Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Rebecca Teasdale. She is a founding partner of The Trispective Group. She has expertise in executive coaching, team development, human capital strategy, talent management and human performance consulting. For more information: www.trispectivegroup.com.
SmallBizLady: WHAT’S THE CURRENT “TEMPERATURE” ON WORKING ON A TEAM?
Rebecca Teasdale: In the world of business it’s safe to say all work is done in teams. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you most of the teams they’ve been on are average or mediocre, or good but not great. And sadly, many can tell you in dreaded detail about the toxic teams they’ve been on where gossip, sabotage, and finger-pointing were the norm.
SmallBizLady: What are some tell-tale signs you are on a dysfunctional team?
Rebecca Teasdale: Here are the telltale signs the team you’re leading is a dysfunctional (or what we call Saboteur) team:
- Members of the team are constantly complaining about each other
- Team members spend as much time watching their back as doing the work
- People make plays behind the scenes, undermining and sabotaging one another
- Suspicion and mistrust pervade every interaction; it seems like there are a lot of personal agendas
- People avoid working together and seem to dread team meetings
- Teammates would be perfectly happy to see others on the team fail; they criticize and point out the faults and failures of fellow team members
SmallBizLady: What happens if a Saboteur Team gets out of control?
- Morale suffers and good people quit
- Strong candidates don’t join the team because of its bad reputation
- Critical problems don’t get addressed because no one feels safe bringing up the tough issues
- Decisions are made covertly or seem highly political
- There’s little to no risk-taking or innovation
SmallBizLady: What should you do if you lead a Saboteur Team?
Rebecca Teasdale: If you lead a Saboteur Team, it’s up to you to turn it around. The good news is, improving your team is doable and it’s definitely worth it. Your main challenge as the leader is to change the dynamic by enforcing a no-tolerance policy on destructive behavior, rebuilding trust, setting clear standards and defining a shared purpose.
SmallBizLady: What are some steps a leader can take to do this?
Rebecca Teasdale: There are five they can start with:
- Own it – If you don’t take full ownership for fixing your team, it won’t get better!
- Study the facts and seek out the truth. – Use data and feedback to figure out what is really happening on the team.
- Set new standards of behavior and make tough decisions. – Set a high bar and apply it to ALL team members.
- Get the team on board. – The team needs to meet regularly, and as the team leader, you need to keep everyone committed to the new rules of the road. If you need to, find a strong facilitator to help.
- Don’t give up. – It takes time, courage, and commitment. Keep your vision in front of the team and give team members regular feedback and coaching.
SmallBizLady: What should you do if you don’t lead a Saboteur team, but are still on one?
Rebecca Teasdale: If you’re on a toxic and dysfunctional team, you’re likely to suffer from the experience. There five steps you can take to begin moving out of the “Team Hell” you’re in:
- Start with yourself. – You don’t need a great team around you to start being a great teammate.
- Take the high road. – No matter what, don’t engage in gossip.
- Put the team agenda first. – Let the team know you are a team player and will do what’s best for the team, not for yourself.
- Own your relationships. – Consider the part you’ve played in the deterioration of the relationship and the distrust that now exists.
- Take care of yourself. – Own what you can, let go of what you can’t influence, and determine if it’s time to move on.
SmallBizLady: You have said the opposite of a Saboteur team is a Loyalist team. What does it mean to be on a Loyalist team?
Rebecca Teasdale: A Loyalist team is high-performing and highly successful team. The critical elements of this type of team include:
- Overarching team goal to which all are committed where everyone understands their role and contributes to the delivery of that goal.
- Everyone is skilled and committed to delivering their best in their role.
- Team members trust each other to deliver and provide support and feedback to enhance success.
- Team members hold themselves and each other accountable.
- Team members consistently do the right thing and sacrifice personal agendas for the good of the team.
SmallBizLady: How are Loyalist teams more effective?
Rebecca Teasdale: Loyalist Teams, when compared to the worst teams are:
- 50 times more likely to build and maintain trust
- 35 times more likely to demonstrate a commitment to each other’s success
- 25 times more likely to ask for help from each other when they most need it and
- 105 times more likely to give each other tough feedback to help each other get better
And here’s the impact of these Loyalist Teams. They are:
- Nearly 300 times more likely to spend time openly debating, discussing problems and making decisions together
- 100 times more likely to challenge each other to achieve high standards of performance and
- Viewed as 2000 times more effective by key colleagues and stakeholders outside of the team
SmallBizLady: How can a leader prepare their team to be a Loyalist team?
Rebecca Teasdale: If you are interested in getting your team ready, here are 5 key pointers:
- Identify the overarching goal to which every team member is connected.
- Talk about the goal – a lot.
- Ensure everyone knows what is expected of them.
- Provide support and feedback to ensure the best outcome and hold people accountable for delivering their best.
- Establish not just standards of performance but behavioral standards.
- What are the team’s values? Hold yourself and everyone accountable to the same standards.
- Don’t buy into Superstars on the team who are irreplaceable.
- Everyone’s contribution is valued and makes a difference.
- Never settle. The best teams always strive to be better.
- Engage the team in the tough conversation about what is needed to get even better.
SmallBizLady: Can you give us an example of a Loyalist Team?
Rebecca Teasdale: Sure, here’s a recent one: The Philadelphia Eagles who just won the Superbowl in January. Nick Foles, the Eagles back-up quarter back, led his team to victory over the most decorated quarterback in NFL history. And he played knowing that even with an historic win, his position was not secured long term as Carson Wentz continues to recuperate from his season-ending injury.
Bottom line, while clearly the MVP, Nick Foles didn’t win the game alone or push or drag the team into their Super Bowl win. It took everyone involved in the Eagles organization with a singular focus on winning THE game. Teams like The Eagles, demonstrate all of the qualities we consider are essential to being a high-performing and highly successful team.
SmallBizLady: If you manage a virtual team can you still have a Loyalist team?
Rebecca Teasdale: What are some tips to managing a virtual Loyalist team?
- Break out of the hub-and-spoke system. – which is each person communicating directly with the team leader and has less connection to the rest of the team.
- Build trust. – advise members to get on the phone whenever possible, instead of relying on email. We suggest meeting by video conference instead of telephone.
- Create shared goals. – people are motivated by seeing how their work aligns to the greater goals of the organization.
- Carefully balance the needs of each region with the priorities of the global team.
- Assume positive intent. – ensure they understand what they’re hearing first, before challenging another’s ideas.
- Share the pain. – rotate time zones to ensure that all team members get to meet during the day versus at night.
- Reap the rewards. – Loyalist Teams are 2000 times more likely to be judged as highly effective than the least productive teams we studied and having the most fun.
SmallBizLady: If you are in the interview process, how do you demonstrate that you are a team player, more importantly a Loyalist team player?
- Have your teamwork stories ready by giving examples of your past teams’ successes.
- Sprinkle in some “we’s” with your “I’s” by using “we” language to show you can share the credit with teammates.
- Ask questions about the hiring manager’s team (your potential peers) to understand team dynamics.
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.
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