There is a moment of truth for High Performance Teams. It is the moment team members start to hold gut-level honest discussions about team culture.
The good news is leaders can get their teams to the edge of this moment. But only team members can make it happen.
I was reminded of all this when I came across the “Shirtless Dancing Guy” video from a couple years back. Remember it? See it here.
Derek Sivers (narrator) uses this video to point out the critical role of the first and second follower. Yes, all teams need leaders, but we expect leaders to cast a vision and lead the way. It is the actions of “followers” that make leadership real, and normalize new behaviors.
When it comes to telling the truth in team settings, there are milli-seconds before members "just say it" where you can sense tension in the air. You can almost hear what people are thinking:
“Do I really want to call this out publicly?”
"Is it worth me sticking my neck out this far?"
"What if _______reacts and challenges me on my own stuff?"
“What if this leaks out to the big boss?
"The last time I did this ..."
But this is what I have seen: past fear and doubt, the teams that successfully speak the truth to each other, can discover (or recover) trust. Following, new platforms for team interdependence are created. Thoughtful requests can be made and comitments delivered. The stage is set for other possibilities:
- Individual ownership of team goals and outcomes.
- Energy to tackle challenging market conditions and internal politics.
- Victimization confronted. All waiting, wishing, and whining rooted out.
- Boss and peers willing to seek and accept feedback.
- Creative tension, even conflict, welcomed rather than avoided.
In fact, I have been part of two meetings in the last 4 weeks where all five of these were accomplished and breakthroughs acknowledged by all members of the team. And what's more, it happened without shaming and high drama (which takes its own toll).
Has your team experienced its moment of truth?
Derek Sivers points out that willing “followers” legitimize a new context and make it safe for yet others to jump in and join in the work (and the fun).
To be sure, we are not talking about a willy nilly, let's get things off our chest session (although that could be a legitimate step forward). The context here is a team committed to medium term, peer to peer development, a subject for another time and place.
Meanwhile, start by engaging your current team in a moment of truth and see what happens.