A Place Where You Want to Come to Work”.
True to her leadership strengths, Trina didn’t get bogged down in the details of how to express the vision. Instead, she trusted that every staff member knew what ‘great patient care’ was and what constituted a ‘place where you want to come and work’.
Led by their vision of great patient care, Trina and her team implemented a series of practices and projects that inspired everyone and motivated them to work together. While other departments suffered from low morale, Trina’s team soared - even finding the time and energy to willingly step in and help out other departments.
Part of Trina’s success is that their vision of ‘Great Patient Care’ wasn’t just an abstract slogan- it was something that mattered to her and her team, and that they could take action on each and every day. The vision gave a focus and meaning to their daily work again, and reduced feelings of burnout and overwhelm.
Along the way, Trina made sure that her team celebrated their progress and acknowledged their efforts which helped everyone feel safe and secure.
Trina’s case is a real hallmark of the power of a strong and compelling vision through the willingness and enthusiasm of staff to do what it takes to achieve that vision.
Through her complexity-leadership training and skills, Trina created a culture that fosters willingness through a clear and compelling vision and a culture that celebrates effort, teamwork, and results.
Watch or listen to our chat with Trina where we dive into her story and how vision helped focus her team.