Last night while we were eating dinner, our 6-month-old puppy came up to us at the table. I looked at her and she was covered in dirt. It was all round her mouth and on her paws. Uh-oh... she'd been into something, knowing it was the plants in our new planter boxes.
After dinner I walked into the lounge and saw the evidence. The trail of dirt and mint destruction she had dragged across the floor. There was dirt and mint leaves everywhere and I was unimpressed. I dragged her into the lounge, pointed at the mess and gave her a good telling off, including "Naughty puppy!" and "No!", then put her into time out (shut outside) while I dealt with the mess.
I acted quickly and immediately as this is a behaviour is not one I want to see continue. And if I hadn’t, she would do it again making it harder to change.
It's the same when you are leading teams. When you see behaviours that are not ok, you need to deal with them - right then and there. If you ignore it and don't address it, you are not helping anyone. The cost of inaction is significant, and it takes longer to undo the bad stuff the longer it is left un-addressed (but hey, if you’re reading this having already left this too long, give me a call! It is my specialty after all).
How and when, you as a leader, choose to address these problems is impactful - for better or for worse. For better, it allows teams have a clear set of values and expected behaviours to live by and it makes it easier to address the behaviours/actions that contradict those expectations. For worse, when these are missing or unclear, it's harder to have conversations about behaviours that aren't good for the team or organisation.
I specialise in building meaning-full teams, and the conditions (values, behaviours and environment) you consciously choose to adopt, is one of 5 fundaments of every team. It sets the standard for conduct, communication, and team chemistry.
Within meaning-full teams, comes clarity about what these conditions mean. You can't just put a word up on a wall like 'integrity', without being clear about what showing up with integrity at work looks and feels like for people. People need to be clear on what the word means, as some words can be open to interpretation. So get clear on what you mean!
To get clear ask yourselves, 'if integrity is important to us as a team, what do we need to STOP doing, and what do we need to START doing, to enable us to live this value?". Getting clear on your team conditions is one of the best things you can do for your people. Then, when something happens that is not in line with this, you can simply have a conversation about it. Of course, this takes courage, commitment, and persistence, from you as the leader, but it also brings peer-to-peer accountability within the team. The long-term benefits far outweigh the short term discomfort of these conversations.
Learning: Deal with the 'naughty' stuff when it happens, don't let it linger or worse, ignore it.
Question: Is your team clear on what it values, and the behaviours that align with these values? Do you refer to these on a regular basis?
Opportunity: At your next team meeting, do a pop quiz. Ask your team to write down the values of the team, or, if you don't have any yet, ask them to write down what they would like the team to value and have the conversation about how this would show up at work. Find the common themes, and if you're up for it, pick one to focus on for the week, and practice noticing and acknowledging when the value is demonstrated - both the good and the bad. Give it a try - it's easier than you might think.
Then, you can deal with the dirt that the ‘dog’ brings in, before it gets rubbed into the carpet and is harder to get rid of.