Just like the narratives we tell ourselves regarding our abilities to lead a team, our team narratives can be just as, if not more, damaging.
I have a saying that I’ve used for years and have shared with countless leaders throughout my career. It goes like this:
“People will live up to, or down to, your expectations of them. What kind of expectations are you setting?”
It’s a similar sentiment to what Stephen R. Covey wrote in his acclaimed book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,
“Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be.”
When you set the bar low, people don’t have a lot to work toward or achieve. It’s demotivating and often demeaning. And it’s almost like giving them a free pass to just coast.
But here’s the thing – most people don’t want to “just coast.”
Meaningful work is the single largest contributor to a positive employee experience, a study by Globoforce revealed.
Sadly, only 10% of employees rate their employee experience a 10 out of 10 (YouEarnedIt) – which means there’s a LOT of room for improvement!
People want to make a difference, be a contributing and valued member of a team, and do meaningful work.
Now that you know what we’re working with, let’s check out some of the narratives we often tell ourselves and our teams that can be very damaging to the overall employee experience – and your business.
We hear all the time in business that having a positive and optimistic mindset is a key factor for being successful and winning at life and business. The same is true for our teams.
When we feed them narratives that aren’t true, are negative, or are damaging to their mindset, we won’t get the very best effort from them, let alone have a cohesive, happy, and productive team.
Damaging narratives we tell ourselves and others about our teams:
- I have the worst team – I hired all the wrong people.
- My team never follows through. They don’t do anything I ask them to.
- My team doesn’t care. They’re not as motivated as I need them to be.
- I wish I could just clone myself. Then I’d have the perfect team.
- Important Side Note: No, you will definitely not have the perfect team if you simply clone yourself. You need people with complementary skill sets, different perspectives, and diverse backgrounds to create a truly innovative, creative and successful team.
Damaging narratives leaders have actually said to their team members:
- You all never do what I ask. It’s like you don’t even care.
- I obviously care more than anyone else on this team.
- No one can do this right, so I’ll just do it myself.
- Just do the job you were hired to do – nothing more.
- This one was is typically in response to a team member trying to bring a new idea, thought, or suggestion to the table. Often, the leader is feeling threatened when they say something along these lines.
And the absolute worst thing you can do is talk about one team member’s performance, abilities, character, etc. to another person on your team. I promise this will end badly every single time. And you are not doing anyone any favors here.
If you need someone to vent to, it’s best to find an individual you can trust and rely upon outside of your business – a fellow leader, coach, advisor, or mentor – anyone other than another member of your team – to discuss your frustrations and concerns with.
Time for a bit of tough love. Are you ready?
If you are unhappy about or with your team, you need to take a look in the mirror, my friend. You’re the only constant in that scenario. And it likely means that you’re struggling in your leadership role.
Ouch. I know. That one hurt.
If you’re having a rise of emotions right now, that’s okay – lean into them. It’s simply a clue that it’s time for you to do a little personal development on your own leadership skills.
As I’ve said before, becoming a leader is just like anything else in this world. You have to learn new skills and then practice those skills often to become adept at anything.
Leading a team is tough.
It’s going to take your full commitment and a lot of self-discovery and personal development to grow in this role. But you can absolutely learn to become a great leader.
I talk about company culture a lot because it’s so incredibly important.
Company culture isn’t just about ping pong tables in the break room or flex time or luxury team retreats. Although those are all lovely and valuable perks at the right times.
Company culture is about so much more.
It’s about the narratives we tell in our businesses, how we treat our team members and how they treat one another, how decisions are made and who’s allowed to make them and more.
The narratives we tell and hold to be true are part of our company culture.
Employees feed off of the negative narratives we have about them. Even though you may never breathe a word about the thoughts you’re having to your team, they can sense it and feel it.
Remember, you control the narratives and the culture in your business, so be careful what experiences you’re creating for your team.
Leading a team will be the hardest and most important job you’ll ever have in your business (if you have or choose to have a team someday, of course).
Our team members will either live up to – or down to – our expectations. So make sure you’re keeping a positive mindset, developing your leadership skills, and setting those expectations high for your team.
Reframing Your Team Narratives
Now it’s time to take a look at how you can start reflecting on and reframing the narratives you’re currently telling yourself about your team.
Coincidentally, this process is very similar to the one we walked through last week about reframing your own leadership narratives.
It’s about self-exploration and digging in to learn more about why you feel and think the way you do about your team.
Below are just three examples of narratives you might have about your team. You’ll soon see a pattern for the types of questions you can ask yourself as you work through your own narratives.
Use these questions to help you uncover your own truth:
- I have the worst team – I hired all the wrong people.
- My team is underperforming. Where are they underperforming and why?
- How can I help them?
- Have I communicated the expectations to them clearly and frequently?
- Does one team member or all of my team need some additional training?
- Have I shared the vision and goal with them?
- Do I have the right people in the right jobs doing the right tasks?
- My team never follows through.
- Am I giving them enough direction?
- Do I set clear deadlines and stick to them?
- Am I checking in with my team frequently to see if there are any roadblocks I can help them remove?
- Do we have a clear process for our work so that everyone is informed and involved at the right times during each project?
- Are there communication gaps in our workflow process?
- My team isn’t as motivated as I need them to be.
- Is my whole team unmotivated or just one person?
- What’s the root cause of the lack of motivation?
- (This will require talking with your team members and asking them what’s going on in their world. It could be something at home that has them distracted. The key here is open and honest communication without repercussions.)
- What things truly motivate my team?
- Positive reinforcement, flextime, small gifts/treats, etc.
- Am I sharing an inspiring vision for the future that the whole team can get excited about?
- Have I set clear, specific and measurable goals for my team that align with my vision and the overall company goals?
- Am I checking in with my team members regularly and frequently to talk about their progress?
Once you dig in deeper to the specific issue(s) you’re facing with an open and objective mindset, you’ll begin to diagnose the true root cause of your problems.
Then, you’ll be able to craft a much more thoughtful and successful plan for how to handle this situation now and in the future.
And you’ll start seeing major improvements in the way your team functions, responds and works together.
What are some struggles you’re currently facing with your team and what steps do you need to take to resolve them?
Feeling stuck? Shoot me a note to firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s brainstorm some ideas together.
Check out the next post in this series here.