“The whole team’s not on board.”
It’s a common refrain in organizations. Perhaps you’ve even said it yourself, either out loud or in your mind.
But why does it happen? And as a leader, what can you do about it?
It’s not unusual for teams or organizations to struggle with changes, projects, and/or initiatives; and the reasons for those struggles can be varied. However, there are some things we can think through that may help us move forward in a more unified way.
1. What, specifically, is the team not on board with? In other words, does the team know specifically what’s expected of them? Sometimes, organizations provide general, aspirational statements, which are fine; but they fail to provide the specifics of what it looks like for folks within the organization to live that out every day. In that case, it may be that what’s being perceived as folks not being on board is simply a case of them not knowing exactly what it is they’re supposed to be doing.
2. Is it a case of lack of alignment with the organization’s identity and values? Values are a big deal, and it’s important that organizations get them right. Sometimes, if organizations’ values are too vague or general, it will be nearly impossible to get the whole team on board with any sort of coherent behavioral expectations because they’re not prescribed and described with any specificity in the values. Thus, folks aren’t on board because there’s nothing identifiable for them to be on board with. However, if an organization has solid, concrete values that are unique to them and describe their identity and behavioral expectations, you have a sort of guidepost or standard against which folks can be held more objectively accountable.
3. Is it a leadership issue? Sometimes, folks have been beaten down by poor or even abusive leadership. I’ve seen this happen, and it’s not pretty. It’s vital that organizations and boards take a look at leaders and managers from the CEO all the way down and see if they’re living and leading in ways that jive with the organization’s values and leadership expectations. I’d highly recommend embracing servant leadership ideals as the standard, or else you could end up with some pretty toxic leadership.
4. How does the organization understand accountability? When it comes to being on board as a team, accountability is going to be huge. Accountability has its roots in real-deal trust, healthy conflict around ideas, and group commitment. If a team is human and vulnerable with each other, it builds a legit trust. That trust allows them to speak with each other openly, even disagreeing with other passionately about ideas and strategies. However, since that trust is in place, after those honest discussions have taken place, real commitment can happen. The team can lock arms and move forward together. And because of that group commitment, a functioning team will hold each other accountable (notice I said the team will hold each other accountable — I didn’t say the manager has to hold everyone accountable) for being on board.
So if your team’s not on board with something, consider these four things. Any that I missed? Feel free to add them below!