What a great question!
In my view, it is the leader’s responsibility to set the tone for the team, but each member of the team has a role to play in shifting the culture. Some will get on the bus and some won’t, and the leader needs to work out what to do with the ones who won’t.
Let’s talk about how a leader can shift a counter-productive culture and encourage collaboration in a fractured team. There are five steps.
- Create a cause
- Agree on how the team is going to work together to achieve it – what’s acceptable behaviour, what’s not
- Call each other out on the good and not so good behaviour.
- Build the right team
- Celebrate wins
1. Create a cause
This is the first step because people need an answer to the question “why should I care?”. They need to know what they are working towards, why it is important and for who. They are much more likely to change their behaviour and pull together as a team if they have a good reason to do so.
The cause could be related to performance goals, customer outcomes or team reputation. Think about who the team serves and why.
2. Agreeing on how the team is going to work together
The second step is agreeing on how to get there. There will be a set of initiatives the team needs to complete to get there, but I’m referring to how the team is going to work together. What are the team’s values? How is each member expected to behave?
My advice is to start with the company’s values and discuss them with the team. You could ask them what they think they mean and ask them how they would rate themselves as a team for following those values? This can be a confronting discussion, especially if there are trust issues within the group. There is an exercise I like to run in workshops called a brain dump which is explained further in this free downloadable tool. This exercise will expose the team’s strengths and areas of improvement and will allow you to come up with some agreed team values.
3. Calling each other out
Now comes the tough step. Step 3 – calling each other out on behaviours that don’t meet the agreed values.
Mantras or mottos help with this. You could create one or two mantras that the team agrees to live by. You could pick one that reinforces the team’s strengths and one that leads to an improvement. They make it a bit easier for people to hold each other accountable.
Let’s go back to the example where the team don’t trust each other, have personal agendas and don’t give credit where credit is due.
You can’t really have a mantra like “trust each other” because trust is earnt. ‘Give credit where credit is due” would be a fantastic mantra in this scenario. Why? Because doing so will build trust, camaraderie, and might even go some way to dulling personal agendas because it encourages people to celebrate the successes of others.
If you like the idea of using a mantra, click here for more information here, including an agenda for a 60 – 90-minute mantra setting workshop that you can run with your team.
Another idea to consider is finding your captains. Which members of the team can you rely on to help you create the culture? In my last role, I led a group of twenty people split into three teams, and incredible captains led each team. I knew I could rely on them to help me build a fantastic team culture and to pull out all stops for the cause.
4. Build the right team
Now it’s time to work out who is on the bus and who isn’t. Who gets the cause and is working hard to achieve it. And who doesn’t? Who is living and breathing the values and who isn’t?
Once you’ve identified who is not on the bus, the next step is to work out whether you can coach them on or whether you need to leave them behind. There will be some difficult conversations, and you may need to let some people go, but if you don’t proactively address this, you will struggle to create a high performing team culture, and you run the risk of losing good people because those who don’t want to be there or shouldn’t be there, bring them down.
How to do this is a huge topic of its own, but a good starting point is a tool called the skill will matrix. Click here to download the tool and watch the video on how to use it.
5. Celebrate wins
And finally, make sure you celebrate the team’s success. When things are moving fast, and you’re all pushing to get onto the next thing, sometimes it’s easy to forget to take some time to celebrate.
Even small celebrations make a difference. I used to run quarterly planning sessions with my team, and I’d always stop to reflect on the previous quarter. I’d jump up on the whiteboard, and the team would shout out all of the things we’d achieved and before we knew it, the whiteboard would be full. It only took 10 minutes. Other times we’d pop a couple of bottles of bubbly impromptu, or we’d all go to lunch or the pub together.
Remember – you’re awesome, and you’ve got this!
The Better Bosses Fixing Fractured Teams podcast goes into this topic in more detail and includes some real-life examples. It’s available here and on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and other popular podcast hosts.
Are you willing to take control of your team’s culture, or do you treat it like the weather – something that happens to you?
This tool provides instructions on how to run a brain dump exercise in a workshop with your team. It’s a very simple way to approach difficult topics in a team environment and it gives everyone an opportunity to have a say.
You can download the complete instructions here.
Brain dump workshop exercise