Here’s an interesting article from the business world on how social capital helps build stronger teams. Margaret Heffernan, writing at Ted.com, points to social capital as a key to building a successful team.
So, what exactly is social capital?
Heffernan defines it as “the trust, knowledge, reciprocity and shared norms that create quality of life and make a group resilient.”
And, how do you achieve it?
She lays out three keys, but only two are relevant for this discussion. The third, including women in the team, makes sense in a broader conversation, but doesn’t apply to a sports team.
What are the other two?
- Equal time to speak–Making sure each player has an opportunity to speak and be heard matters. This applies to the formal and informal in my opinion.
- Social sensitivity and awareness. Here she notes that the group was very aware of each others’ feelings, reactions, moods etc and had a strong capacity for empathy.
One more important point.
Building an empathetic culture may seem daunting, but it really comes down to small consistent actions that build upon one another.
Building social capital sounds like an abstract idea but it derives from an accumulation of small actions. When I talk to business leaders about this, many of them have reexamined small initiatives that fundamentally transformed their organizations.
Start with small steps that can lead to bigger things.
The best teams communicate openly and honestly with one another. Teammates know how to hold each other accountable and say the tough stuff. They can also celebrate each others’ successes. Creating that culture requires significant work, but it is worth it.
In organizations with high degrees of social capital, disagreement doesn’t feel dangerous, it is taken as a sign that you care; the best thinking partners don’t confirm your opinions but build on them. They know that every idea starts out flawed, incomplete or downright bad. In organizations with high degrees of social capital, conflict, debate and discussion are the means by which it gets better.
Many factors are involved in creating a championship team, but social capital helps build stronger teams. Don’t overlook this crucial factor when creating or evaluating your culture.