Teams Are Complicated
Much of my business life is spent coaching senior executives and senior leadership teams. It’s one of the joys of my life to observe people and teams, grow, change direction, stretch themselves, show vulnerability and become what they want to be, not rest on what they are.
Working with teams is more complex than working with individuals, there are more moving parts; people have different experiences, upbringings, and values. Some are confident, some are withdrawn, you find both introverts and extroverts and all have some ‘limiting beliefs’: the beliefs they have from something that has happened in their past that make them doubt they can do something. This complexity brings great challenge and also great joy, when things start to happen. As people begin to change, learn new things, have ‘aha’ moments and start to believe more in their abilities, this influences the others. We are all infectious, not just in a Covid-19 way, but in the way we show up: our standards, behaviours and actions. We must take responsibility for the influence we have on those around us. Come into work with a smile or a frown and you will influence those you encounter. So, if we understand that we are infectious, then what do we want others to catch?
If you want to create a team that is truly bonded and high performing, follow these five steps:
Create a common purpose. This is the first thing any team needs – it’s the reason to come together and call yourself a team. This can also be a common goal, or vision. I was recently in the beautiful town of Harrogate in Yorkshire and I visited the famous Bettys Tea Rooms. The vision for the business, founded by Frederick Belmont, a Swiss baker in 1919 is: “Working together to build a great Yorkshire Family Business, creating prosperity and pride by doing what we believe in.”
When you have established the purpose, vision or goals for the business, then it comes down to the leader to show great passion and belief in the team to live and breathe it every day.
Create a safe environment. If your people are going to try things, take the initiative and push themselves to the next level, they must know that you’ve got their back. That if it doesn’t work out, that’s ok. Without this your team will stagnate and people will settle in their comfort zone, afraid to venture out. As a leader, you not only need to tell them it’s ok to try and fail, but to demonstrate your support to them by trying new things, that might not work out first time.
Trust them. You either believe people must earn your trust or you trust them ‘off the bat’. The former is safer, but won’t lead to a culture that moves quickly, is open to new ideas and tries things; in this type of culture only the brave put forward their ideas. If you want to create a culture where people have the courage to show their vulnerability in suggesting new ways to do things, or their true feelings about how projects are progressing, then you must show trust first, as your default setting.
Let them disagree and commit. You know when a team is starting to show high performance when its members disagree openly, listen to each other with respect, are prepared to change opinions and, even when it’s difficult, commit to acting, even when it may not have been an idea they originally agreed with.
Expect accountability. The holy grail for many teams is accountability. Accountability is two way. People must show individual accountability in demonstrating that they have done what they said they will do, and they will know that others in the team, not just the leader, will unfailingly hold them to that. If you fail to hold people accountable for what they said they will do, you simply undermine team principles, and you will never achieve any level of accountability.
Where will this take you?
If you do make the above actions your plan, your team will slowly evolve, bond and become high performing.
You must accept, as a leader, that not everyone will be able to make the journey. Some people may need to ‘leave the bus’ and new people may need to ‘join the bus.’ As Jim Collins has said, get the right people on the bus and in the right seats and they, with you, will determine the destination and take you there.