When things aren’t going right and business is in a slump, most people look to new ideas, adjust their KPIs (key performance indicators) or try to improve their processes. Sometimes you solve the problem, but other times you do everything you can and still don’t see improved results. You can have the best idea, the best KPIs and the best processes in place, but if your team isn’t working well together, your company can still underperform.
It’s difficult to see and even more difficult to admit that your team is what’s holding the company back. Learning to recognize the problem and working on it before it’s too late will make it much easier to get back on track.
Here are 4 signs that your culture may be affecting performance and some tips to improve:
1. You see small issues turn into giant problems.
I call these small issues “baby elephants.” They start out small, but when you don’t confront them they can turn into 7-ton elephants! That’s why I encourage both everyone at my company and my clients to “eat the baby elephants in the room,” but it’s easier said than done. People generally like to avoid confrontation. Some don’t see these baby elephants as big issues and don’t want to waste time bringing them up.
For example, let’s say you were working on a project with a teammate, and he produced less than satisfactory work. Instead of confronting him about his performance, you decide to avoid him and not to have him on your team for the next project. It doesn’t seem like a big deal at the time, but then it begins affecting your relationship. If instead you coached him on how he could improve, the relationship would probably be even better.
At Rhythm Systems, one of our core values is No TDC (Thinly Disguised Contempt), which means we deal with these issues as they come up and don’t let things brew. There have been many difficult conversations, but after every conversation relationships have improved and people have learned to work together better. We put our entire team through Crucial Conversations training to help them learn how to have these types of difficult discussions.
2. People hide behind their email.
It’s easy to send an email or an instant message, especially when you’re upset with or disrespect that person. People sometimes hide behind the veneer of an email when they really should be having a face-to-face discussion. Tone can be easily misunderstood through email, which then can make the situation even worse. It’s especially easy for different personality types, like thinkers and feelers, to get their wires crossed.
Having an open office environment where people naturally interact makes it difficult for employees to ignore each other and can help. However, it doesn’t always solve the problem with today’s remote workforce. If working remotely, whenever you need to have a conversation, pick up the phone or better yet, video conference.
3. Decisions feel difficult to make, and even more difficult to get done.
At some point, I’m sure you all have been in a meeting where a personal interest or conflict has affected decision-making. When your culture isn’t intact, people aren’t on the same page and aren’t thinking about what’s best for the company. They are only focused on how to move themselves or their department forward.
Making a decision can be agonizing, but then getting the work done becomes even more difficult. Have you ever been in a room, you thought you had the discussions and the agreement, but then something else got done? Sometimes it really is a misunderstanding, but other times it could be that the person decided to do it his own way and thought his idea was better, so the conflict continues even after the decision was made.
Having a session to brainstorm all ideas helps everyone to feel heard. Then, narrow down those ideas. I like the old-fashioned voting method. It helps to make sure that the decision isn’t being made for the interest one individual or department. Once the decision is made, setting up a clear action plan, documenting it (in writing) and making sure everyone receives the information will help to make sure that the decision made is what gets executed.
4. Departments are operating in silos.
Okay, so I know this feels like the obvious one, but is it? Looking out from the boardroom, it can be hard to see and department managers don’t want to admit that they are not working well with other teams. But, once you start paying closer attention, you will begin to see the signs.
No one ever sets out to create a silo. Silos can happen for a number of reasons - when healthy competition turns ugly, when an elitist mentality causes departments not to share information, when people begin to lack respect for other departments' work based on one individual or instance, or when teams are battling trying to accomplish different goals.
Creating cross-functional teams connects departments and aligns them to work together toward a common goal. A couple years ago at Rhythm Systems, we started creating cross-functional teams for specific large projects, like our Breakthrough Execution Conference. We found these teams to be highly productive. It helped cut out having to go to multiple different departments for things and improved communication throughout the company since each department was somewhat involved in the project. Understanding the work and the role other departments play is key to smashing silos.
Want help building your high performance team? Learn how Rhythm software creates transparency, accountability and aligns teams to ensure all employees are working toward long-term, annual, quarterly, weekly and daily goals.
Photo Credit: iStock Photo by Getty Images