Before we dive into our bi-weekly segment of answering readers’ questions, let’s begin by exploring the rules of engagement I like to use to build strong, healthy teams. I like to think of these rules as guardrails for team interactions, and use them to guide/remind team members when stress levels are high and people can be feeling a great deal of pressure to perform.
These are the 6 rules of engagement I use to guide my teams:
- Find the most generous explanation and believe it
- Feedback is a gift
- There’s no ‘I told you so’ in teamwork
- Embrace the power of ‘Yet’
- We meet our commitments
- We celebrate success
Let’s take a closer look at each rule.
Find the most generous explanation and believe it.
This rule is a paraphrased quote from The One Thing You Need to Know by Marcus Buckingham which states a happy marriage can be found when you “Find the most generous explanation for each other’s behavior and believe it.” While this is most certainly a good rule to apply to be happily married, it’s also a good rule to apply to our work life. In the thick of a tough project or thorny work issue, it can be helpful to remind yourself to look for the good in people’s behavior and offer each other a little grace.
Of all the rules, this is the hardest one for me personally. It’s always been a fault of mine to jump to the most negative or sinister of explanations for other people’s behavior and ruminate there. As if I don’t have my own character flaws! Learning to recognize when I’m using negative thinking patterns and consciously training myself to find the most generous explanation continues to be a daily challenge. I hope someday I can master this rule.
Feedback is a gift.
For many years in my career, I dreaded receiving feedback because I perceived it to be negative – a testament to my character flaws and inadequacies as an employee. As I matured, I realized that feedback is a gift. It lets you know opportunities where you can stretch and improve. It allows you to hear and understand other people’s points of view. Then you have an opportunity to make an informed decision on how you want to proceed. If you don’t know that there’s an issue, it’s impossible to fix it. Feedback is essential in order to build a strong, healthy team. Becoming exceptional at giving and receiving feedback is a talent that the best managers cultivate. So, embrace feedback. Practice giving it and receiving it until you’re exceptional at it too.
There’s no ‘I told you so’ in teamwork.
This rule underscores one of my biggest pet peeves in work life. Have you ever worked really hard on something, like a project or a deliverable, where you asked for people’s input along the way … only to have the project fall short? Inevitably, someone pipes up in your retrospective and suggests that they ‘knew’ it wouldn’t work. Doesn’t that just make you want to scream? If someone knew it wouldn’t work, why didn’t they tell you that, and save you some pain?
Here’s the rub for me on this one, it implies that your work is wasted and others could’ve done better. That may or may not be true! For me, when this happens, it’s a good time to remind everyone that people make mistakes – we ALL make mistakes. Saying, “I told you so” doesn’t really help the situation. It only serves to rub salt in a wound. Instead, go back to Rule # 1 and Rule # 2. Give people the benefit of the doubt and offer encouragement and constructive feedback along the way.
Embrace the power of ‘Yet’
This rule comes from adopting a growth mindset. Be open to doing things differently. Success comes not from doing things the same way we’ve always done them, but rather in exploring new and different ways to tackle problems. Saying I haven’t solved that problem – yet, helps to open up our minds to the possibility that there is a solution to the problem – we just haven’t found it yet!
We meet our commitments
This rule really serves to set an expectation with the team that when we say we will have something done, we get it done on time. For me, saying you will have something done on a specific date is a commitment not only to yourself, but also to the whole team. Missing a due date is breaking a commitment that has ramifications for the whole team. One person’s lateness can have long-lasting impacts on other people’s workloads. If it happens once in a while – fine – but if it’s becoming chronic, it’s important to address any missed commitments as soon as they happen.
We celebrate success!
This rule is the most important of all the rules, and often the most overlooked. Every week people do great things to help move companies forward. Take a moment out of every day to recognize both the little things and the big things. Write a note thanking a colleague for their help, give a shout out to a team member’s accomplishment in a team meeting, nominate a co-worker for a company award, buy a cup of coffee for someone who helped you out. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Take the time to acknowledge the work people do on a daily basis – it will go a long way to building a happy and healthy team!
There you have it. Six foundational rules of engagement to build strong, healthy teams. Have a listen to my favorite podcast in September with Taylor Poindexter. Then, tune in next time where we’ll dive into what Taylor is referring to when she talks about psychological safety. What is it? How can you ensure your team has it?
Until next time ~
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