How to Rebuild Team Bonds and Culture in the Workplace
Episode 7021st April 2022 • Human-centric Investing Podcast • Hartford Funds
00:00:00 00:23:30

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After two full years of disrupted work and life, your team members have changed—and so has the work dynamic. Barbara Kay shares ways to rebuild strong team connections while embracing a new culture in the workplace.

Barbara Kay is not affiliated with Hartford Funds


John Diehl: [:

Hartford Funds, you're kind of the expert on teams, and I can imagine

that over the past couple of months you've gotten more questions and

and heard more stories and experiences about what teams are going

through as we kind of transition into a new environment. I mean, can

you? Is that true? Have you been working with lots of teams on bonds

and culture? [:

Julie Genjac: [00:00:41] John, this has been a very popular topic, as

you can imagine, and what's exciting is that so many teams and

essentially the leaders of the teams are really thinking about this

thoughtfully. They're planning ahead. They're being proactive and

trying to figure out what's the most appropriate way to continue to

strengthen their team going forward. But as you know, it's been a

challenge and we are the same people that we were two years ago and

in today's chat that we all have with Barbara Kay, founder of Barbara

Kay Coaching. She'll share with us some ideas on how to rebuild team

bonds and culture in the workplace. And I'm so excited to hear what

she has to say. [:

John Diehl: [00:01:25] Yeah, it's great, having her with us, so let's

er. Let's hear from Barbara. [:

John Diehl: [00:00:01] Hi, I'm John. [00:00:02][0.8]

Julie Genjac: [:

John Diehl: [00:00:04] We're the hosts of the Hartford Funds

n centric investing podcast. [:

Julie Genjac: [00:00:09] Every other week. We're talking with

inspiring thought leaders to hear their best ideas for how you

can transform your relationships with your clients.


John Diehl: [00:00:19] Let's go.

Julie Genjac: [:

founder of Barbara Kay Coaching. Barbara has been a business

psychology coach since:

financial services organizations nationwide, including wires,

independents, arias and their wholesale partners. In addition to

coaching, she speaks at conferences and provides custom skill,

building on coaching skills, leadership teams, communication brand

and sales psychology change client relationships, women in behavioral

finance. Barbara obtained dual degrees and licenses in clinical

psychology and post-graduate training in three coaching specialties.

She's a member of the APA, the American Psychological Association and

the FPA, the Financial Planning Association. She writes a quarterly

leadership column in the journal Financial Planning and is the author

of two books The Top Performers Guide to Change and The 14 Trillion

Dollar Woman. Your essential guide to the female client.


Julie Genjac: [00:06:55] Barbara, we're so excited to have you here

with us today and discussing a topic that I know John and I are

hearing about multiple times a day, and that's team bonds, team

culture and just really the reintegration of financial professional

teams. I can't tell you how many times a day I hear, especially a

leader of a team will say to me, Julie, I really like my team. I

respect my team. We have a great dynamic and I don't want to lose

that more. I'm afraid we've lost a little bit of that over the last

couple of years, working remotely and just as we've all changed as

people and the world has changed and I'm excited to hear your

thoughts on maybe rebuilding those team bonds and connections as we

go forward. Obviously, all of our crystal balls are a bit murky as to

exactly what will unfold over the next few months, but I know that

this is a topic very top of mind for financial professionals and

their teams, and we're so excited to hear your thoughts and guidance

n on the rebuilding process. [:

Barbara Kay: [00:08:06] Well, thank you for having me. I'm delighted,

delighted to be here, and yes, rebuilding culture and rebuilding team

is so important. And I talked to advisers all over the country,

literally from New York City to Alaska and all of the channels. And

some people have been particularly those who are more independent or

RIAA. They're allowed to gather more regularly and other larger

organizations. They've been still very remote. There is no doubt that

this two years of destruction in the team work has really taken its

toll. The analogy I use is everybody has what I call stress mono.

We've had two years of chronic, nonstop, relentless stress and like

mono, I was fortunate not to get mono in college, but a lot of people

do, and they just don't feel up to snuff. They're just kind of a

constant sort of drag on their energy. And that is happened to every

team across the nation, and there's been a lot of disruption. So what

I hear a lot is that the remote work had some upsides. People didn't

have to commute. I have a client who works in the New York City, New

Jersey metro area, and she was commuting one and a half hours each

way to work. And so not commuting to work really allowed her to be

very, very, very productive and get frankly three more hours of work

in a day. But at the same time, the administrative tasks because

everything went digital, got more voluminous. People had to do more

work. So rather than poking your head out the door and saying, Hey,

what about x y z? In a twenty second conversation, it turned out to

be five or 10 instant messages or emails back and forth. And so

people have had a lot of that team bonding strain. And the analogy I

use is and the thoughts I use is everything that we benefited from.

Remote work had landed more on the personal side, not having to

commute, not having for women necessarily to get into a suit and high

heels, having more flex work for everybody in the family. The things

that got harder were the teamwork because trying to work together

remotely was really difficult. More tasks and a real loss of

perspective. You know, when you're sitting in an office with people,

you can literally see how hard they're working. You can see that

they're having a hard day. You can see them slogging away no matter

what role they're in. You can have a coffee break or go to lunch or

even bring lunch in. When we were remote, whether you were still very

remote or partially remote or back to the office, now all of that

perspective was lost. People did not see what you were doing on the

other side of that screen all day, so I think it'll take some time to

rebuild those bonds. And I have to say some folks are wanting to pull

people back really quickly and they want to hurry it up. Other people

are ready to come back, and not everybody's in the same place based

on their personal feeling based on how comfortable they feel and how

at risk they are and the people in their family are at risk. So one

of the important things is for leaders of teams to just be patient.

You know, if you think about psychology and that's my background.

When people are under a threat situation, they basically have four

responses it's fight or flight, which we're all familiar with. And

then the other two are freeze and fold. And, you know, in COVID and

in the disruption, the fight response was people who wanted to throw

the mask away immediately. And let's get back to work and this is

stupid and let's all go together. And and a lot of people had good

reasons for that. And the flight response was, I'm never leaving my

house again. It's too dangerous. And the the freeze and fold are

people somewhere in the middle who are just struggling to figure out

what to do. They're kind of stuck. And so as a leaders of teams, you

might not have noticed that your team members have just had different

responses. And worse, it makes it challenging for a team leader is

your team members have different responses. And so one size does not

fit. All the person in fight mode is not going to respond the same

way as the person in flight mode who really needs encouragement to

come back. And so patience seems to be the word of the day. I hate to

say that because we've have had to have a lot of patience and we

continue to need a lot of patience and then recognizing that people

are going to need a more personalized approach. It's definitely not

one size fits all. And then to focus on trying to connect with their

concerns if they are hesitating to come back in the office or they

feel uncomfortable in the office. Focus on connecting with their

concerns and how to acknowledge them and how to accommodate them. And

for many people who are back in the office, it's very important to.

Flip the dynamic, you know, coming back into the office requires more

effort than getting a cup of tea or coffee and sitting at your

computer. And so we lost the fun of being with our team and we gained

some benefit from being at home. And so we need to flip that equation

and create that fun bonding again at the team level and try to

eliminate the hassles that existed in remote work. So if I were to

give a team leader a piece of advice, it would try to make the office

and bonding environment social but positive bonding as good as

possible and eliminate as many of the administrative hassles as

possible because nobody's going to want to get up and commute to have

the same level of hassle they could have had at home. And those are

at least two tips that I would recommend. And before I chat around

more, let me stop and ask Julie and John if you have any other

questions or thoughts. [:

John Diehl: [00:14:07] So one question I have, Barbara, is when I

think about kind of the way it team functions, sure, we have the day

to day efficiencies and responsibilities that have to be taken care

of, but I think more of a concern for me would be the cultural

concern. So you know what I notice now that we're in a place where

we're starting to do some in-person events versus all virtual versus

before that, we were all in-person. It reminds me of school, right?

We were all in-person and then we went all virtual. And now we're in

some kind of hybrid world and who knows where it goes from here. But

what I think I learned to appreciate most about being in-person were

the small conversations that kind of went around the office, as you

say, somebody poking their head in your office or a story about what

they did this past weekend or an experience they had. And I don't

know. It's just been my experience that no matter how many virtual

happy hours we had during the pandemic, it really didn't replace

that. So are there any tips you're giving to team leaders or to teams

in terms of are they revisiting the culture? Are they are they

assessing each of the individuals on their team for how they can

better communicate that culture? What are you finding in that kind of

eam culture piece of things? [:

Barbara Kay: [00:15:30] Yes, this is really important. What we do

every day is basically what builds the culture. You know, you can

have a mission statement that sits on the wall and it's a fancy

statement, but if it's not, it's not walk the talk. It really doesn't

matter. So I think you're absolutely right. It's those small binding

things. So I was talking to a leader the other day and they're

talking about, oh, doing all sorts of balloons and signs and welcome

back and all of this. And it was not the right moment for me to have

a detailed conversation. But I would heartily agree with you on the

things that create that social bonding. And rather than, let's, you

know, run hard and come back and we're going to be super efficient

and we're going to just pretend the next the last two years didn't

happen, and we're going to hit the ground running a sprint. And here

we go. Everybody come back in. I expect that would be met with some

disappointment at minimum and a lot of resistance because people have

been running already for two years. And so listening to them, I would

learn from the team. What has the team learned about how the op the

office operates? What are the things that they learned working

remotely that would make being in the office more efficient? What is

stuff that they don't need to be doing anymore that just creates

excess hassle? And then the time to gather those informal

conversations, it doesn't have to be expensive. It's just a matter of

being able to connect. It could be we order out lunch and if

everybody feels comfortable, we just hang out and sit together and

have lunch or we do things that are going to create that bonding.

It's great to ask a lot of open ended questions, and it's great to

pull the team together and talk about now that we're back together.

What is the culture that we had before? What do we want going forward

and how does that show up day in and day out? And the other tip I

recommending to leaders is everybody has lost perspective, and many

people don't realize that the leaders are extraordinarily tired. They

have worked as hard, if not harder, than everybody else. And I say to

them, I'm sorry to tell you this, but please don't expect your team

to understand your perspective there. They didn't see how hard you

worked. And so being a leader means showing appreciation for them and

not necessarily expecting a lot of reciprocity. That doesn't mean the

team leader can be taken advantage of, but the team is not going to

come in love all over them and say, Thank you so much for everything

you did to keep us going for two years. They may, but they may not

because they're living in their own world of stress. And what happens

when we're in our own world of stresses is everybody's kind of become

self focused.

Barbara Kay: [:

under two years of stress, and it might be easy for the leader to

want the team to actually show appreciation because they have been

under just as much stress as the team. Unfortunately, the job of

leadership means we don't necessarily get to expect our team to come

in and give us lots of praise and and verbal hugs for holding the

team together because when people are under stress, they tend to be a

little self focused. So it's a great opportunity for the leader to

come in and show appreciation for the all the hard work that the team

has put out. They've been under more stress than the leader

recognizes, just as the leader has been under more stress than the

team recognizes and just show regular appreciation. People really,

really appreciate being acknowledged and appreciated and do the best

you can to create that environment where that culture that you want

to give to clients is also the same culture that you have on the

inside, because whatever you do outside to the clients is what also

you should be doing inside. Because if there's a disconnect between

your internal culture and what you want to deliver to clients, it's

going to show up, it's going to leak out. So I was talking to an

adviser and said, You know, what is the goal when you deal with

clients? And he said, Well, I want our clients to come first, and I

want our clients to be cared for and well treated. And I said, Well,

that's the culture you want on the inside. Do you want your people to

be well cared for and well treated, and you want your team members to

think I need to care for my team members first, as well as the

clients to care for the firm and the team and care for the clients.

And if there's dissention on the inside, it will show up on the

if not sooner, if not later. [:

Julie Genjac: [00:22:58] Barbara, the last conversation you and I

had, we were talking about how much feedback we'd received from

financial fashionable saying, you know, I can't wait to just go back

to normal to just go back to how it used to be. And you said

something during that conversation that was an absolute aha moment

for me, and it's going to sound very straightforward and simple, but

it really was eye opening. And you said, Julie, we're not the same

people we were two years ago. Two years is a long time. And I just

think as I started to think about that, people have they've had

children, they've adopted pets, they've moved. There's potentially

been death in their family or their circle. They've just been a lot

of major life changes that have occurred. And so I think to expect

that any of us would just go back to how it used to be is, I'm quite

certain, an unrealistic expectation. And you know, I love your idea

of assessing the processes of the team and the technology and some of

the infrastructure and operations and trying to determine what what

have we learned that will take with us? What are we able to leave

behind? Would you guide teams to spend an equal amount of time sort

of reacquainting themselves on the personal side within comfort

levels, of course. But you know, really getting to know their team as

ter two years of distancing? [:

Barbara Kay: [00:24:25] Oh, absolutely, absolutely. Building those

bonds is really, really important. We've lost all of that casual

chatter, talk over lunch, talk about the kids, you know, understand

people's perspective. That is to me what has really been frayed. And

you know, there is a saying distance makes the heart grow fonder. I'm

sorry. I don't believe that. I think distance makes the heart grow

distant. And bonds have to be rebuilt. And it doesn't have to be

expensive or complicated. It can be just simple ways of showing

appreciation and care. And I really encourage leaders to do some open

dialog with their team, learn from the team because what the team

needs at this point is to be reengaged with work and reengaged with

each other. And you could have a brainstorming session over lunch or

whenever you can manage it and talk about what are the things the

team depends on how large the team is. You might have to put it into

smaller groups if it's a ginormous team. But what if the team learned

what was good about being remote? What was awful about being remote?

What did we miss about our team members? What are what are ways we

can rebuild bonds so that we can actually enjoy working together

again and feel that that benefit of being together? What are the

things that people think that they can't do remotely that really need

to happen in in person and focus on that? Everybody thinks of tasks,

but tasks can be done remotely. People can't be done remotely. And so

thinking about how to rebuild those bonds and not just on the tasks

that have to be done, and I know it sounds very squashing and touchy

feely and all of that good psychology stuff. If you think about

people's benefits of working, remote tended to accrue to their

personal life and their work life got more aggravating and more

disconnected and disengaged with remote than we're going to catch up

for that and we're going to need to rebuild those bonds and reengage

people. And the coaching experts always say, and I hope I'm one of

those people that one of the best ways you can engage people is just

to ask them open ended questions and get them involved in creating

t talking about the problem. [:

John Diehl: [00:26:54] Barbara, do you recommend that team leaders

kind of assess individual team members individually to say, let's say

there's seven people on my team and four are comfortable coming back

into the office, but three or not? Do you see any team leaders, let's

say, reaching out to say, Hey, if you're comfortable, could we grab a

cup of coffee or lunch just so there could be some listening? Because

I think sometimes we assume we know the reasons why that person is

not comfortable. Well, we may not realize it has nothing to do with

protocols. It has to do with caring for an aging parent who, by the

way, is two years older. And I think with what we've learned in the

last two years, if we put ourselves back two years ago and think,

well, that that team members choice before would have been to leave

our team or I don't know what they would have done, but now that

we've learned how we can do this, maybe we can retain someone on a

more flexible basis and create a better environment, more productive

environment for both the employee and for the team. I guess my main

question is, do you see senior leaders reaching out based on the

erences of the team members? [:

Barbara Kay: [00:28:03] Well, I would certainly encourage it, because

when someone who is in flight mode, meaning I don't want to leave my

house, encounter someone who's in flight mode at work. This is all

hooey and I just want to get back to work. That is not a good

situation in the office, and I have a client who for medical reasons,

was extremely cautious and early on before things bloomed again in

Delta and American was back to the office and happens to be a female.

And she encountered someone who this is silly and I don't want to do

this. And she was cornered in a coffee room by someone who was

aggressively thinking all these protocols were silly and she felt

very uncomfortable. And that is the kind of situations that people

are getting into and leaders need to understand. That's not the kind

of situation they want their team members to encounter. So absolutely

have as many one on one conversations as possible, if you know, based

on the comfort level of the team and that comfort has to be rebuilt

eam member feels disengaged. [:

Julie Genjac: [00:29:14] Barbara, you've shared so many tips and

ideas on how team leaders or teams in general can can proactively

work to to reconstitute those team bonds and really ensure that their

team culture is so strong going forward. But at the end of the day,

it sounds like your guidance is this isn't a process that will

necessarily happen naturally, and there should be some thought and

preparation and ultimately a plan put in place to proactively engage

in these discussions. I know you've given me so many great ideas and

on behalf of John and myself and the Hartford Funds, a human centric

investing podcast, thank you again for joining us and for any

financial professional that would like to reach out to Barbara

directly. You can visit her website at Barbara Kay coaching dot com,

or you can email her and Barbara at Barbara Kay coaching dot com.

Again, thank you so much, Barbara, for your guidance and expertize

today. [:

Barbara Kay: [00:30:11] Thank you. It was delightful to be here. And

I invite anybody to reach out. I'm happy to talk, talk about their

situation. Thank you. [:

Julie Genjac: [00:24:37] Thanks for listening to the Hartford Funds.

Human Centric Investing podcast, if you'd like to tune in for more

episodes. Don't forget to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts

inkedIn, Twitter or YouTube. [:

John Diehl: [00:24:51] And if you'd like to be a guest and share your

best ideas for transforming client relationships, email us a guest

booking at Hartford Funds dot com. We'd love to hear from you.


Julie Genjac: [00:25:02] Talk to you soon.