An ‘Us’ vs. ‘Them’ culture is more than just a un-resourceful state for a team to be in, it is a team culture that can leave a trail of failed goals and broken dreams in its wake. The ‘we’ team appears greater than the sum of its individual parts, producing results that are bigger than the collective effort. The individual’s sense of belonging to the team is the culture every leader should strive to accomplish.
High performance teams have a strong foundation of ‘we’ that was carefully constructed. This type of team construction requires a self confident leader that can be brutally honest with themselves. This ‘self-honesty’ in leaders is rare, yet crucial to evaluating the state of the team and the cause. Only once the truth of the current state has been clearly defined can the leader plot a course to team greatness.
Building a sense of ‘we’ within your team requires these tools and resources to be in place:
Building a strong sense of ‘we’ requires a strong sense of personal and team identity. Clearly define the common passion or cause that brings your team together. Be specific about who the team is, and how the team behaves. Get your team involved in defining the Mission, vision and strategy of the team. Constantly remind team members, bringing Mission and vision to their attention at every opportunity.
2. Be clear about wishes and needs
Build ways and processes in which you and your team can discuss ‘we’. A healthy relationship meets the majority of requirements of its members, and also has ways of monitoring and negotiating the way it does this.
3. Pretend ‘We’ already exists
Acting as if ‘we’ has a separate and valid existence creates examples and role plays for team members to experience ‘we’ in action. Demonstration will lead to impersonation, which in turn will lead to internal personalisation. In other words, team members will imitate your demonstration of ‘we’, until it becomes a part of who they are.
4. Agree on ‘We’ Rules
Bluntly and openly defining the rules of conduct within the ‘we’ rids the team of assumptions and sets a clear tone for interaction. Rules make a way to deliberately integrate individual behaviour, wishes and skills. Being explicit about the Code of Conduct saves you from possible conflict pitfalls. The rules, like your team, will evolve. Be ready to change and adapt your rules to the needs and level of your team.
5. Goodies in the bag for all
As far as possible, make being a part of the ‘we’ a pleasant, satisfying and productive
experience. Bribing does not deal with the intrinsic need people have to be happy and to feel appreciated and valued. A win-win mindset from the leader is a must. People that belong are happy, and happy people are productive.
6. Acknowledge the ‘I’ in ‘We’
A soccer team is not made up of 10 Goal Keepers! Your team is made up of unique individuals, each with their own personality, and more importantly, their own skill set. Although working in silos is not the leader’s objective, acknowledge the individual in the team or you could lose the ambitious drive of the Striker, or the resilience of the Defender. Developing ‘we’ does not mean you handle everyone in exactly the same manner. You deal with them as individuals but focus their effort on the collective purpose.
7. Allow differences to be resources
We all function differently. As a leader, you can view the differences as the source of misunderstanding and conflict, or you can view it as a broad foundation for a more productive and creative ‘we’. Notice the differences in your team members, and seek how their personal differences can contribute to the successful accomplishment of the vision or objectives.
When you have a group of people working together – conflict is inevitable! Actively seeking to avoid conflict develops ‘yes men’ that hide their grumblings and grinds development to an ugly halt. Bring the elephant into the room! Conflict should be embraced as ‘overcoming obstacles’ and viewed as part of the process of ‘The Spiral of Continual Improvement.’ Develop programs and processes to deal with conflict in a constructive manner, showing your team that you value their input and their development.
9. Identify and Do ‘We’ Processes
Pay attention to when the ‘we-ness’ is at its highest level, and analyse what is going on at that time. Is the team faced with challenges? Has the team settled into a routine? Are team members relaxing together? Is there a project to be completed? Notice the circumstances around the heightened sense of ‘we-ness’ and arrange to do more of that!
Check your future plans to ensure they enhance and cultivate the ‘we’. After long deliberations with the company Strategist concerning a new project, a Pharmaceutical company Logistics Manager failed to work ‘we’ into her presentation. She omitted the roles to be played by crucial team members, including the role of the Strategist. Feeling betrayed, the Strategist together with other team members resigned from the company. With key players gone, the project failed within 8 short months of its launch, causing national and public shame for Logistical Manager and her Pharmaceutical Company. Be sure to incorporate ‘we’ into any future plans.
11. Emotions within ‘We’
People quickly express happiness and contentment. Frustration and annoyance are the emotions that are left unsaid, that will fester and brew until the whole team is infected. This avoidance of opening the emotions up is detrimental to ‘we’. Establish processes to express negative emotions keeping it objective and solutions oriented.
When noticing that ‘we’ has fallen by the way side or is no longer effective, propose recipes to resolve the issue. Focusing on what ‘should not ‘ happen is not a solution. Define clear steps and expectations of what you want to achieve with the ‘we’. Explain to your team what it is you want and where exactly it is you want to go. This ‘towards’ planning is more effective that the ‘let’s avoid’ planning.
13. Minimize pressure
As much as a team member’s skill can contribute towards the team’s success, perceived weaknesses could result in the team’s failure. Punctuality is one of those examples of where too much emphasis creates unnecessary pressure that destroys ‘we’. Tight deadlines will pressure the ‘offenders’ causing them to fail more often. This will draw the resentment of other team members, thus sacrificing ‘we’. Slow, methodical and detailed workers need to be accommodated in a manner that uses their process as strength of some sort, releasing them from feeling the pressure of resentment.
14. Praise and Appreciation
Leaders often criticise easily, dealing our punishments for failure. One exit interview revealed that the team member was leaving because the leader insisted to be part of the team members must take the hiding when they fail. His recommendation to the leader was – ‘I’m happy to take the blame when I fail, but when I succeed open the door to the winners circle.”
Give praise and appreciation when team members make progress. Give appreciation immediately and specifically. Your team members personality will determine if that praise is private or publicly.
The ‘We’ mindset culture is like a human body which could become ill and weak when introduced to foreign bugs and elements. Make sure ‘we’ is in focus when selecting new team members. Allow the group to ‘bring them in’ as soon as possible.
The ‘We’ culture is the most resourceful state from which a team can function. Take time and invest in skills and abilities that will help you develop the ‘we’ mindset in your team.