Becoming a cohesive leadership team requires the active pursuit of five key behaviors that drive alignment and unity: trust, conflict, commitment, accountability and attention to results. Our coaches assess teams on their level of each of these, often finding that several are in the “red” when we begin consulting engagements.
Our job is to help teams master these behaviors and move all colors to “green” so they have the best chances of becoming organizationally healthy. These build upon one another, bricks upon bricks, each holding equal importance. Let’s take a look at challenges your team may experience when any of these foundations is absent.
When teams lack vulnerability-based trust, ego edges out the best in people. Failure to admit mistakes, apologize when necessary and take full responsibility are normal operational practices. While high say/do ratios may be present, authenticity and “intensely human” relationships are missing. Pretending, politicking and silo-ing are common, with factions present in team and side-bar meetings held before and after a main meeting.
The lack of transparency and unwillingness to say what needs to be said prevents the highest levels of trust and causes people to keep an eye over their shoulder and often have one foot out the door. Without vulnerability-based trust, a team has no chance of becoming cohesive because relationships are shallow and self-serving. Even one member of the leadership team who refuses to participate in vulnerability-based trust will hijack the rest of the team’s ability to be cohesive.
Most teams struggle to consistently engage in healthy conflict. The collective mindset error that commonly hinders this ability is a misunderstanding that conflict is about a person. Healthy conflict isn’t about a person; it’s about issues and ideas and the pursuit of truth to make the best possible decisions for the company. When leader’s fail to mine for healthy conflict and demand debate, often in a spirit of seeking “consensus”, they miss the input from team members that leads to full buy-in.
Without healthy conflict, teams experience currents of artificial harmony that flow within interpersonal relationships and the collective conversation at meetings. People hold their opinions to keep the peace, but ultimately miss the best opportunities to make decisions for the overall good of the organization.
While most leadership team members express the highest levels of commitment to individual goals, teams often miss the collective commitment to one central focus. This leads to competing priorities, delineated intensity and missing team goals. Getting caught in the need for consensus, allowing ambiguity and failing to determine clear messaging all contribute to an ultimate lack of commitment on leadership teams that results in confusion among the ranks.
Accountability isn’t about a person; it’s about behaviors, patterns and performance. When teams lack foundational trust, tremendous struggles with accountability are common due to misunderstood motives. Rather than viewing accountability as a healthy function of the team, individuals take things personally, resist or reject confronting attempts, or retaliate against team members. Commitments are made but not kept, with high performing team members overcompensating for weak performers. Tensions run high.
Teams who compromise on accountability hinder their own performance and actually rob one another of opportunities to develop greater confidence and clarity. This is a recipe for disaster in any organization.
Most teams claim to be results oriented, but admit this focus is often more individualized than collective. Failing to have a “rally cry” that unifies all leadership team members and their respective teams diminishes ultimate performance. Teams also miss out on reaching best outcomes because leaders get tired of communicating the rally cry and galvanizing the troops around it. Essentially, they fail to don the hat of Chief Reminding Officer (CRO), and instead expect that everyone’s “got it” early in the process. This is not so for most organizations, since it takes consistent and repetitive messaging for people to truly understand the focus and jump onboard.
Teams that fail to master these five behaviors often experience varying levels of dysfunction and never reach their true potential. While it’s not easy to achieve mastery, it is indeed the superior option.