Ideas for Supporting Your Teams Health
When COVID begun my husband and I had many people calling to ask what they could or should do to protect themselves, their ideas ranged from total isolation to a “home ventilator”. My answer was always the same… invest in your own health and immune system. If your body is strong you have a much better chance of wellness. It was certainly not the quick fix most were hoping for but sustainable success rarely is. It requires an investment in time, consistency, and unrelenting focus on your priorities.
What does this have to do with leadership? Everything. I just read The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive by Patrick Lencioni and this is his point exactly. When leaders encounter a problem we jump in to fix it but rarely look deeper as to what created the breakdown, what is the fundamental problem that needs attention.
“...organizational health is often neglected because it involves facing realities of human behavior that even the most committed executive is tempted to avoid. It requires levels of discipline and courage that only a truly extraordinary executive is willing to embrace.”
Commonly, as the business grows, “leadership” becomes less visible. Memos and emails replace conversations and connections. A slow whittling down of the very elements that made them extraordinary in the first place. I remember the CEO of our hospital used to spend time greeting patients and staff as we came to work as well as walking the patient floors to stay visible and accessible to us all. Five years later we never saw them again, unless of course, a big donor was in the hospital. What message does that send?
Many of us start in the trenches, doing the work and putting in the time, we then are promoted to management where we ride the line of the worker bee and administration, then we move to upper management. Behind a desk and delegated to a separate building where all the “big decisions” are made. I would argue, this is exactly the wrong place to be. How can you know your team, lead your team, and lead by example if you don’t integrate yourself into their experience and connect with the people that make the business successful?
Staying connected with the pulse of your colleagues is the very thing that will teach you where your weak points are, where disease could invade and where trust is established. Your job is to know the weak points and support and empower the team to work at their highest level. This does assume you have hired well (a whole other topic).
Allow your team space to safely challenge the norm and risk failure for the opportunity of greater success.
Additionally, it is vital that you are not "conflict-avoidant". As concerns arise you must have the confidence and tools to address them in real-time with clarity, humility, and honesty. Most often I see leaders avoid uncomfortable discussions which invariably lead to major dysfunction and resentment. Additionally, it sends a very strong message to your colleagues. As Lencioni notes, “When an executive decides not to confront a peer about a potential disagreement, he or she is dooming employees to waste time, money, and emotional energy dealing with unresolvable issues. This causes the best employees to start looking for jobs in less dysfunctional organizations, and it creates an environment of disillusionment, distrust, and exhaustion for those who stay.”
Your team is the immune system of your business. If you react only to external challenges and crises you may have short-term success but you will be in a continual battle to survive. Investing in your internal health certainly takes longer and requires a deliberate focused effort but I guarantee you, you will emerge with a solid foundation to produce sustained success.
My Challenge To You:
Are you allocating enough time to nurture your team's health and culture? If not, can you see the value and lost opportunity?
Integrate one element into your meeting which will begin to integrate concepts above.
As small problems arise, deal with them at the moment. Give yourself the time needed to build a shared connection and understanding rather than perpetuate avoidance and distrust.