False Assumptions: A Key Barrier to Team Health

I was recently facilitating a two-day retreat with the leadership team of a large business with the goal of building a strategic plan to double revenues in the next three years. During one of the early breaks, the owner and another member of the team approached me offline. There had been an argument among the team the day before in which one member, we’ll call him Chris, completely shut down and withdrew. A few people on the team apparently thought Chris was not a fit with the core values and culture, and they wanted my help in bringing out the issue with the team.

As we started back into our session, I asked the team’s permission to throw out our agenda for the next hour so that we could discuss concerns that the team had with Chris.

Initially, Chris didn’t have much to say, so I led the individuals who had approached me through some questions to get their concerns out on the table. As we went around the group and everybody expressed their feelings, I could sense Chris was growing frustrated. It was clear that the team generally felt he was not a strong core values fit, and some were not sure if he would be with the company in six months.

If the team was right, Chris needed to exit the company so it could flourish. Allowing someone who doesn’t fit the Core Values to stay is toxic in regards to team health. But the real question that they were not asking was: Were their basic assumptions about Chris accurate?

 

Team Health – Lesson 1: There is Always Another Side to the Story

When I asked him what he was hearing from the team and how he was feeling, I asked Chris to focus on his emotions. Our emotions are data; they are rooted in neurochemical responses to stimuli and are a perfect window into what is really going on. But that’s a window into which few people are willing to look. That is when Chris opened up.

He summed up his feelings as being frustrated, angry, ashamed, and lost.

Chris began telling us how buried he felt at work. He was frustrated because he didn’t have the support staff he needed. He didn’t know how to find better hires because the company didn’t have a clear hiring process for him to follow.

He was angry because of how the team perceived him, even though he was working long hours to deal with issues that never seemed to go away no matter how hard he tried. He told us how much he loved the company and how he could see that the work we were doing was making it possible to double the business in three years, but he was feeling lost and ashamed because he was already drowning and had no idea how he would survive the growth that was coming.

He told us that most nights he couldn’t sleep because his mind was racing and how this led him to drinking more just so he could rest at night. By that point, he was in tears—and so was the rest of the team.

As we worked through the realities of his situation one by one, a beautiful thing happened: The team began to move from a place of judgment and negativity toward Chris to a place of compassion—and a genuine desire to help began to blossom.

By the next break, the team had started to create action items that would help Chris get more support, both from the team members and with increased budget for additional staff. Every member of the team showed his or her appreciation for Chris, not only for the work he was putting in, but for his willingness to be open and vulnerable with the team. They took a huge step forward that day.

 

Team Health – Lesson 2: Challenging the Assumptions in the Room Is Vital

 “You will always find the evidence for what you choose to believe.”

This quote, from lyricist and poet IN-Q, speaks volumes into what I see happening with many of the teams I work with. It happened to me throughout my 20-year career in manufacturing as well. We tend to quickly form opinions as a response to external events and behaviors we observe in others. Over time, we allow those opinions to morph into our perceived reality, without ever really challenging our own biases, perceptions, or personal experiences as to how they may be creating a false narrative for us. When that happens, team health is diluted and good solutions become hard to find.

Does your team struggle with false assumptions creating barriers to growth and undermining team health? When you are part of a team, there is a strong undercurrent of health that is absolutely vital to the team’s ability to achieve results. It is very important to remember the words of IN-Q: “You will always find the evidence for what you choose to believe.” It doesn’t have to be that way.

When a team can overcome the formation of false assumptions and instead focus on the known facts and then ask questions to challenge their assumptions, great things can be accomplished.

 

To learn more about how The TRACTION Hub and Certified EOS Implementer Michael Erath can help you and your team dig deep and unearth the real things that are holding you back, click here to contact us and schedule a call.