02 Feb 3 Ways You Can Lead Your Team to Thrive, Not Just Survive in 2023
“The most important determinant of people’s work experience is the culture of the organization. People’s most immediate culture is their team.”
Dr. Michael West, Europe’s leading expert on healthcare leadership
Most people I talk to say their organization’s culture could use some work. Some might even use the words “overhaul” or “rebuild.” And this is natural. When an organization reaches a certain size, or if there has never been any regular focus on culture, it will often be spiraling to what Dr. Robert Quinn calls, “slow death.”
Organizations are never neutral. They are always in a state of becoming more positive or more negative. If we become complacent, or don’t understand the culture, and put all our focus and effort on the work of the organization versus the people doing the work, we will generally get to this point at some point.
But what if we spend just a little time each day, each week on improving the culture? It may seem daunting to think about culture change in terms of the entire organization, but what if we focus our efforts on our most immediate team? What if all our leaders do this?
Dr. Michael West, teamwork expert, tells us that in most organizations, teamwork is not well developed. Research shows us, however, that positive and resilient teams improve organizational performance. Here are a few ideas we’ve gathered from the recent literature on ways you can lead your team to thrive this year, not just survive.
Create Psychological Safety in Your Teams
Psychological safety is imperative for teams to function and be their best. We need to have a comfort level in speaking up when we notice something amiss. In a recent Fast Company article by Psychological Safety Experts, Scott and Edmondson, there are four steps to follow to build psychological safety in your team: 1) solicit criticism (e.g. what is working and what can I be doing better as a leader?), 2) give praise (provide positive feedback to your team members on what they are doing well), 3) give criticism (e.g. here is what you can do to improve; when people don’t know where they stand, they do not feel safe), and 4) gauge your feedback (is it getting through? do you need to say it differently?)
Increase the Social Reflexivity in Your Teams
Teams tend to be very good at what the teamwork research calls “task reflexivity.” This means we’re good at getting things done and meeting timelines. What most teams aren’t so great at is “social reflexivity” which means how we work together and support each other as a team. One way to improve this is to focus a meeting every so often just on teamwork, not on tasks—a time when we can discuss how the team is working, and what needs to improve. Another way to do this is to get good at doing a 5-minute team debrief at the end of each meeting. This 5-minutes is to gather feedback from the group about how the meeting felt, whether they had a chance to speak, how positive the meeting was, etc. Another way is to add a check in at the beginning of your meetings to really find out how everyone is doing. Is someone overwhelmed? What can we do to support?
Lead by Example
A recent article by Hammer (2021) showed that employees’ well-being improved when their supervisors valued work-life balance. If your employees see you taking lunch breaks, going home at a reasonable hour, and not emailing them over the weekend, it sets the example that this behaviour is desired. If I want my team to be resilient, I need to model that behaviour. What change can you make personally to embody the team culture that you want to see?
Deborah Connors is an Organizational Culture & Health Expert. Are you interested in working together to shift the culture of your team or organization? Send me a message to get started!
You can also download the Introduction and Chapter 1 from my book. If you like what you’re reading you can buy the book here.