Any organization is a mirror image of its leaders and leadership team. If the leaders operate among themselves with strong and genuine trust, unity, communication and ownership, these characteristics will naturally cascade through the veins of the organization and internalize in its culture and DNA.
However, if the leaders run their organizations and functions as individual silos, rather than a unified team, their people will follow suit.
And, if they have trust issues among themselves or if they are the source of negative, passive aggressive, victimizing or blaming behaviors the same issues will inculcate throughout their teams and the overall organization.
Even if leaders say all the politically correct things in public, their people will watch their behaviors, pick up on subtle remarks and body language, and everyone will line up accordingly.
I often tell the leaders I work with, “Your employees can’t hear what you are saying because they are too busy watching how you are behaving.”
When describing their teams, leaders often make sure to tell me, “We really like each other and enjoy spending time together.” However, when I dig deeper I often find the same dysfunctional dynamics in teams were members like each other that exist in teams that dislike each other. They lack trust, transparency, alignment and courage to have the tough conversations and hold each other to account. In other words, the source of team dysfunctionality is not solely a function of personal likes and dislikes.
There is no doubt that every team is unique and different. The team’s internal culture and dynamic greatly depends on its leaders. It is also influenced by external factors like the type of industry and market conditions.
However, from having coached and worked with hundreds of teams and many thousands of executives, managers and employees, I have seen that there are some fundamental similarities between teams across the board, independent of circumstances.
People often ask me to rate their team’s effectiveness or lack thereof in comparison with the wider universe of teams in their own company, industry and wider Corporate America.
By the nature of the beast, there seem to always be certain areas all teams need to pay attention to if they want to be effective. While some teams have bigger areas of gap in comparison with other teams, there seem to be some common areas that all teams need to improve. I put these areas in five categories:
- Boldness & Courage – Most teams are not bold, authentic and courageous enough. Instead, they are too cautious and politically correct in their interactions, communications and behaviors.
- Cohesion & Alignment – Most teams talk a lot about teamwork, cohesion and alignment. However, in reality, leaders, managers and employees think and operate too often in silos, they tend to promote their own priorities and agendas, especially in scarce times and, in reality, people don’t stand in the good of the whole first, even if it is the right thing to do.
- Ownership & Accountability – Ownership and Accountability are another two of the noble corporate jargons to which people often only pay lip service. Instead of ownership and accountability, people at all levels tend to buy into circumstances a lot, and there is too much excusing, blaming and finger pointing across the board.
- Creativity & Innovation – In so many teams, people seem to be frustrated about the lack of creativity and innovation. Often, the leaders and managers with the most seniority and experience are the ones most stuck in the past and unwilling to embrace new ideas and ways of doing things. As a result, in most teams, people don’t do a good job challenging the status quo, thinking outside the box and bringing innovation and future-based thinking to the table.
- Passion & Energy – High energy and passion are missing in most teams. It is not uncommon for team members to struggle to feel inspired and energized. It’s not that people are depressed. However, most people who have been around for a while tend to adopt a more skeptical and resigned outlook. They may think of themselves as “realistic” or “pragmatic”, however, when push comes to shove, most will opt for self-preservation rather than rocking the boat to get things done, even if that is more exciting.
Obviously, not all teams are the same. A few teams stand out because they are strong across the board. Some teams are dysfunctional across all areas. However, most teams are a mix bag of these gaps.
You should self reflect on your own team and determine: How could my team improve?
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