Our Lead Facilitator, Mike Clouse and I recently hosted a Facebook Live event about the baggage your team is carrying that is keeping you from being the team you really want to be. Specifically, we talked about three pieces of baggage that you might not even know you’re dragging around every day.
Here’s a quick summary of what these “pieces of baggage” look like and how you might set them down and leave them behind once and for all.
Baggage #1: Confusion
Another way to say it would be lack of clarity. Way too often our teams do not have clarity of our vision, mission, values, or even each person’s basic job description. The more established your team is, the more likely this is to be the case.
Without clarity, your people basically wander around in a fog, hoping they’ll find their way to solid ground. How can they really succeed if they don’t really know what’s expected of them? If your team is always falling short of expectations, you might entertain the idea that they are confused. You also might entertain the idea that as a leader, you may be contributing to their confusion.
To eliminate confusion, be very clear about expectations up front AND then repeat your expectations early and often. Articulate your vision, establish accurate job descriptions, and let everyone know what success looks like and how it will measured. Repeat, repeat, repeat. You almost cannot repeat these things enough. The point when you’re sick of repeating your vision, values, expectations, etc. is the point when they are just starting to sink in with your team.
Baggage #2: Artificial Harmony
Artificial Harmony is a term found in the book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. It’s what happens when everything appears great on the surface, but under the water you’ve got lots of quiet turmoil that shows up as resentment, gossip, “passable” (but not excellent) performance, and more. Artificial Harmony occurs when you’ve got problems, but nobody wants to talk about them. So they persist, quietly, and they slowly destroy your team.
Teams with Artificial Harmony appear to have very little, if any, conflict. But that’s not necessarily a good thing. Teams with TRUE harmony actually have a fair amount of healthy, productive conflict. Healthy, productive conflict focuses on issues and seeks resolution. Those involved come to agreement on how to end the conflict and move forward. That doesn’t mean everyone is happy all the time, but at least people feel like they have been heard and their ideas have been considered.
If your team is experiencing Artificial Harmony, it can actually be helpful to “stir the pot” a bit. Bring up issues and work to seek out positive resolution. As you do, however, be sure to focus on the issues and never make it personal. As you mediate conflict, watch out for strong emotional responses, which are usually an indicator that the conflict is being taken personally. It can be helpful to seek the help of someone who is skilled at facilitating sensitive discussions.
As you learn to resolve conflict in a healthy, productive way, you’ll be able to leave the baggage of Artificial Harmony in the past where it belongs.
Baggage #3: Fear
Fear should have no place at work, and yet it exists in countless numbers of teams. If your people don’t share their ideas, or never bring up any issues, or never engage in healthy conflict, I can almost guarantee that it’s because of fear. Either they fear you as a leader or they fear their peers.
It is very easy to create fear from a leadership position and not even know you’re doing it. When you laughingly dismiss an idea, or you argue with someone in a staff meeting, or you give someone the silent treatment because you don’t like the way they handled something, you’ve probably created fear of repercussion. All it takes is one instance of feeling punished or embarrassed to keep someone from sticking their neck out again.
Leaders are not the only ones who can accidentally (or intentionally) punish or embarrass someone at work. Peers do it all the time to each other. Strong personalities can bulldozer over the less outspoken in a heartbeat. Getting run over by a bulldozer hurts. Nobody wants to do it twice.
One of the primary roles of a leader is to create and foster psychological safety for the team. That means allowing people to freely share their thoughts without repercussion, and making sure that your people know you’ve got their back. Evaluate your actions and responses to make sure you’re not accidentally causing fear. When you see “peer fear” raising its ugly head, it is your job to make sure it is addressed and eliminated — without causing more fear in the process.
All of this is easier said than done, of course. To help you understand and deal with these three pieces of baggage that may be harming your team, I recently held a Facebook Live event with my lead facilitator, Mike Clouse, where we dove into this topic a little bit deeper and offered up some additional solutions.
Would love to hear your comments and questions about these three pieces of baggage. Drop your ideas in the comments below!