Relational Team Health

Fewer things can break the will of a team to run more than relational dysfunction. Small problems that should be easily overcome or dismissed become impassible barriers and thin, fractured ice threatening the team’s survival with every step.

Forget the competition – We’re too busy fighting each other!

As the leader of the team, it is our responsibility to monitor their Relational Health, just as much as their physical health or operational results. Why? Because if it has not impacted operational results, it soon will. As leaders, we are in the people business and people can be messy. That’s not meant to come across in a derogatory way – it just is. People have bad days or even bad weeks. If we are honest, WE have bad days/weeks. We won’t hire or keep people that are overtly dysfunctional, but that’s not always clear on the front end. When dysfunction manifests, it’s our responsibility to address it for the sake of mental / emotional / psychological health of the entire team AND the sake of the mission.

Relational health can be broken down to the individual and the team as a unit. At times, we will need keen observation skills to detect any issues and at other times you wouldn’t be able to miss them if you tried.

The team’s relational health is reflected in their ability to (pick your favorite buzz word): Communicate, cooperate, collaborate, synergize, etc. It affects every aspect of the team, in that it is made up of the team’s will to work with each other.

The term I use for Relational Health (or Relational Intelligence) is EQ. EQ is one of several terms that are used to describe this area of personal and vocational effectiveness. Just as IQ stands for Intellectual Quotient, EQ stand for Emotional Quotient.

EQ can be broken down into four areas: Self Awareness, Self Leadership, Social Awareness, and Relational Leadership.

In any relationship, our question sequence should be about self first, then the relationship. Am I AWARE of what’s going on with me (what I’m thinking or feeling) that may be adversely affecting the situation? Can I, then, lead myself or ‘manage’ myself to a better place of connectivity? From personal leadership, then we should develop the skill to be able to recognize what is going on with our coworkers, beyond just the surface issues, and finally, lead the relationship in the best direction.

Easily said – not always easily done!

The roots of most relational dysfunction can be traced down to a number of issues: perspectives (Sunglasses), communication, trust and offenses. Somebody says or does something that is a trigger for someone else and the entire team can break away and run down false trails in an instant!

As we start in this area, begin to watch for body language and team dynamics. When you are conducting a meeting or just watching casual interaction within the team – be aware of peoples’ body language. If someone starts to close off because of an offense – stop the process and start asking about their view of what just happened. Set the rules and start talking up the fact that you (as a team) need incredible Relational Health – if you are going to pull off your audacious goal – your “Burled Arch”.

Just start bringing things to their attention and talking about relational harmony, ask their views and take their feedback into consideration.

Functional relationships in business are no different than functional personal relationships. You don’t get to pick your birth family and, within some latitude, your people may not feel like they have a tremendous amount of control when it comes to their work cohorts, either. Working on this area and talking about it – can influence their feelings of power AND their commitment to the team as a unit!


I am in California this week, having spent time with my son who is in SOI at Camp Pendleton. We are working on some business opportunities here and then flying for a 2 week stay in Indonesia for Leadership sessions with companies there. Please keep us in your thoughts as we travel and we’ll twitter, FB, and Blog about our Leadership adventures. Stay tuned!

Team Health is rarely on accident

The formula for a great team is easy – be a great leader – have great people, a great plan, and great execution – sounds easy, right? Not so much….

We all make hiring mis-steps, we add team members that have great potential but they just don’t pan out, team members will (from time to time) have personal or interpersonal issues, and sometimes the reasons are difficult to diagnose. Leading to the realization that Team health, like personal health is rarely on accident. It is a matter and a make of up many choices along the way that add up to the sum of the whole. Team Health and productivity is from purposeful, consistent, and intentional diligence.

Continuing from earlier this week…. We have a team that doesn’t perform to expected levels, I have looked at my leadership areas and worked to correct any short falls there, and my team is still not producing expected results – where do I go from here?

From here, means that we look at the two parts of the team – the team as an entity, and the individuals that make up the team.

One of my consistent ‘ISMs’ is,

“To lead a team, you lead them one by one – beginning with you”

Earlier in the week we have dealt with the back part of that statement – ‘beginning with you’ – now we transition to the middle – we lead our team – ONE person at a time.

It’s difficult to say which we look at first – because it’s more of a both/and scenario – we look at our team and the dynamics of how they interact and operate AS A TEAM – but that is almost impossible to separate from looking at the individual players on the team and how they fit into the mix. Are they adding the right value? Running in their position right? Pulling their weight? Contributing to team synergy or detracting from it?

For the existing talent my questions are more along the line of: “Skill and Will”. Does this player have the skills need for the position or role that I need them to play? Do they have the WILL to succeed in their role and with the team? (The right attitude)

The skill part is capacity – can they do what needs to be done in order to perform at the needed level. Will comes into commitment – “Will they do what needs to be done?”

Start with evaluating individual performance – in other words, “Let’s look at what we can measure and put our hands on, first.”

Dialing down on individual performance means metrics and measurements. Here are the actions that we are going to measure your performance on – and here is how we are going to measure those. Throw in timing (for good measure) and they have the clarity on when, what, and the how. Short of that and they may not have the needed tools or clarity from you.

For today, invest a little time on clarity of desired performance and if you don’t have any, yet, developing an appropriate set of performance metrics. Boil this down to the clarity of, “What do I want you to do daily?” Let the person know you’ll be monitoring performance (daily for a while). Follow through! How can we expect our people to be – what we are not.

Team Health always starts with the Team’s Leadership, pt2

Yesterday we started the conversation about the Leader looking at himself or herself first, when it comes to analyzing team performance. Knowing that the team is usually a reflection of the Leader can be both sobering and affirming. Some additional questions to ask yourself about any potential negative or limiting effects that could be translating into less than desirable results are:

Is my team lacking direction? For a team to run at top speed, they will need clarity. Most of us would be, completely, unwilling to run at full speed while in total darkness and our teams are no exceptions. At times, stopping the team, increasing clarity, and establishing direction can tremendously boost speed and performance.

Have I over-driven my team? Even high performing teams are going to need a break. Pushing your team past the point of exhaustion too often can result in irreversible damage to physical stamina and mental focus. Knowing the right time to take a break is a mixture of intimately knowing both the team and the trail.

Knowing the team will clue you into them. Are they exhausted or just bored? Are they distracted? Does something have them spooked? Knowing the team will keep you from misinterpreting their energy or mental state.

Knowing the trail / terrain gives you valuable insight into where to push through and where to stop and rest. For instance, you may want to ask your team to continue on through a known difficult section before resting – that way when they are rested and fresh – they can run the next (easier) section with more energy and faster performance times. Again, knowing your team – gives you the insight to know if they prefer to push on through this area or prefer to be fresh and which choice will maximize productivity.

Is the sled overly burdensome? A team carrying twice the weight is unlikely to be the fastest. Saddle your team with a high degree of bureaucracy, regulation, emotional baggage, or wearisome corporate policies and watch the life drain from them. One of our greatest gifts that we can give to the team is to let them run with as little restriction as possible. The vast majority of players on the team want to run, they want to do the right thing and achieve the right results. Continuing to throw hurdles and obstacles in front of them will make the race more like a steeplechase than trail race! Look for ways to get out of your people’s way and let them run!!!

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly:

Is the Team’s attitude a reflection of mine? There is a very pointed dialog in the movie Remember the Titans, when one of the football players pushes back on the captain by saying, “Attitude reflects Leadership, Captain.

As leaders, our attitude and even our body language can transmit to the team. The “vibe” they get from us can either be contagious (if it’s good) or infectious (if it’s bad). Our team is, almost always, a reflection of our stress level, our relational interaction, and our attitude. Nothing can poison the team’s will to run like a leader with a poor attitude or negative mind set.

As I’ve said before, none of our talks on how to make the team’s performance better is meant to knock you down or depress you. My heart is to help call some of these things to your attention – so that you become response-able. Your team’s performance is within your realm to inspire and improve! Goodness knows, I’ve not always been as good of a leader as I am today – and there are days that I still drop the ball for my team – but that’s leadership – we are human – we’re not going to get it right every time.

That’s why, “Great Leader’s strive for Excellence, not Perfection!”

Team Health always starts with the Team’s Leadership

If, as my mentor John C Maxwell quotes, “Everything rises and falls on Leadership” then I have to accept that wherever the team’s health is today can be attributed to leadership decisions of the past and their health tomorrow rests on the leadership decisions of today. So my first question when attempting to diagnose the reason behind a team’s health (or performance) issue is, “Am I the problem?”

We’ll mush through part one of the questions that I take in the discovery process today and cover the second part tomorrow:

Is there something that my team has needed that I have not provided?

This can be detailed into many different sub-categories such as financial provision, training, empowerment, opportunity to provide feedback, and even to my interpersonal responsibilities of affirmation and connectivity. So I walk down more detailed questions:

Have I built my team strategically? Teams that are built with purpose and players that are placed with purpose (with the insight of interpersonal team dynamics) are much less likely to fight ‘Team Health’ issues. Creating a team full of superstar, individual performers may prove to be no match for a good, cohesive team. The superstars may spend so much time fighting each other or fighting for the limelight that they fail to remember the mission and the PURPOSE behind the race.

Have I trained my team for the journey? A rag-tag, undisciplined, untrained team usually only wins in fairytales and children’s movies. Sled Dog teams are trained canine athletes – that are trained just like any other top tier athlete in the world. If they have not been trained for the situation – we cannot expect them to perform at the professional level. One of my favorite sayings is, “Amateurs practice until they get it right, professional practice until they can’t get it wrong!”

Have I invested the time to create team synergy and buy-in? We can’t, always, operate a team that we have a long and purposeful relationship with but, over a period of time, we can’t neglect the immensely important factor of relationship and buy-in. When they buy-in to you and when they buy into each other – they buy into the race and will run with greater purpose, greater commitment. We’ll unpack more on Buy-in in a latter blog.

Have I empowered my team? Nothing frustrates and de-motivates a team of highly trained, highly capable athletes more than an insecure leader that either tight-reigns the team or won’t set them free to run with the liberating communiqué of, “Hike!”

Have I resourced my team? The team is going to need to eat – to feed on the right fuel physically, mentally, emotionally and they are going to need the right equipment. Malnourished dogs can’t run – and it they don’t have the right footwear or outerwear they are going to suffer injury or hypothermia and the race will be over!

Questions can be painful – but they can also be insightful and beneficial to leading us to a higher level of performance and achievement!

Here’s to team health – that starts with looking at us, as leaders, first!

Team Health

Overcoming obstacles and facing down the storms is mission critical for successful teams. However, not all teams are successful and many are downright sickly. It is one of the musher’s top priorities to create and maintain a healthy team.

In Chapter 6 of IDITAROD LEADERSHIP, there is a female, professional musher(Lizzie) that is giving instruction to the novice mushers and going through a time of Q&A. The exchange picks up with Lizzie answering a question around team performance. She responds:

“Adjustments with me and/or my plan are going to relate to conditions on the trail such as bad weather, is the trail icy or snow covered, or even is there a lack of snow. In recent years, we’ve had a lack of snow in some parts of the trail. The condition of the team, also, impacts the strategy. Some dogs might be fighting illness, do I need to drop them? Are there dogs not pulling their weight or who are causing problems with the other dog? Is another competitor pushing me? If you have any of these conditions and you don’t evolve your plan of action, you won’t win. Pure and simple. In some cases, you may not even finish the race.

Now my interest was piqued(Michael thought) and so he asked, “So, wait a minute. Is it hard for you to drop a dog?”

Lizzie replied, “Make no mistake about it, I love my dogs. I’m committed to my team. But if a dog’s not performing or it’s in their best interest health-wise to drop them, I have to drop them. I’m not willing to sacrifice the rest of the team, or the race, for one dog. I have to make the hard decisions and it’s just a part of mushing.”

This exchange leads the discussion to Team health and it’s many different areas. Is it the team? Is it players within the team? Is it team dynamics? Does it relate to the Mental, Physical, or operational components of the team?

If your team pulled into a checkpoint and were, immediately, evaluated for their health – where would the negative reports come from? What would be positive?

Underperforming teams come in many shapes and sizes. If your team falls into this category – are you aware of the why? It may be easy to see the symptoms, easy to look at the numbers and tell the team they are not measuring up, but do we know why?

The position of the Musher (being behind the team) is an incredible place to monitor the health of the team. From their vantage point they should be able to discern, not only the effect, but the cause. Discernment becomes a key leadership competency.

Is the team lazy? Are the mentally fatigued? Are they undertrained or improperly trained to handle the conditions of the race you’re in today? Is the team in complete disarray? Are they resistant to your leadership? Or are they simply bored and lack purposeful motivation.

I would like you take some time to just consider you team – have you thought about their health? I know (or at least hope) you’ve looked at the performance numbers, but if the performance numbers are not where they are supposed to be – how do we trail back to the causes of the less than desired results?

This week we unpack the health of the team and work to increase your skills of discernment, care taker, veterinarian, and finally, performance coach. It’s going to be a great week.