Building a New Team – Avoid the Derailers

We are in the enviable position of coaching a brand new team with the stated goal of building a thriving culture from scratch. This recently assembled group, all of whom moved from miles if not several states away, is being steered by a seasoned, enthusiastic, articulate team leader. The managers are ambitious, experienced, and raised in a variety of work cultures that rewarded individual success versus team accomplishments. The leader would like to engage them all from the very beginning in the concept of “together we win.”

Now, quite honestly, there’s no such thing as ‘from scratch’ because many of the ingredients are being carted in — memories of past experiences, past successes and failures, a set of biases and beliefs, a potpourri of hopes and concerns … all of which produce assumptions and expectations.

No problem – our goal in the first months is to shine a light on those beliefs and behaviors that will contribute to creating a high performance team through accountability, commitment, and trust . . . and those that derail it toward dysfunction from which it’s a challenge to recover.  

Given that their leader is a military man, they identified ‘counter-active measures’ to help disarm three basic toxic behaviors :

  • Blame: When you are being blamed don’t take it personally, find out the facts, share the facts, own what is yours. When you catch yourself about to point the finger at others, find out the facts, share the facts, own what is yours.
  • Defensiveness:  To avoid getting defensive, practice the art of open-mindedness. To avoid prompting defensiveness in others, practice the skills of productive feedback and feed-forward. Delete blame from the approved list of sanctioned behaviors.  People get defensive because they think you’re blaming them.
  • Gossip and triangulation:  This one’s easy. Don’t participate. If appropriate, send the Gossiper to the person about whom they are pointing fingers and invite them/coach them to have a candid conversation.

The nascent group has now taken the flipcharted possibilities back to the factory floor, back to the executive suite, back to their weekly manager’s meetings and daily conversations in the hall. We’ll keep you posted!