Is Your Leadership Team Courageous?
Recently, at the start of the second day of an intense client leadership team work session I offered my observation that the team's courage meter for day one was a bit low. Admitting the unscientific nature of my assessment, I pointed to two specific criteria for calculating the courage meter - (1) the team's ability to be open and honest with each other and (2) the ability of individual team members to take ownership for the team's challenges. During day one the team clearly demonstrated some courage by addressing a couple of uncomfortable issues such as one team member not feeling supported by his colleagues to other members feeling like the team leader was arbitrarily taking sides. Despite these important signs of openness, it was quite clear that team members were holding back and leaving the issues somewhat cloudy and difficult to unpack. What hurt the team's courage meter the most, however, was the inability of team members to reflect on their individual contributions to the team's challenges. Most team members either defended their actions ("I emailed her my position about this 3 weeks ago") or continued to call out the bad behaviors and actions of their colleagues ("he shut me down by saying that this was the boss' mandate").
The courage meter observation led to a good discussion and some great individual reflection on what might be holding the team back from having a full tank of courage. In this team's case it was a few important roots. First, the team is about 6 months removed from a very toxic leader who did not promote openness and honesty. Next, a few team members clearly have lost trust in each other and are uncomfortable being vulnerable. Finally, many adults simply do not like having direct discussions about messy and uncomfortable issues.
So, how do leadership teams gain the courage to move beyond these challenges? While there is no easy one size fits all answer to this question, there are small steps that individual team members can take to move the needle. It is amazing what can happen when individual team members are able to step back, reflect and communicate their role in any challenges. When one colleague holds out a olive branch and sincerely takes some responsibility, other colleagues often naturally soften their defenses. It just takes one adult in the room to help the team to begin to move the courage needle!
How courageous is your leadership team?