Authenticity in Teams – Values Based Leadership

Posted in: The Diversity Blog- Nov 07, 2012 Comments Off

By Carol Campayne and Caroline Harper Jantuah

authentic leadershipEver been a member of a team where you felt you didn’t quite belong? Have you experienced the need to stifle or suppress your thoughts and ideas because you didn’t feel colleagues would be open to an alternative perspective? Are you able to be your true self in your team? Do members feel the team has lost focus and direction but no one feels able to voice this because criticism is never well received? How comfortably do you and your colleagues handle conflict and differences of opinion that arise from the diversity of thinking and being in the team?

These questions reflect what we hear all the time from members of dysfunctional teams – teams where relationships are superficial, candid and frank conversations are far from the norm, it being safer not to tell the truth; where it pays not to standout and being ‘bland in order to blend’ in is a survival tactic; where cliques and in-groups abound; and success is undermined by passive aggression and other divisive behaviours. These questions also reflect the growing dis-ease of employees from diverse backgrounds who feel that their potential to contribute more fully to the success of their organisations is being stifled by the xenophobic reactions of those who feel a shift in the balance of power and consciously or unconsciously strive to hold on to the old ways of doing things.

What is critical to note is that these teams are what we term value extractors – teams who are motivated by attitudes and behaviours that subtract value from their organisations. Some of these characteristics have become so ingrained and embedded that they become second nature, justified by well-rehearsed reasons for the ‘way we do things round here’.

Whilst this negative experience of working in teams seems to be quite wide-spread, this is set to change. The groundswell for more authenticity in leadership has been driven in part by the economic crisis in which hard questions are being asked about the values base from which leaders are operating, and the erosion of trust in organisations. It is beginning to be matched by a growing commitment to create more inclusive workplaces where members of an increasingly diverse workforce feel able to bring more of their real selves to the workplace; providing more value to organisations that are thus able to successfully harness the rich talent that lies in this increased diversity.

Increased diversity in teams naturally brings with it a tension which can, if not managed, become a disruptive dynamic. Overlay this with the stresses and strains of reduced budgets, reducing headcount, mergers and reorganisations and it is no wonder that trust breaks down, relationships are strained and individuals feel the need to hunker down and not rock the boat. Folks are coming into work with their armour on and their masks firmly in place. Yet, it is times like this that we need everyone on the team to be at their most engaged and creative best.

authentic leadershipIt is important that in a team setting, the onus for creating a more inclusive work environment to allow members to draw on their diverse talents and thus deliver better performance and results, does not rest solely on the shoulders of the team leader but that this responsibility is shared by all members of the team. Investing in the development of the whole team and not just that of the team leader truly does pay off.

Our starting point with groups who wish to become high performing inclusive teams is to work with them to reset the dial on their values dashboard.

We take an evidenced based approach, designing and facilitating a series of meetings that are informed by data gathered through interviews, focus groups and sometimes surveys.

We work with teams to define the values by which they wish to operate and ensure that these are translated into meaningful, relevant behaviours that have significance for each member – doubly important in diverse teams where behaviours associated with a common value such as trust can mean different things to different people.

Our skilled consultants create a safe environment at these sessions where the dialogue is frank and honest and everyone feels able to contribute to building the new foundation on which the team will move forward.

Typically, developing a shared understanding of diversity and inclusion and the skills to work more effectively together is a key feature. We draw on a range of frameworks, models and diagnostic tools such as the Factor8 Different Leaders Assessment Tool, Lencioni’s model of effective teams and Clifton’s Strengths Finder. The aim is to build mutual respect, increase understanding within the team and give members the courage and boldness to speak the truth, say things as they are, in pursuit of a more creative, innovative, productive team.

We take a systemic approach ensuring that the agreements reached by the team are set within the context of clarity of the purpose, mission and desired reputation of the team as well as the broader setting within which they are operating.

Outcomes from our work with teams include deeper, stronger, more trusting working relationships; inclusive team environments where individual members are more engaged and productive as a result of feeling able to lower their masks and be more authentic in the work place; increased effectiveness and improved client or customer relationships.

To find out more about our Values Based Leadership – Team Development interventions, contact us.

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