9 Tools to a Healthy Team : Being a Big Picture Leader

gear picWhen it comes to life, you will spend more time with the people you work with [at least conscience time- sleeping doesn’t count], than the people you live with. That’s crazy! That’s why it’s so important to build a healthy environment at work. Instead of just focusing on the bottom line…consider leading towards the big picture.

I’ve either been on or led more than thirty teams or working groups over the last 20 years. This in no way makes me an expert…but, I’ve learned a number of tools…usually by struggling, that can help you move forward as a leader.

1. Lead in High Definition. It’s up to you as a leader to provide extreme clarity on the mission and vision. If people don’t know what they are going after…what they are working towards, they will be frustrated. Keep the mission and vision in front of them.

2. Top Down Flow. If the leaders enjoy what they do…and get along…it will flow down to all other staff and employees. Whatever is happening in the boardroom will impact the environment of the company. This doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for disagreement and animated [loud] dialogue, but, it means that there is a commitment to accomplish the job together. This leads to…

3. Healthy Relationships. Keep channels of communication open. Be willing to hear feedback from people that work with and for you. Have an open door policy…or even ‘office hours’, where 2 hours of your week are set aside to hear from people. Don’t just say you care for people, show them you care by listening and responding.

4. Conflict is an Opportunity for Growth. People are messy. Life is messy. That can make the job messy. As a leader, take the time to tackle conflict so it doesn’t interfere with the job at hand. Struggle and conflict are opportunities for people to grow and your company to experience new levels of success. If dealt with well, conflict can actually make teams, relationships and commitment to the cause stronger.

5. Spend Money to Build Teams. People are valuable. Show your team their value by investing in them.  Intentionally program fun. Schedule some team-building, go to a long no-talking-about-work-lunch, volunteer together, or even have a progressive dinner trying some of the newest restaurants in town.  Let your staff plan whatever the activity will be. Then show up and engage with your people.

Another idea is to offer team members a training of their choice and paying for it. Whether it’s a skill that directly relates to work or not, they will feel cared for. Show them they are valuable by investing in who they are.

6. Unified Wins. I’m not into the idea that ‘majority wins’, because when majority wins, minority loses. ‘Majority wins’ can get you off track. Create an atmosphere where people feel heard, feel they are contributing and can leave a meeting dedicated to get the job done. People should disagree and push for their ideas, but as a leader help them leave a meeting unified to execute what was decided.

7. Trust More than Question. If you hired well, trust more than you question people. Nothing hurts performance more than an atmosphere of distrust and second guessing. Don’t be the micro-manager. Focus on the areas only you can focus on [mission and vision] and trust people to own and run with what you have given away to them.

8. Frustrate me, Frustrate you.  ‘Family meetings’ in my house is code for, “What’s wrong, now?” We try to have a place where we can be open with what’s working and what’s not. Where it’s OK to share frustrations. Hopefully, the code will change.

At work this is another area that relates to atmosphere. Is it safe for people to express frustration…even anger? Can they come to you and shoot straight? You don’t want to have a negative culture, but there will be times when people need to vent. Are you a leader that keeps people on eggshells or can they share what feels stuck? Create a staff meeting, maybe quarterly, where it is ‘family time’. I’ve worked in an organization where the message was, “Just trust us and don’t push back”. It created distrust and made us think that leadership wasn’t interested in what was really going on, and just wanted to push their agenda.

9. Celebrate Risk. Even with the best plans, flops happen. Failure happens. ‘Managing’ is culturally different than ‘innovating’. Create an atmosphere where people sense the urgency of getting to the mission and making the vision a reality. If failure isn’t celebrated, people won’t risk. Let your team see you fail, learn and move on. Vulnerability builds trust and starts with the leader. Vulnerability and risk will energize your staff and take you places you would never go if they were just managing what you already have.

–There are a ton of ideas out there on teams. I hope these thoughts get you thinking and moving towards being a big picture leader.