By Dr. Karyn

Hello DK Leadership Community!

I have a quick question for you – yes or no – what is your gut reaction to this question: Do you think you are operating effectively as a Team at work? What about at home? Let’s go deeper and talk about culture. What are 3 words you would use to describe your Team? Would you use words such as “partnership”, “playful” and “energizing”, or would it be words more like “imbalanced”, “argumentative”, and “burdened”?  It’s a simple but very important question!

The concept of Team Culture has always fascinated me. Why is it that some families can operate so effectively as a Team – each member contributing selflessly, with partners and children all working together to contribute towards a common goal? Meanwhile, other families lack this unity of purpose, and it seems like only 1 member is doing all the work. The same divide applies in many organizations I have worked with. Some have powerful and productive Team Cultures – while others have dysfunctional cultures in which expectations are unspoken or unrealistic, roles are not clearly defined, people are afraid to bring up conflict, and 1 or 2 people are doing the majority of the work.

Whether this 2nd scenario describes a family or a corporate setting, the results will be similar for either system. People will inevitably feel unmotivated, resentful, exhausted, and un-energized – and they will ultimately disengage.

The great news is – it just takes one dedicated Team Leader, regardless of work or family culture, to kick-start the change (this could be you!)

So how can we create this change? There are many ways – let me highlight 3 areas to start with!

Tip #1:     Know & Share Your Vision
Parents are supposed to be the Leaders at home. It’s our job to clarify our family’s vision and express it clearly, in a compelling and inspiring way, to our children. Some of you already know your vision, while some of you may have never considered it! No problem – this is a great time to stop and think about it.

The same rule applies at work: Attention – all Senior Leaders and Managers! An important part of YOUR role is to continually define and express your organization’s vision to your Teams!  WHAT is the big picture? WHY are we all working so hard? What’s the point of each of our jobs / tasks? Team Members need to know why!  They also need to see WHERE they are going, WHY you want to go in that direction and HOW they can contribute to this bigger picture! This clarity will create energy, alignment, motivation and overall engagement.

So here is a quick homework assignment.  Without prepping – spontaneously ask your family at your next family dinner – “What is our family vision?” Can your kids answer this question? Have you ever defined this for them? If not – focus here first! Same thing at the office: at your next Team Meeting – ask your Team Members to define your Company Vision! So often when I ask this question of organizations – people can barely recall any part of their vision or mission statement.  Your vision needs to be reinforced in an inspiring way at every Family Meeting and Team Meeting. It needs to become embedded in everyone’s brain!

Tip #2:     Work Together & Clarify The Roles

Let me share with you the key ingredient for every “Great Team” I have worked with: everyone is contributing what they can! These teams are working together, all moving in the same direction towards a common vision.  So as the Team Leaders (yes this is you, Moms & Dads / Senior Leaders, Managers) the next step is to really think about ALL the roles that need to happen to achieve your vision and who is best suited for each role. Put the right person in the right seat. I remember years ago when I first read Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits Of Successful People”, he wrote about this in the family context. He shared that as a father, he and his wife clarified the vision for their family – then wrote down ALL the roles that have to happen to make this vision come to fruition – and they asked their kids to sign up for their own roles. What jobs would they prefer? Who is best suited for each task?  I remember reading that passage and thinking what a simple but brilliant concept to encourage buy-in for a family vision!

We recently experienced this as a family during Thanksgiving this year (yes, being Canadian we celebrate this holiday in October). We went to our cottage for the weekend, and our country property has lots of “opportunity” for Teamwork– weeding, raking leaves, chopping wood (we heat by fire), stacking firewood, etc.  There is no shortage of “work”. Not to mention the other tasks that needed to be done inside the cottage (laundry, cleaning, food prep and cooking). This year my husband and I were more intentional about talking with our kids about WHY it’s important that we ALL work together as a Family Team & HOW that looks on a practical level.  We clarified ALL the potential jobs – and quickly they each “signed up” for what they wanted to do.   My husband cranked the music outside, and for 2 solid days – we worked together. It was an incredible bonding experience. On the second day, our one son said “Wow, this is actually fun”. I don’t think we have ever worked that hard together as a family – and not surprisingly – we all felt an incredible energy and closeness as a result!

Tip #3:     Pause & Celebrate Together

Working together is actually quite magical. It’s bonding and inspiring when you can see a finished product or wrap up a project. When Teams are working on a shared goal, it’s exciting (and potentially exhausting) to reach the finish line – but hopefully also exhilarating! However, Tip #3 is just as important as Tip #2!  Great Teams work hard together – but they also celebrate together after the win. Too often when I work with organizations – they push their Teams, hustling the maximum effort from their workforce – but there is no clear finish line. As soon as they finish one project they start the next, and there is no pause or celebration of accomplishment!  When Leaders push hard but don’t celebrate with their Teams, Team Members will often not only feel disrespected (especially the younger generations), but they will also feel emotionally deflated and disengaged. Celebrating together is actually an essential ingredient for  building Great Team Cultures! Thankfully celebrations don’t have to be expensive – they can be simple gestures that pause, acknowledge, and affirm a job well done! In our family – celebrating looks different each time but often it includes simply “playing” together: things like letting the boys stay up later and watching a movie together, playing a board-game, having hot chocolate by the campfire, or going for a bike-ride. For work cultures – I’ve seen Great Teams do group potlucks, go out for lunch, attend sporting events, host wine & cheese events, etc. Try some of these ideas the next time you need to celebrate a milestone with your team; or better yet – ask your Team (at work and at home) what they would  value? Great Teams are highly productive (they get work done) AND they also highly value each other as people, which is WHY celebrating together is critical.

Happy Family & Work Culture Building 🙂

Your Leadership Coach
Dr. Karyn

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