To keep productivity high, relationships strong, and employees genuinely happy, you have to have a strategy that develops and nurtures a positive team culture.
Becky Brunner is the team culture strategist who will create a plan that strengthens your team’s culture and allows you to lead a team of motivated, connected, and happy employees without having awkward “feelings talks” and confrontational meetings.
In today’s episode of the Joy to Lead® Podcast, Becky Brunner joins us to talk about how we can foster a strong and thriving team culture through connection, communication and collaboration.
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All right, guys. Thank you so much for joining us on the joy to lead podcast. I’m incredibly excited for today’s episode because this has been several, several months in the making. It’s also my first guest podcast episode back from maternity leave. So a lot of good things coming today. I’m talking with Becky Bruner and she is, gosh, how do you describe Becky? Do you have like extra 45 minutes just to talk about how awesome she is, but gosh, she is a value-driven adventure loving team, culture strategist. She works with female owned businesses and their teams to get them connecting on a level beyond just work. She really believes that to keep productivity, high relationship strong and employees genuinely happy. You have to have a strategy that develops and nurtures a positive team culture, which is what we’re all about here. Becky will help to create a plan that strengthens your team’s culture and allows you to lead a team of motivated, connected, and happy employees without having awkward like feelings talks and confrontational meetings. She is a true friend. She’s been in the leadership academy for over a year now, or maybe just at a year. It’s exactly a year last month. I think so maybe just over a year. And she has come to be such a leader in that community and just a great friend in my own life. And I am so honored to connect you guys with her today, Becky. Hello and welcome to
Thank you, Caitlyn. So excited to be here today.
So excited to have you on, like I said before, it’s been several months in the making, like we first talked about this, like back in gosh, like April or may, and now it’s November, which is just so surprising this year has just flown by way too fast, but I am excited for Christmas. Are you guys a type of family where you it’s like already Christmas season after Halloween? Or do you wait the appropriate amount of time?
I’m Christmas right after Thanksgiving gay. So the Friday after Thanksgiving, like it’s on it’s time for Christmas, all the false stuff is gone and Christmas is here the day after Thanksgiving. I’m not quite ready for Christmas yet. We need to have some fall, even though currently feels like winter is coming.
Yeah, it’s snuck up real fast. I was like, wait, it’s Halloween already. Usually I’m the type of person who puts up the tree on Halloween night, but this year I am waiting and it, it just feels very strange. But Becky so excited that she here. Can you give us an introduction who you are, what you’re all about, why you love what you do.
Hey, so awesome. I am Becky and I live in Western Wisconsin with my family. I started my business in September of 2019 trying to add up the years here after probably about 17 years in the corporate world. I started with Mikayla Quinn’s overwhelmed overbooked course, just to kind of learn a little bit more about the virtual space and how things work. After that, I started working with a couple of female business owners doing project management which I’ve always loved keeping all the things organized and working with teams of incredible people, whether women are men. I started working in those projects and just naturally started kind of creating trying to create some positive team cultures amongst the teams, working in a virtual space is definitely different than being in person and an office together. But it is possible.
And I did learn quite a bit about that after being virtual in my last corporate position and kind of just learning to be creative. Something that I remind people of all the time is think about the things that you love about connecting with your peers, whether personally or professionally, and you just gotta be a little bit creative about how you can make that work in the online space. And so bringing that into the teams that I’ve been working with the last few years and seeing the connection, just continue to grow and grow and grow. And it’s been absolutely incredible. The relationships that have been formed, people that have kind of came outside of their shell, who may normally wouldn’t with other clients, just because they haven’t felt comfortable and learning just new strategies to how to figure out each person, because every person coming into the team, depending on woman or man and trying to help them feel comfortable in the group setting that they’re in whether it needs to be some small group or in larger group, sometimes people need to start small and before they really feel comfortable opening up and definitely a true leader can bring about more conversation if they too are vulnerable because the people on their teams will find it a lot easier to open up and be themselves if, if their leader is as well.
And I’m not telling you that you need to tell every, every single story and share every detail of your life, but helping your, your employees or team members feel like you’re being true to yourself and sharing a little bit more.
I love that so much, but he’s the kind of person where like, culture just like follows, like you leave it in your awake, you cultivate it in your wake, you have this great ripple effect of naturally getting people to take off their masks, to like step out of their shell and just be who they are with each other. And it’s really beautiful to experience. And it comes so naturally to you. I’m curious, did you ever, like, did you know this was a superpower of yours or did you just like kind of awake to it over time and realize, oh, there’s something here. Like not everybody knows how to do this intuitively, but I do
It probably wasn’t until the last year or so that I really realized that it was a super power. I think it was just always a natural thing for me. Growing up with a mom and a grandma that were very hospitable, those to take care of others check on others, see how others are doing. It’s just a very natural thing for me. Also as a two wing three as an Enneagram I’m just always thinking of other people and wanting to make sure I know what’s going on. Today, actually, this is funny. I looked back at some Halloween pictures, as people are asking about what happened over Halloween. And I looked back at past Halloweens from the corporate world and dressing up together, having Halloween activities, connecting teams, whether it be in a small group or kind of company-wide. And seeing that I was working on team culture from the moment that I possibly could. And so it’s fun to look back and see the things that I’ve worked on on building team culture, whether it be a team potluck or team gatherings, or, you know, team Halloween events happy hours, et cetera, that I’ve been working on this for a long time, but it’s just finally to fruition that, oh, this is something that I’m really good at. And I’m very passionate about. Very cool.
And just over this past year or so, you’ve actually come to develop your own kind of a philosophy about what creates team culture. Can you tell us about those three pillars and in how they come together to facilitate and create a culture?
Yeah, so I believe that there are three CS that really formulate a strong team culture, and those are collaboration, connection and communication. And if you truly look at a business or even probably in your own personal life, if there are issues within communication issues, within connection and issues within collaboration you start to see issues in productivity. So when you have a strong sense and strong path for those three CS within your business, you will start to see even better practice productivity within your team. That also associates a little bit with team happiness. So when your team feels connected, when your team feels that they can communicate with their team members and when their team feels like they can collaborate and B feel like they are someone’s listening, someone understands and someone is going to reciprocate what they’re doing that people are happier because they want to come to work. They want to see the people that they’re work with every day because they just, they feel joy. So that’s just something that I’ve really found is so important to, to making sure that you have that strong team culture.
So how do you know that something is off? I think, you know, personally, you know, we’re, we’re human, so there’s always, our team is never going to be perfect. We’re never going to have 100% connection, communication, collaboration. Our culture’s never going to be, you know, 110%, but how do you begin to start to look at what is off? How do you feel what is off and how do you start to pinpoint exactly which pillar needs to be worked on first?
And I think the first step you need to take there is asking yourself those questions and starting to jot some notes down. One of the first steps in my process is to fill out a questionnaire with some detailed questions about where you’re feeling about some of those steps. So whether it be connection and there’ll be some detailed questions about, you know, how often are you connecting with the team on a work basis? How often are you connecting with the team, you know, personally about them outside of work for collaboration, how often are you collaborating on projects? Whether it be through Voxer, slack a zoom call and just starting to think about those pieces and look at the numbers. How often am I really doing those things? Am I doing them often enough? Could I be doing them too much? There could be teams that are doing some of those teams too much, and people are burned out. Like I do not want to collaborate every single day, all day. It, it does get to be too much. So there is a happy medium, and I completely agree that one team is never going to be a hundred percent is just something that you’re continuing to strive towards working on and helping each, each of the three CS be better than the day before. So if you think about yourself as a person, I want to be better today than I was yesterday. You’re thinking of the same things with the three CS.
I love that. So breaking that down even further, what are some signs that things are off on your team?
It could be maybe a team member. So a team member has been connecting, collaborating, communicating, and they’re not maybe they’re kind of fried about a certain situation and maybe somebody needs to step in whether it be a leader or a manager on the team to check on that team member. Like, is there something going on in their personal life? Why are they not doing some of the things that they used to be doing? Also it could be that, you know, somebody isn’t or is upset during some of those meetings, they’re, they’re brash or they’re rude during those times. And you’re thinking collectively about how are we asking questions? Do we need to think about the questions that we’re asking? Are we being productive during those calls and making sure that everybody has a chance to give their feedback or is the same person talking every single time and others feel left out during the collaboration process.
So many things I, I, I, I’m assuming that the list can go on and on and on and on because every team member is so different. Every team is so different. Let’s start breaking down, like each of these pillars, one by one, I’d love to talk about connection first, what it means, what it means to you and what it looks like on a team.
Yeah. So connection is probably one of my favorites. And connection can definitely mean a lot of different things. For me, when people feel connected, they feel like they can share they feel like maybe they can do the two other CS, which is collaborate and communicate. They feel heard they possibly feel loved in a way that they are able to be their true selves and participate within the team. And also just that they feel like, you know, like I said before, that they’re part of the team. And I lost my train of thought, sorry collaboration that the people are able to communicate their thoughts and connect with the people around them. So can they brainstorm together? Can they walk through all of their ideas and be heard that they are not pushed and turned down that, that their ideas don’t matter. Everybody’s ideas are taken together. And then at the end they decide together what is the best possible idea? Oftentimes then people feel like their voices are heard and they aren’t. Only the leadership team has, you know, the, the, the rights to make the decisions. So I think that’s definitely important when teams collaborate communication, oh, sorry, go ahead.
No, I, my, my brain was just having an epiphany, like connection to me as you’re breaking it down, it seems like connection, strong connection just means that everybody feels safe to be their fullest self to reach out and like, like actually connect with the fullest self of somebody else on the team. So it’s just authenticity and transparency and people being real humans. There’s no, there’s no buffers to who you are. There’s no masks, no pretending or you know, just faking perfection, faking smiles. And I, I love what you said about when people feel safe to connect communication and collaboration kind of come as a ripple effect of connection. Would you say that maybe connection is like, so do these pillars, do they happen equally or does, does connection have to happen first and connection lead to communication and collaboration? Or what are your thoughts on?
I feel like connection and communication are probably two of the most important in my mind. I feel like in order to have a thriving business in general, you have to be able to communicate as a project manager currently and previously the being able to communicate with our clients, with our team members with the leadership team is so critical. And a part of communication is also listening a big part of being able to communicate as listening to the people around you. So if a team member is telling you something, something is bothering them notes about a project something in their personal life is going hard, whatever it is, you listening, taking that into effect. And I do that every single day. When I’m working on a project, I will connect with a team member, maybe ask them how something’s going.
But the next step is I ask them how they’re doing. You know, how is your son doing? I know he was sick this weekend, or how was that football game that you went to? Did your son score a touchdown, connecting with them at a true level and asking them about how they are helps them feel like they’re connected again. Those two go really close together. But also then brings up additional conversation. They may have not reached out to you and said like, Hey, I’m having a really hard time. This is going on. I’m struggling with my workload because of X, Y, Z. But because I asked the question and I think that’s, that goes with listening. So listening and asking the right questions, it’s all part of communication. So communication is, is so vast. It can, it can go from communicating on a business level with our clients and team members down to communication and connection with our team members to really get to understand who they are and what is important to them.
And when you understand what the core importance is of that team member it’s easier to, to really understand sometimes how they even do work. Especially in this online space with contractors. You may have a mom with three small children and her core importance during the day is taking care of her children. And you know that in the evenings, she’s going to be working on her task. So really being aware and understanding of her schedule, if, if that’s how your team works so that you can make everything work together and communicating in ways that it’s it’s best for that team member. Maybe I send that woman some boxers to let her know these are the status updates that she needs to be aware of when she’s working on tasks this evening. Just being cognizant of that team member and, and who they are.
So it’s not just about one thing about communication, it’s just site channels that deliver information. And I think, you know, what I’m hearing you say is that, you know, to create a team culture, you have to carry more information than just information about tasks. You have to carry information about the person, the human that’s on the other side. And I think for myself, you know, I’m hearing you say, like, be sure to ask them about their son’s football game. And, you know, I think for myself, I often get so caught up in my own mind and my own head that it would never sadly occur to me to reach out and ask somebody about what’s going on in their life. And so I’m thinking, you know, maybe I could set up reminders in a sauna, and that sounds very like unpersonal, but, or unpersonable, but if it gets me to facilitate and trains me to start thinking about others first, then I’m going to do it. So maybe other listeners, if you’re, if you’re out there and you don’t have a wing to in your Enneagram makeup like me but you wish you did use a sauna to help you remember to reach out and think about others and to call your mom too, while you’re at it, put that in your Assata list.
Yes, definitely. Let’s talk
About collaboration too. We’ve explored connection. We’ve explored communication. What happens when we begin to collaborate? When we have connection in check, we’ve got communication in check. What do we start seeing? When we start to collaborate,
We start to see that people will open up more with ideas and bringing ideas to the table because they feel comfortable. And when people feel comfortable and they feel heard, they will bring ideas to the table that may help the team grow leaps and bounds. You have no idea that the knowledge of your teams sometimes because they haven’t shared it. And so they may bring a small idea that could help the rest of the team brainstorm, or they might bring a big idea. I absolutely love brainstorming. I could brainstorm for days. And I’ve found that even small ideas from myself may bring the rest of the team to be like, yes, let’s do ABCD EFG, and everybody else will begin adding their ideas. And so again, having someone else on the team as a communicator and a listener taking those copious notes so that everybody’s ideas from collaborative collaborating can get written down and click up or a sauna.
There is nothing more exhilarating and exciting to be in a meeting that has that domino effects like that, where someone just gives an idea and then it goes, and, and, and, and, and it just builds and builds into this beautiful marketing campaign. I miss those from my corporate days. I miss that from my team on a marketing agency being in those meetings just was unlike anything else. It’s just so fun to be a part of a team that, you know, has those experiences together. Let’s talk about ways that we can start putting these things into action. I’m sure people are sitting there thinking, okay, I’m going to prioritize connection. I’m going to prioritize communication. We’re going to prioritize collaboration. How do we start doing that? How do we start putting what we’re learning today into action in our teams?
I want you to be realistic with yourself and take one step at a time. Don’t think that I am going to connect, collaborate and communicate tomorrow. And my team is going to have the best team culture on Monday, like Monday, we’re going to be good and the rest of the year is going to be perfect. I would take one, like, what is one thing that when I brought it up today or even Caitlin, like really made the light bulb go off, like, wow, I, that should really be something that I work on. Start with that, take the rest of the notes and add them to your Assata, Adam, to your click up and add them, maybe break them down. So if one of them was, I want to make sure we have more meetings that we have time for brainstorming and really collaborating maybe add an extra 15 minutes onto your weekly team meetings for a month and see how that goes.
If you want to connect more, maybe start a VAX or, or a slack channel that is just about personal connection. Start connecting with your team on a personal level, and really start to see where that brings just the work in general. People are going to start connecting on work and personal, even more, that may have not connected before. You may see that John and Deb come together to connect on something that would have never before, because they heard during your connection conversations, that they both love fishing. And so they started connecting on fishing that may bring John to ask Deb, Hey, I would’ve been thinking about this for my work task. And I never thought to ask you before, because we’ve never really talked, but do you, can you help me with that? And so starting those connections will just become natural because people have started communicating on just that little basis.
And I would say with communication making sure that you are directly talking to each of your team members, employees it doesn’t have to be on a daily basis but reach out weekly or biweekly. And like Katelyn said, add it to your Assano or click up ask them about how they’re doing. Are they having issues with anything that you can help with? Ask them personal questions. You don’t have to go super personal. How is their child doing in sports? How is their grandmother doing? You had mentioned that when they feel like you care about their world outside of their work, they will start reaching out to you more as well for other things. And also when you understand what’s going on in their outside world you will maybe have a little bit more compassion to Caitlin. Didn’t get her tasks done today.
And we have no idea why her whole family has been ill. And she’s been struggling to get that done. Maybe you can bring in somebody else to help with the task and maybe helping that team member as well to feel comfortable to talk to you. Maybe they didn’t feel comfortable full before to say my family has been ill. I’m worried about getting this task done. And again, bring that compassion back in, Hey, it’s okay. We can bring in Becky to help on this because we understand you’re trying to take care of your family. So start small. Don’t feel like you have to take it all at once. Like I said, and I promise that every little step that you take, you will start to see little steps, little glimpses of of hope for positive team culture. And I’m excited to see where all of you go with that.
I love that you mentioned that as well, because one thing that keeps coming in my mind is I feel like people should reassure themselves and to be aware that it’s, it’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to build over time. So the first time that you, you know, ask for Halloween pictures, or what, what did your family do over the weekend? Like for the very first time in slack or in Voxer, things might be a little awkward. You might hear crickets. People don’t know if it’s safe to share. They just feel a little, you know, they gotta get warmed up. And I think you, you spoke in the group a while back that, you know, when you first started a Voxer channel for one of your teams, you started sharing and asking questions. I think I think there’s like an icebreaker question every single week.
And the first few times you did it, it was kind of slow going. People didn’t really share too much, but then now you’re starting to see people come into that group and engage on their own fruition on their own time throughout the week. And it just kind of, it happens over time. And so I think persistence and staying dedicated and, and keeping sight of what your goal is and committing to those daily steps is going to be key because you won’t see it happen overnight. And maybe even not in a month, it’s just, just keep going, keep going. The, the reward is worth it.
Yes. A hundred percent. Another thing that I want to bring up is it may not be you on your team. That is the one to start those conversations, start those connections, maybe your personality it’s, this is just not for you, but you know that you have someone on your team that would just love to do this. They are the ones that are always connecting other people on the team, even if they’re just small occurrences look at who you have on your team. And I have a feeling that you’ll be able to find somebody, if you don’t feel comfortable to start working on those things, you can even delegate it to multiple people. Maybe Caitlin is the one to work on connection with the team. Maybe John is the one to work on that every one is working on collaborating. Maybe during team meetings, he’s the one bring up like, Hey, everybody let’s brainstorm on something. It doesn’t have to be just one person. But it’s okay if it is. And as a leader, don’t feel bad if it’s not you if you’re your personality, it’s, it doesn’t work out. You have people on your team that you’ve hired that can do this. Oh, that’s
So good. That’s so empowering. And that, that’s what leadership is like. I was just thinking about this on a walk today, you know, being a leader doesn’t mean that you fit a mold. It means that you, you do the best and you be the best with what you have and seeing opportunities to pull in other support and to, you know, make a network of support, not just build a team on top of yourself that you lead. So I love that you mentioned that. Thank you so much. Let’s talk about you know, thinking, taking a step back and looking at this conversation as a whole, what are, what, what’s just one thing that you want people to leave with? What, what is one thought or one action item that you, you hope resonates with people as they step away from this episode?
Just to remember that in all aspects of their lives, the three CS can be super important. Connection, collaboration, and communication, and to just take a step back and think for a moment about how how much they would enjoy being on on their team, if they had a, a more positive team culture and to take baby steps every single day to make that happen, if anybody would like to see my new freebie, they can download the 30 days worth of team connection prompts. So I know that it’s not always easy to think of those new ideas yourself but a new freebie on my website will hopefully be helpful. So we’ll use happy assisting.com.
And I will link that in the show notes. You guys, so go download that freebie. I’m going to go do that right now. That sounds awesome. Thank you for making that. That’s just brilliant too, and so actionable. So that so much. So how can people connect with you and even work with you? Tell us about how we can find you and experience you and bring you and your expertise into our teams.
So my website is in the works, but it does have a coming soon page right now. So you can visit that, which has my LinkedIn profile, my Facebook, Instagram, et cetera, but you can find me in most places at app choose happy, assisting. Otherwise my website is choose to happy assisting.com and you can click on my Calendly link and schedule an appointment for a free discovery call. Your team would like to learn more and get started.
Awesome. Wow. Thank you so much. I am just so excited that we’ve had this conversation. It was brilliant. I cannot wait to share this. Thank you so much, Becky, for being on the show today.
Thank you. Have a good day, everybody.
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
Connect with Becky at Choose Happy Assisting
Download her free guide, 30 Days to Connect with Your Online Team
Expand your leadership and build your dream team. Join the Joy to Lead Leadership Academy today!