Teams are essential parts of work and business today. Teams are how work gets done—maybe for as long as there has been work—complex teams, simple teams, cross-functional teams, cross-company teams, all of these are common practice in running a productive, thriving company. Now here’s a question to you: Are you killing your teams with your company culture?
Dan Rockwell of Leadership Freak targets six behaviors that kill teams in his post, Dead but Won’t Admit It, behaviors that aren’t just toxic to teams, but to organizations as a whole. Do any of these behaviors apply to your teams?
- Don’t act. Talk without action always kills teams
- Lie. Members go along to get along. They don’t tell each other the truth.
- Pretend. Every time you pretend you’re succeeding – when you aren’t – is another nail in the coffin.
- Forget. Compelling purpose was the reason you came together. Today, it’s just going through the motions.
- Outlive. Teams die when they outlive their purpose.
- Ignore. Elephants – taboo topics – live in every dead teams closet.
These points center around core values that you need to succeed in business and life: honesty, transparency, and openness. While we are all guilty of these behaviors from time to time (being polite at a dinner when the meal isn’t great or accepting a gift that you might not like, but the sentiment is genuine and heartfelt), in a team or company, you can’t work without honesty, trust, openness, and transparency. As a leader it’s up to you to set the bar high for yourself, live by example, and expect the same of everyone you work with.
Leading and Living the Values for Healthy Teams
None of the values that make for healthy teams are always easy to live by, but nor are they excuses to be mean or a bully. Just because you expect and deliver honesty, doesn’t mean you hurt or belittle someone to do it, because the glue that keeps these values together and helps to build healthy, strong, and productive teams is respect. To lead and live the values of a healthy team, you need to instill and carry respect for your entire team. If you’ve hired professionals, people who are great at what they do, then respecting them as professionals should be easy. Professional respect doesn’t necessarily mean friendship, it means you value the work they do, how they do it, and the end product of their work.
Think about it, if you can’t respect the people you work with, then why did you hire them (or not fire them) in the first place? All the best teams respect each and every member of the team as a professional. A person who knows what they are doing and how to do it right. Teams built on the basis of respect want to be honest with each other—and have healthy disagreements with each other. Healthy teams communicate fully and openly about projects. They want to be successful together as a team. This internal desire builds a tight connection between people and their work. The team takes pride in being a part of something bigger than they are and wants to work to succeed. Unhealthy teams just don’t care. They don’t respect each other, they don’t respect the work, and most of all they don’t respect you, the leader.
Earn Respect, Give Respect, and Foster Healthy Teams
There is no quick fix for a team that is on the rocks; life doesn’t work that way. However, if you see the signs of toxic teams in your company, now is the time to take action and change things. Frankly things might be chaotic and messy at first—especially if you need to cleanse your company of toxic team members—but after some catharsis you’ll get through it. In the end you’ll have healthy teams that people would kill to be on, not feel like they are being killed on them.