Look closely at any great company, and you’ll find they all have one trait in common: a unified team. Look again, and you’ll realize that a culture of unity is intentionally created and protected. Most companies, though, are made up of smart, talented people who, as a group, just can’t get the job done. If you have a team like that, you can be sure it is under attack from one or more of the fiveenemies of unity:
- Poor communication
- Unresolved disagreeements
- Lack of a shared purpose
- Sanctioned incompetence
You can build unity in your company by fighting these enemies. Let’s take a look at these unity-killers so you’ll be able to recognize them and fight them.
Five Habits That Kill Team Unity
1. Poor Communication
Communication is the lifeblood of any organization. It is the grease that keeps the gears moving. But most companies use mushroom communication: leaving employees in the dark and feeding them manure. That won’t work. Winning organizations must have a culture of communication. Without it, team members are detached and insecure.
Tools to Use
- A Mission Statement
Every company needs a mission statement. In just a few words, it tells the world and your team who you are, who you are not, and what you stand for. It’s also a great out-of-bounds marker. If an opportunity comes your way but it doesn’t fit into your mission statement, pass.
- Sharing the Story
Want to let your team know they are participating in work that matters? Tell your story. Let them know how you got where you are today, including your hardships, sacrifices and victories as well as all the times you refused to quit. It pulls the whole team together and lets them feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves.
- The Weekly Report
Each Friday, every team member at Ramsey Solutions turns in a weekly report that ranks their morale, stress and workload, and a place to state their weekly high and their weekly low. This is where dissatisfaction and disagreements tend to be revealed, directly or indirectly. As a leader, it gives insight into how the team is actually doing. For team members, it helps them understand the value they are bringing to the company. Remember, the key to the success of the weekly report is actually reading and reacting to them every week.
It may be human nature for people to talk about each other, but that doesn’t mean you have to put up with it. It is impossible to create a unified team with a bunch of gossips. Gossip pushes people apart instead of pulling them together, and everyone knows you can’t trust a gossip.
How to Create a Zero-Gossip Policy at Your Company
This policy encourages team members to tell their leaders, not each other, about the bad stuff. In fact, at Ramsey Solutions we follow a rule: Negatives go up, and positives go all around.
- Schedule a meeting to tell your team about your no-gossip policy.
- At the meeting, explain that gossip is a fireable offense. Every team member at Ramsey Solutions knows you’ll be warned once but the next time, you’re gone.
- Outline exactly what constitutes gossip. By definition, it’s saying something negative about anyone or anything to someone who can’t do anything about it.
But before you roll this policy out to your team, your first step for shutting down gossip is to take a look in the mirror. Are you guilty of talking negatively about someone on your team to anyone who is not one of your leaders? As the owner or leader of your company, your team watches everything you do, and they will naturally follow your example.
3. Unresolved Disagreements
Most leaders don’t realize that unresolved conflicts are destroying their businesses—they’re not even aware these conflicts exist! That’s a result of poor communication. Other leaders avoid confrontation. That’s called denial. Either way, your team loses.
How to Deal with Conflict
- If you learn that one team member may be upset with another at work or has a problem with an assignment or a process (see weekly report), get the involved parties together and straighten things out.
- Deal with conflict like you would deal with a splinter: Pull it out right away, even if it hurts. Don’t leave it until it’s infected, causing even greater pain. A little confrontation can wash out the wound and allow the parties to go forward in a spirit of unity.
- Nothing is ever accomplished by being a bully or being mean, even when you are justifiably upset with those in conflict. In this situation, you have power and control, and they have neither. Plus, the idea of the meeting is to course-correct and teach, not to embarrass and demoralize or lose your cool.
Team members at Ramsey Solutions aren’t required to like each other or be best friends off campus. But they are required to respect each other and agree that while styles may be different, there is shared integrity and shared intent. We will sit and talk things through until we can get to that point.
4. Lack of Shared Purpose
Have you ever seen a football team—a successful football team—that didn’t know where the end zone was? Or one that was made up of skilled players who had no idea what their roles were in reaching the goal? Of course not. But every day, people show up to work with no idea what the company’s goals look like or how their work contributes to reaching them—but they are still expected to be successful.
How to Fix It
- You can’t have unity without a common goal, a common mission and a common vision, all flowing from a common dream. Create those things and talk about them over and over again. And then talk about them some more.
- Andy Stanley, a noted pastor who leads a church with thousands of members, says you should recast your vision every 21 days. When a company is growing and adding people, recasting the vision is even more important. It might be repetitive to the old-timers, but it’s brand new to a lot of people.
- Dave Ramsey goes over the mission statement and goals of Ramsey Solutions every few months as part of a weekly staff meeting. He asks the individuals who have been with the company less than a year to stand, which visually illustrates to the veteran team members why it is important to restate the mission early and often.
“Effort and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.” —John F. Kennedy
5. Sanctioned Incompetence
When one team member is allowed to work less or consistently has a destructive attitude, it’s a disaster waiting to happen. If you don’t deal with the offending team member, the rest of the team will become demoralized and resentful. You can’t allow incompetence to continue unchecked, whether it’s related to social interactions or job productivity.
Should They Stay or Should They Go?
The decision to dismiss someone should never be easy or made in anger. In most cases, it should be your last resort. Before deciding to let someone go, figure out why they’re not getting the job done. It starts by looking in the mirror and asking yourself:
- Is it a leadership failure?
- Is it caused by a personal problem? If yes, have you offered additional help, like counseling or extra time off?
- Is the failure caused by incompetence?
In most cases, the issues can be fixed once you get to the root of the problem. If not, the firing shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone involved. But there is an exception to that rule—if the person has an integrity issue or they’re caught stealing, they need to be gone that day.
Level Up Your Leadership Skills
Remember that a successful and unified team starts with you! That’s why you have to make your own personal development a priority. One easy way to make that investment in yourself is by listening to The EntreLeadership Podcast for practical leadership insight that will help you lead and equip your team. There’s a new episode and a chance to call in every week.