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With an ever fast-paced and ever-changing world, the demand for high-performing teams to solve difficult problems is more important than ever before. Neuroscience tells us that human beings are wired to want to work together – it’s how we solve deeply entrenched organisational problems that are bigger than can be achieved by any individual. Our brains are wired to connect. If we go back in time it was all about our tribe, our community and now days our team.

There is so much research available now that clearly tells us that teams work better together, achieving better outcomes, when compared to one leader doing it on their own. When you observe team dynamics and the way they collaborate – trust plays a big part in how well our brains function together as a whole. Very few teams actually operate at a high performing level because of a lack of trust, allowing fears to get in the way ….  and then finding team members gossiping, making excuses or blaming the culture.

However, when you see a high performing team collaborate, there is no room for excuses, there is no blame game, they understand the ‘why’ and they get on with their mission to work towards and achieve the goal – with better project problem-solving along the way. Even though some team members may feel a little uncomfortable, they are encouraged and supported to get comfortable with being uncomfortable because that’s how we grow.

A complaint is a gift…

 Yes. That’s right! When a team member complains about a team member, what do most leaders do? Correct, it normally plays out like this – “you are an adult, you two can work it out together.” However, not everyone is capable of thinking in this manner. This is why we have mediators, they are there to help unpack the story, they are there to guide the other individual to see it in a different light. If only leaders could look at complaints as a ‘gift’ or an opportunity for them to enrich and engage their teams with a little bit more compassion.

As we know, in any dysfunctional team, there is little trust between team members and the leader. And from an observer point of view, you can clearly see there is a lack of trust, respect and loyalty. What I see over and over again in an organisational culture is seeing the problem and not calling it out. How can one possibly shift a culture if you don’t address the problems within your team. And…. (And that’s a BIG AND!!) …. How much influence do you think a leader has with their team if they don’t call it out?

Exactly. Nothing. Because the rest of the team will be thinking to themselves “you’re the leader … so why don’t you address it?”  Basically, when you don’t address the problem, they will think you have a lack of courage and over time, poor team performance becomes accepted as being part of the company culture.

Be brave enough to start a conversation…

Most leaders avoid having those brave conversations in case they offend or upset the other person because they don’t want to be seen as the ‘bad guy’. Or … they just don’t know how to have the conversation in the first place so they avoid it all together.

There’s only one place to start. First get really clear on what you would like to address, and make in only one thing because you don’t want to go in your conversation with a list of things that you want to bring up. Keep it simple, specific and stick to ONE topic. If you do have a list of things, write them all down and pick the one thing that will have the greatest impact. Many times the ‘actions or behaviour’ will have a ‘theme’ – or a ‘pattern’ – if you can address the issues that’s likely to have the greatest impact, then that’s very valuable. However, depending on the personality, baby steps and gentle approaches are best.

Once you have the one topic that you will focus on for your brave conversation, the second thing to be very clear upon is ‘why’ you are having this conversation. Is it because of how this individual makes you feel, or is it because how this individual is with the team or is it to do with their behaviour as a whole? Once you have clarity on the ‘what’ and ‘why’, then start writing down a series of questions related to your topic. Remember at all times that confrontation serves no one … and you are stepping into this brave conversation to seek to understand the other person better.

Curiosity is the fuel for discovery…

If only leaders would step up and lean into that very thing they are resisting … they would be quite surprised how life changing this kind of work could be, imagine going into a conversation with a curious mindset where you want to understand the individual, you want to learn from them, then the conversation that you have to have is not that scary after all … it’s a discovery session. This is how we build trust with teams and increase trust in a culture – only when we have those conversations that need to be had, only then can we fix up the very dysfunction at hand. This in turn, increases the trust of leaders and teams.

Did you know our brain is wired for certainty and feeling safe?

That’s why when there is change in a culture it can cause havoc … where team members start feeling uncertain about what is taking shape. This is why every leader and every team member needs to feel psychologically safe in any environment. Otherwise the consequences is that every individual start to operate from their survival brain, where all their unconscious biases, patterns and habits show up, leaving them making decisions based on fear. That’s not a thriving workplace environment for anyone.

We are hardwired to connect…

When we feel connected to others, it gives us purpose and meaning. And once we have purpose that we are all heading in the one direction as a whole … that increases the teams collective emotional intelligence.

When we feel safe, we are able to stand in our own truth and have those brave conversations because the right environment naturally rewards that kind of behaviour that encourages the sharing of ideas.

If everyone is accountable, everyone is encouraged to take risks and know that it’s okay to  make mistakes, because mistakes help us to learn, then we have the opportunity to discuss what we would do differently the next time.

All of this starts with the leader who should be leading by example, a leader that is vulnerable and transparent, driving the trust-enhancing behaviours.