When the Cogs Spin Together: Five Building Blocks toward Your Team's Health
Now more than ever before, excellence in leadership is rooted in health. To drive a successful mission, one must lead themself first, their leadership team second and their organization third. Without health, our teams can pursue all the technicalities of success—the “smarts” within our businesses—yet find ourselves floundering.
Smart companies have their product, service, technology, financials, and marketing in place, but they don’t always navigate significant challenges and seasons well. Their teams may develop operational smarts over time, but they often don’t become any healthier. On the contrary, healthy teams and organizations that are behaviorally aligned, have clear priorities, practice sound communication and reinforce success can maximize their smarts and increase organizational health over time. In the process, they’ll also walk toward a healthy culture that attracts and retains high performing team members, creates fun and meaningful work and lends itself to strong employee engagement.
Since your organizational health begins with a cohesive and unified leadership team, let’s explore five fundamental principles that will help your leadership team move the needle toward true health.
Truly cohesive teams experience trust at levels envied by others. Deep-seated trust goes beyond the basic belief that a fellow leader will follow through and extends into vulnerability-based trust, where team members are transparent, real and intensely human. True trust requires your team members to check their egos and prideful attitudes at the door, operate from a posture of servant leadership and combine high expectations with healthy doses of grace.
Teams who practice health in the lane of trust will admit their mistakes, own their failures and make personal apologies a regular part of their communication. These teams will lay a solid foundation for team cohesion as they develop a team that succeed (and fail) well together.
Teams who do conflict well can pursue unlimited performance possibilities. Acknowledging that conflict is about issues and ideas, not about people, allows them to uncover truth and drive toward the best decisions for their entire organization. Healthy teams experience an abundance of healthy debate, value varying perspectives and problem solve with speed and increased accuracy.
Ultimately, promoting healthy conflict means choosing to intentionally reject artificial harmony and the need for consensus, a trap that binds many teams.
An obsession with clarity leads healthy teams to drive toward team commitment over individual dedication. Teams with high levels of collective commitment refuse to allow unnecessary ambiguity to derail their focus. Whether or not individual team members agree with final decisions made by top leadership, they align around them and deliver a clear and unified message to team members. This commitment inspires greater cohesion throughout the organization and prevents unhealthy “us” vs. “them” mentalities.
Healthy teams choose to have high accountability structures in place. Self-accountability always comes first, with peer-to-peer accountability and hierarchical accountability close behind. Mastery of accountability is the prerequisite to reaching the highest levels of team performance, and those who have it down understand it isn’t about a person. Rather, accountability is simply about behaviors, patterns and performance. These teams recognize that accountability is the road toward the best results from individual players and the collective team.
Teams with excellent accountability practices refuse to gamble with luck and chance. Instead, they choose specific behaviors and rules of engagement that have higher probabilities on return on investment. For the sake of their mission, they are willing to call one another on unproductive behaviors.
Having a unified rally cry is the hallmark of the highest performing and healthiest teams. While they focus on individual contributions, results-oriented teams focus first on the pursuit of team wins. To drive results, leaders put the team above themselves and avoid the traps of confusion and competing priorities. Their respective teams operate at higher levels of clarity and deliver results with precision, which create meaningful work experiences for everyone. Teams who win together in healthy ways are fulfilled, fun and truly engaged in their work.
Achieving health on your leadership teams isn’t a one-time experience. Rather, it requires a commitment to the intentional pursuit and improvement of these five behaviors.