I am working with an executive team that is having a challenging time with one another. The team members have started to land in camps and defend their areas. They think of themselves as marketing, operations, finance, HR, sales, etc. and they have lost sight of their greater purpose. Additionally, most of the team members see the other team members as obstacles in the way of achieving their results. Consequently, the team also thinks that the CEO is an obstacle who is not changing the strategy and culture fast enough. Wow, sounds like a lot of fun! The funny part is that individually they are really great people, but they have just become objects to each other. Does this sound like your team? Have you ever been on team like this? I know I have and it was no fun!
I led the team in an offsite recently and the first thing I had them do was to write down two things they admired or respected about each team member. I then had them go around the room to each person, share their feedback and then receive the feedback from their peers. I can see some of you rolling your eyes already! No, we did not sing Kumbaya or do a trust fall next. However, there were some tears, flushed cheeks and some mumbling. Why did I start with this exercise? I wanted each person on the team to re-see the people in the room as human beings and not as objects or VP of Sales. They had lost sight of the fact that each person was trying to do their best work. Most of the people thanked me for the exercise and said they could not remember the last time they had received positive feedback or given positive feedback to their peers.
Next, I worked with them to learn about Outward Mindset. This concept comes from The Arbinger Institute and I highly recommend their new book, The Outward Mindset.
An Outward Mindset exists when you are able to see the other person as a person and you work to understand their needs, objectives and challenges. You then demonstrate behaviors and agree upon objectives that meet the collective result of your organization. The stakeholders can be your direct reports, your manager, customers, peers, the Board, External Partners, etc.
In contrast, an Inward Mindset exists when you demonstrate behaviors that focus on your or your department’s needs at the expense of others. The inward mindset results in seeing others as obstacles, irrelevant or vehicles to accomplishing your goals. The inward mindset leads to distrust and an inability to see possibilities.
Back to the original team: it was clear to them after the discussion that most members were demonstrating an inward mindset. We went through an exercise of describing the type of behaviors that would demonstrate an outward mindset (listening, collaboration, shared goals and successes, sharing of talent, etc.) We also talked about how they felt when they were doing their best work together (invigorated, challenged, healthy conflict, aligned and fun.) The team is not perfect, but they are working hard to see their teammates as people trying to do their best work. They grant each other some grace now if there is a mistake or a miscommunication. I hear a lot more “we can do this” vs. “they did this to me, my area, etc.” I believe they are on the path to success.
Here are a few questions to ponder:
• Today, what would happen if I simply focused on helping others succeed?
• Who am I working with that I could be more helpful toward?
• Who is one person who needs more from me than I am currently delivering?
Good luck and go tell someone two things you appreciate about them and see what happens to the relationship.