We talk about Customer Experience (CX), Employee Experience (EX).
There’s Team Experience (TX). What it’s like to work in that team.
Teams can veer on the continuum between the good, bad and sometimes darn ugly.
For over 20 years I’ve led the re-setting of numerous teams. What do I mean by re-set? For example, It’s like when your computer or device is stuck, isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do, is frozen. You hit re-set. A clean, bug free, operating programme is re-installed. Your device does what it’s supposed to.
That’s the same for teams who are stuck, are working against each other rather than with each other, have lost sight of work goals and purpose, who expend their energy and focus negatively rather than positively. They’re not functioning effectively. Common words that people use to describe their experience of this type of team include ‘toxic’, ‘dysfunctional’ and ‘soul sapping’.
What are the indicators of a team in trouble?
After 20 years of teambuilding, I quickly pick up on the pulse of a team. It’s the energy and relational behaviours. People don’t look out for each other. They avoid talking to each other relying more on email communication than chat. They have poor interpersonal relationships. A blame culture evolves with people pointing the figure at each other. Negative comments and negative gossip abound. People become negatively hardwired and project how they are feeling by sharing their misery with the wider team. We call this emotional contagion. It spirals out into the wider team, who catch and start to mimic the same behaviours. People start to self-protect, become patch protective and work to cover their backs. They come into work, flick on the computer; don’t engage with colleagues. They work in silos. Social pleasantries are not the norm. They have started to hardwire themselves into a negative thought space. They don’t want to be there and don’t enjoy the ‘how’ of how they all work together. Staff turnover and absenteeism is likely to be high, productivity and engagement metrics low. CX, customer experience, will be poor.
The organisational indicators are all going the wrong way. And it’s not pretty!
What are the causes?
There’a a range of common causes I come across. Unaddressed conflict, they don’t know how to raise issues skilfully or safely. Poor, negative leadership that is more task focussed and not so good at the people stuff. Not a leader that people want to follow. A rogue hire who over time brings down a team. Fear of change, of making a mistake. Burnout from too heavy workloads; people work to keep their head above water and don’t have the energy to pay attention to relationships. Vision, goals or sense of purpose that are missing, murky or unclear. An organisation that is more focussed on results than the ‘how’ of how people achieve them. There is no sense of a baseline positive culture that binds them together.
When you are part of a team operating in a negative fug, it is difficult to pinpoint the causes and see a way out to turn things around. All we know is how it feels – like shit. It takes somebody from outside the team to safely hold the mirror up, hold the space, and help re-set.
Commonly the leader may focus on setting the team purpose and goals or addressing the physical work environment. Helpful, but it doesn’t address the root causes, helping the team to unpick their current DNA, to identify what isn’t working for them and what would be better. To re-set you need to start with the team culture.
Team culture. What do we mean by culture?
Culture is commonly described as “the way we do things here”. A system of shared values, principles, traditions, and ways of doing things that influence the way that team members act. For better or worse. Culture gives life to identity, purpose, belonging and meaning. The challenge for every leader is how to harness the diversity of the team and establish ways of working that brings out the best in everyone, how they relate to each other and collectively work to deliver on the organisational goals. Re-setting an agreed vision of how the team wants to work together creates a shared culture roadmap
How do you re-set a team?
Emotional culture first. Values second. It starts with the ‘f’ word… feelings.
Think about it. How we feel about our work matters, really matters. Trouble is most organisations don’t care about, or think about, how their people are feeling at work. Instead, they focus on values and behaviours. Values are important, but it’s not values that drive our behaviours; it’s emotions. Every time.
When it comes to re-setting a team, we need to flip the conversations and start from the ground up in culture crafting what success looks like.
It starts with the simple question ‘ how do you want to feel at work?’. Then we work from there, shaping the TX (Team Experience) blueprint. The values that bind them, the healthy behaviours and language.
From there the team brainstorm how to embed this into everyday working; touchpoints such as team rituals, meetings, one-to-ones, team check-ins and tracking.
TX DNA = Healthy behaviours. Healthy language. Positive Intention
Teams that nail culture crafting talk a ‘different vibe’ to the team. They talk about how it feels to work in that team. Leaders, customers, stakeholders notice a shift:
- Healthy behaviours and language
- Positive intention in how the team works together
For customers, it’s as simple as ‘it feels good’ engaging with the team and ‘they care about me as a customer’.
How does the Team maintain the TX culture glue?
With conscious intention … and a plan. Plan to keep the conversations alive. Have the team appoint culture guardians who will flag when things are going off track. Build in times when the team comes together to track progress and reset. People support what they help to create. It’s a rinse and repeat approach.
With the TX blueprint in place, it’s common for teams to shift to thinking about the Customer Experience. That’s when the magic starts to kick in as they start to think about the next simple question:
‘how do we want our customers to feel?”
If you’ve got a team you want to hit Re-Set on reach out for a chat.