Yesterday I wrote about autonomy. The companion element to that is social support. Having either one is great - having both is the goal.
Social support is going to look different depending on the company, culture, people, etc. What it comes down to is does your employee feel like they can reach out to anyone in the company, especially on the team, and ask for help. Sometimes this even manifests itself as giving help when it isn't asked for, but really needed.
This seems like a contradiction: people want autonomy, but they also want to social aspects. In reality, it isn't a contradiction at all.
Autonomy creates the feeling of control, where social support provides a safety net and a comfort. I know that I have the ability to handle this, but the option to get help. It really creates the best of both worlds.
As a manager, you need to foster social support. This means team meetings where everyone participates and information is shared willingly. This means always asking for help (to model good behavior) and also encouraging others to get help. It also means offering help and when someone takes you up on it, doing your best to help.
One manager asked for advice because his team never seemed to ask each other for help. As I talked with the team and observed, it was clear that people didn't ask because asking was seen as an interruption, even to the manager. When someone asked for help, he would say "this isn't a good time, but let me see what I can do". People asking for help made it seem like it was a burden. No one is going to feel a great deal of social support in that environment.
The greatest stories are when social support goes above and beyond. I remember doing a training video shoot that was going late into the night. The others on my team could have left and gone home, but they stayed with me offering to do anything to help so we could all get out as early as possible.
You'll also hear stories of people who had misfortune in their personal lives and work people rallied to help. Making meals, covering tasks, etc.
Here is the question for all you managers: If you had to rate your team for social support (scale of 1-10 with 10 being great), what rating would you give? Anything below 9 and you better start paying more attention to this area.