Q1 · 2014Your top new year’s resolution – get fully behind your team

Hello everyone,

I hope that you are feeling ready and full of energy to start off the year on the right foot.

In 2013, I have again spent a big portion of my time working with corporate teams. I was invited to coach, support, and present at numerous workshops, events and programs. My work took me all over the world, from New York, London and Paris all the way to Montreal, Madrid, Athens, Munich and Budapest!

During my travels, I hear the same question again and again: What is the essential component to rally teams to success? I bet you are thinking that since it’s the start of the year, it is a great time to review the team’s objectives and reinforce the roles and responsibilities among the team. Right? Well, yes and no. Before you start beating the drum, take a moment to ask yourself a more fundamental question:

Is your team really behind you?
I mean, really behind you.

And what can you do to get their full support and commitment? Well, since you are the leader, just demand it, right? Sure, you can use the power of your position to command their loyalty, but I don’t recommend it.

People choose to give their loyalty and true, honest support. It cannot be demanded.

And it is also not something you can develop rationally and analytically. For example, I often see teams take part in team-building programs almost exclusively designed to create total clarity around defining roles and responsibilities. This is of course important, but it is not the key to strengthening the team.

Over-clarifying roles and responsibilities can actually hold the team back.

If you make this your exclusive focus for the team, you create a situation where team members won’t veer outside their responsibilities if something unexpected comes up (as it always does). No one will go beyond their job description, because they won’t feel any sense of ownership for the collective results. As a leader, you’ll then be left to manage everything that comes up unexpectedly, since your team won’t be taking these things over on their own initiative, despite the fact that you had a team-building activity! When you only focus analytically on who is doing what, team members won’t feel comfortable expressing their vulnerabilities, they won’t feel a responsibility to support each other, and they won’t see beyond themselves to the collective success of the team.

Work on something that is more fundamental first: developing the emotional foundation for teamwork.

To do this, you must build up true, trustful relationships with the members of your team. Deliberately set time away with your team to create “moments” where trust can be built, and make sure the time includes a specific, well-facilitated process and actions. Engage them in an honest debate around their views, ask them what they need from you to succeed, make sure you truly know what their needs and shortcomings are, and offer them your genuine help. In order to engage them in this process, you must go first. If you tell your team what your needs are, what you need to succeed, and what your vulnerabilities are, you will start to lay the emotional foundation for teamwork. Long term, this will be a far better basis for sustainable team performance.