What if there was a daily vitamin you could take, that would increase the vitality of your team system? A few months ago, a senior executive who was getting clearer about toxic communication patterns and their antidotes with his team, asked for exactly that:
“Shannon! What vitamins can we take for this? What can we do to keep us from needing these antidotes?” This leader had good instincts. You can build team immunity against toxic patterns taking over the dynamics of your system. Here are a few ‘team vitality vitamins’ that support vital team cultures.
Vitamin #1: Notice and Name Strengths. Know the top two to three strengths for each of your team members, and for your team as a whole. Keep them top of mind and bring them into the conversation about any problem and every opportunity. Ask yourself: What are the team’s strengths? And then, how can we use them to help move us toward the target?
Doing this launches the conversation into positive territory, even and especially when working with a high stakes, negative situation or behavior.
Vitamin #2: Find Positive Intention. Decoupling intention and impact is an epic lesson for every leader. It’s the heart of a healthy self-awareness practice. This team vitality vitamin takes it to the next level. When disruptive behavior shows up, the practice is to start with the assumption that there is a gap between intention and impact; and then actively seek out the positive intent of that action.
This is most powerful when a positive intention isn’t obvious or is downright missing from someone’s outward expression. Ask yourself: What is it that they care about, that is trying to be helpful in the situation?
Vitamin #3: Make People Right. Optimal performance depends on feedback, and is threatened by chronically negative critique. Just because we naturally sort for the negative, doesn’t mean we have to stop there; we can also continue evaluating until we notice what someone is doing right or even brilliantly.
It’s an easy practice to start. Challenge yourself, and team members, to be more complete in their critiques. That is, practice noticing what people are doing that’s ‘right,’ and telling them what they are doing or saying that is making a positive contribution to whatever outcomes you are committed to creating. It sounds foolishly simple, but if you can learn to evaluate more completely, and make people right in an authentic way, the impact on team cohesion and trust is immense.
Think of a leader or team you would like to influence, and then take your vitamins. Find a way to weave these reflections into your next conversation with the team, and notice the results you get:
What are the team’s strengths?
What are the positive intentions underneath the latest string of unskillful behaviors?
What about the way this team operates, or the way specific players operate on the team, do you appreciate to a great extent?