“The health of your team and individual team members are an indicator of your effectiveness as a leader.” – Holly Betenbough
While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all recipe to develop a healthy team, it is usually easy to recognize one. Here are a few common characteristics we’ve seen among healthy teams:
They enjoy their work, and don’t dread Monday mornings. They feel their work is important and impactful.
There is a palatable trust among them. They’re open enough with each other to express real concerns or opposing viewpoints. They’re secure enough to pitch a new idea or ask a “dumb question.” They don’t talk over each other, and there isn’t one person who dominates discussions. They genuinely seek to understand another’s position, and don’t feel like they have to question motives.
“A team is not a group of people who work together. A team is a group of people who trust each other.” – Simon Sinek
They engage in healthy conflict, but are still unified. Contrary to popular belief, the most successful teams are not the ones in which team members always agree with one another. Instead they are often characterized by healthy debate – and at times heated arguments. But the debate doesn’t cause them to fragment; it actually causes them to gain strength and develop cohesion. Because people have the opportunity to provide input and ask questions, they are then better able to actively commit to whatever the team ultimately decides.
They instinctively help each other without being asked, and without an incentive. This not only happens at the office, but often spills into their personal lives.
They have supernatural bursts of creativity. There is a synergy among them that is greater than the sum of their individual efforts. When issues occur, the team typically comes up with solutions amongst themselves. Because of their established trust, they can make things happen in a fraction of the time it takes others who lack that bond.
They care about more than work. They share what they did over the weekend, they’ve been to each others’ homes, and they know the names of their teammates’ spouses and kids. They hang out outside of business hours. Honestly, if we don’t know two to three current events going on in someone’s life away from work, that likely indicates we don’t have much of a relationship with them.
They are magnets for talent. To spot a healthy team, just look for the one that everyone wants to be on. For some, it may be hard to understand why anyone would want to join a team that works harder and comes complete with sky-high expectations and an intense accountability for results. Yet despite all the pressure, it is the potential stars who are most attracted to these teams. They see top teams as the most stimulating place to be – the place where they can demonstrate their skills and have a real impact.
They feel their leader genuinely cares about them as a person. This is a big one. On a healthy team, if a team member says they don’t know something or admits a mistake they made, they know their leader and team will come to their aid. It’s a safe place. Obviously as believers we strongly believe in loving our people, but the business world is waking up to the significant return this approach can have. Gallup polls asked over 10 million people if they felt like their boss genuinely cared for them as a person and not only found that employees who did were significantly more likely to stay with the organization, but they also have more engaged customers, are substantially more productive, and produce more profit for the organization. If we focus on caring for our people, we will get results.
It isn’t results that separate good leaders from great ones. The ultimate measuring stick is their ability to build and maintain healthy teams. Healthy teams don’t happen by chance. Remember, if we just focus on results, we won’t luck into a healthy team. But if we put our efforts into building a healthy team, we will get the results as well.
The specific approach to build a healthy team will vary by group, and even needs to be adapted over time among the same group. There isn’t a formula or a one-size-fits-all approach. And once we have one, we still have to continuously reinforce it and keep each member engaged and unified.
As a leader, our number one priority is to guide our team in this direction daily. In this respect, we are at least as accountable to our team as they are to us. Everyone deserves to love their work and the people they get to do it with. It’s the burden of the leader to provide that.
“Years ago, the business schools used to pose it as a conundrum. They would say, ‘Well, who comes first? Your employees, your shareholders, or your customers?’ But it’s not a conundrum. Your employees come first. And if you treat your employees right, guess what? Your customers come back and that makes your shareholders happy. Start with employees and the rest follows from that.” – Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines