How to Have Happy Teams at Work
Leaders, your team is watching you. Make sure to lead by example
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Here are a few possibilities from Melissa Nightingale, editor at mfbt.ca, written under the title, “Why is Your Team So Angry All the Time?”:
I learned it by watching you
Your people are not only watching your every move, they are emulating you. And, unfortunately, you don’t get to pick and choose which parts they copy.
If you’re a collaborative leader who values consensus, there’s a good chance you see this reflected in your team. They solve problems together. They are collegiate and respectful when they disagree. And while they don’t always move super fast, they have a good foundation for getting to positive outcomes.
The microscope of leadership
Humans are funny little monkeys. If there’s a monkey in charge, we watch that monkey more than the others. We are curious about that monkey. And we pick up our cues about how we should behave from that monkey.
Leading a large team of people can feel like being on your own reality TV program. The cool part is that folks are paying attention. They want to know what’s on your mind, how you feel about a particular project, or the backstory behind a recent leadership decision.
Let’s say your team is crunching on a bunch of deadlines all at once. And you are stressed. Not little s stressed. Capital S, capital everything STRESSEDDDDD. The D’s at the end are for extra stress.
In a team meeting, you ask for updates on a cross-functional initiative. Your team relies on another team to move things forward. Bad news. The other team hasn’t done their part.
That team is so useless, you say out loud.
Your team was paying attention before. They caught the part where you were fired up about an initiative. They caught the eyebrow arc when you wanted to know more about that engineering estimate. And they, for sure, caught that last bit where you trash talked another department.
My Team vs. Everybody
Does your team seem stressed out? A little crispy at the edges? Are they fumbling the easy and obvious stuff? Are those little fumbles turning into bigger fumbles? Are you fighting other departments instead of your competitors?
Uh oh. You’re in trouble.
Just like your wins compound, so do your losses. Pretty soon, you’ve got a team that not only can’t work together. You’ve got a team that doesn’t want to work together.
The departments splinter off to make their own mini teams, each with their own culture and leader. And those leaders, when asked about other teams, reinforce your combative culture.
That team is so useless.
Once your team stops trusting other teams, they start trying to solve all problems on their own. Pretty soon, you find distinct teams are hiring for redundant functions. Marketing has their own web development organization, so they don’t have to ask web dev for support.
Your leaders teach their teams not to rely on other teams. They can’t scale. The people on those teams are angry.
They are working twice as hard as everyone else. They are doing it all themselves. And they have no idea what the hell those other departments even do.
If you are panicked about an upcoming board meeting, so is your team. If you think it’s OK to snipe at your Executive Assistant, don’t be surprised to see your staff sniping at each other.
And when you look up and find yourself with a team of people who won’t work together, don’t trust each other, and make decisions from a reactionary place?
You won’t have anyone else to blame.
They learned it from watching you.
This article is an abridged version of, "Why is Your Team So Angry All the Time?" by Melissa Nightingale, editor at mfbt.ca, published here.
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