Having an environment where employees are happy to be working, enjoy their jobs, and feel like they’re part of a team working to accomplish something bigger may sound like an idea straight out of the movies. Or perhaps something from the galleries of stock images. A nirvana possibly attainable by other people, but not your company.

But it is possible to have that type of environment in your company. In any company.

It does takes some work, I’m not going to try and convince you it doesn’t, but most importantly, it takes the right work, focused on the right things. Here are four ideas to think about and do some self-assessment around to see exactly what type of challenge you may be facing with your team.

Team environment

A cohesive, well-developed team will consistently outperform any individual, no matter how talented. Ensuring every member of your team works effectively with the rest of the team is critical for consistent and constantly improving results.

Ask yourself / Ask the team: Thinking about the environment in our organization, is it truly a team working together and helping one another with everyone focused on the same ideas and vision of the company? Or is it a group of individuals who come into work each day and get their jobs done, working in relative isolation or perhaps in silos?

Role clarity

In order perform jobs effectively, everyone needs to have complete clarity of exactly what their role is and how it contributes to the overall vision and goals of the organization. If people don’t understand how the work they do impacts the team, the goals, and the clients, then it’s easy to dismiss the work as unimportant and treat it as such.

Ask yourself / Ask the team: How well do our groups and individuals understand their contributions and worth to the organization? Do we have current job descriptions clarifying these ideas for everyone on the team?

Accountability

The most successful organizations have built-in accountability systems for every role. Every role should be contributing to the company’s success, and without the proper work being performed in each role, the organization as a whole cannot thrive.

Ask yourself / Ask the team: What expectations do we have of our people? How do we hold them accountable? Do we have natural systems in place and/or formal systems? What are the consequences for poor performance (natural or formal)?

Leadership

The leaders of the organization create the vision, set the goals, and set the tone for everything else in the company. They are the role models. And how they treat the staff directly correlates to how the staff treats one another and your clients. If your leadership team is excited about your staff, their wellbeing, and their personal and professional development and growth, this will positively impact the entire organization. And the opposite feelings and attitudes will create a negative environment.

Ask yourself / Ask the team: What is the leadership team modeling with their behaviors? Are we/they a cohesive group or combative and disorganized? How do we/they interact with and communicate to the team? Do current behaviors demonstrate that we/they care about other team members?

Assessing the assessment

If you feel good about your answers, then congratulations! If you didn’t like the answers you had for these questions, then get to work making changes by first asking yourself another question:

What is holding us back from creating an environment where teams thrive?

Your answer may be as simple as, “We just haven’t thought about it.” Or perhaps, “We know it’s a problem, but we didn’t know what to do about it.” Or maybe you have a more systemic problem where the leadership team is the cause of the negative environment.

  1. In any of these cases, you need to start from the top. Fix leadership issues first. Or maybe you simply need to come to consensus as a leadership team on what needs to be done. And then communicate with the whole organization what your plans are.
  1. Next, move to creating clarity for each role and ensure that every role is tied to the vision and goals of the company. Help everyone see how they fit in and develop a sense of worth for each person and every role. Involve the team in this work and communicate with them throughout the process.
  1. Finally, work on natural and formal accountability. Natural accountability comes from team meetings, coaching meetings with supervisors, and peer-level expectations from team members. Formal accountability comes from performance reviews, improvement plans, merit increases, bonus structures, etc. Involve the team in discussing what this accountability looks like and communicate with them throughout the process.

No one likes surprises and new structures being dumped on them. Let the team participate and accept ownership through the development process. As you are communicating, asking for their input, and following through on what you talk about, the environment will start to shift. Stick with it. Don’t back down. It’s not going to be an easy, quick fix, but putting some consistent practices into place will get you off to a good start and provide a foundation you can continue building on.

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