January 17, 2019
Your event is only as strong as your team. If your team has gaps in communication or hidden resentments between team members, processes and outcomes will begin to fall apart. Healthy team culture is key to maximizing their efforts.
Webconnex has learned that personal and team development are as important as pushing new features. If our team can’t handle hard situations or communicate problems with one other, we will inevitably crumble. By going through various workshops and books together, (Radical Candor, Crucial Conversations, Dare to Lead, and Leadership and Self-Deception are some of our favorites) we’ve grown together as a team so we can continue to scale. It hasn’t been easy; lots of trial and error as we venture into the feedback loop, but we’ve come out stronger because of it.
To help your company culture, we’ve compiled our most important lessons.
This concept by Kim Scott highlights the importance of challenging co-workers directly while caring for them personally. If you challenge them directly but do not care personally, others will not receive what you have to say. Alternatively, if you are in a work environment where being “nice” is prioritized at the expense of improvement, growth can be blocked. The combination will create a culture of growth and trust. Kim Scott says, “When you fail to give people the guidance they need to succeed in their work or put people into roles they don’t want or aren’t well-suited for, or push people to achieve results they feel are unrealistic, you erode trust.” (Radical Candor)
The secret ingredient to strong teams is trust between team members. Trust is only built when team members feel safe amongst the work crew. To trust someone is to be vulnerable and to be vulnerable a person needs to feel safe. Whether it’s making a decision on a course of action as a team or giving feedback to an individual, participants in the conversation need to feel safe enough to express their opinions and ensure that all involved felt like they’ve added necessary facts to the situation.
The book, Crucial Conversations emphasizes the importance of making sure everyone feels safe to contribute to the conversation. Each of us enters a conversation with our own opinions, feelings, theories, and experiences. This makes us our own personal “pool of meaning”. When two or more people enter a crucial conversation they build that pool of shared meaning. Successful dialogue happens when everyone feels safe to add their ‘meaning to the shared pool of meaning’.
Let’s say you happen to see your co-worker leaving early each day. You might start to think, “They just do the minimum required! They don’t work as hard as I do. I stay until 5 every day and sometimes until 5:30. What a slacker!” This negativity will now shape every interaction you have with them. But what if you learn that this co-worker actually comes in earlier than you to be able to leave early to coach their daughter’s baseball practice? This new information changes your perception, which changes the tone of your interaction with them.
There is always a piece of the puzzle that we don’t see. Giving others the benefit of the doubt and assuming good intention will help you engage with them with genuine empathy and understanding. It will help them feel safe and offer up the missing piece of the puzzle. As Kim Scott says, “Make sure that you are seeing each person on your team with fresh eyes every day. People evolve, and so your relationships must evolve with them. Care personally; don’t put people in boxes and leave them there.” (Radical Candor)
Building a strong culture of trust means feedback is given and received on both sides. If the leader is the only one giving feedback, the culture becomes imbalanced. Radical Candor elaborates, “You may be worried about earning their respect, and that’s natural. Unfortunately, though, being overly focused on respect can backfire because it’ll make you feel extra defensive when criticized. If, on the other hand, you can listen to the criticism and react well to it, both trust and respect will follow.” Trust can be built or destroyed based on how you ask and receive for feedback. Receiving the genuine feedback of others is uncomfortable, it’s vulnerable. But if we can lean into that space, we build stronger connections with our team members.
Building a culture of empowering team members, experiences open communication, and challenging team members to be more capable, takes time and intentionality. As a leader, it’s easy to get lost in being efficient as time is limited. But if we take the time to personally care about our team members, to establish safety in meetings, and open up space for others to come forth, your teams will be stronger for it. By opening ourselves up to connecting with others, no matter how different they may be, we build trust. Team members are able to trust the intent of their leader's actions and those leaders can trust the hearts and motivations of their team members.
A team that has built a healthy culture with one another, continues to establish trust and strives in having an open feedback loop will conquer anything thrown at them. If you want an event or project done well, start with investing in your team.