The recent resignation of Kirstjen Nielsen from the role of U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security may not be all too surprising, but it does beg the question: what went wrong for this team?
For many leaders, the discord and abrupt changes within our government remind us that sometimes (maybe even, many times) there are breakdowns on a team.
The question is, how can we as leaders lessen the amount of breakdown among our companies and organizations? How can we spot the red flags before the fallout? The truth is, there are a number of factors that threaten your team, no matter how strong it may seem today. So what are the telling signs of discord among a team and what can we do to guard against it?
The 5 signs of team breakdown:
- When the same person keeps talking. There is almost always one person who tends to dominate the discussion. You can probably recall such types since high school; the ones first to raise their hands, first to speak up, first to take the reins of a conversation, forgetting anyone else is in the room. Such commanding and spotlight-hungry personalities can chronically affect your team if you let them. Allowing these personalities to dominate will distract from the engagement of others, leaving many to feel unheard and undervalued. It may serve your team best to confront these individuals directly, as typically it is the only way this personality may be able to hear you out.
- When decisions are made under compulsion instead of with clarity. It is easy to feel reactive in responding to a situation or moving forward with a decision. Often, when we are leading and there’s a room watching, we even feel rushed towards it. Whether you are solely making the decision or it is being decided as a team, there are several ways to create a habit of responding wisely rather than reacting hurriedly: Give it 24 hours to think over and process. Take a moment to consider all your options. Write down the pros and cons. Consider the flip side of the situation. If it is concerning an individual performance or controversy, write down possible responses before reacting out of emotion.
- When people overlook the elephant in the room. It never serves your team — or you — to avoid an unresolved conflict. When you do, it is typically obvious and will only increase discord. The more you work to ignore it, the more crystal clear the large husks and grey presence will become to everyone else. Avoiding confrontation not only displays an inability to deal with conflicts as a leader but can quickly diminish your team’s ability to fully trust you to move them forward.
- When there is a lot of talk, but no real communication. Clear communication and connection require carefully and actively listening, just as much if not more than talking. You cannot effectively lead those whose views, motivations, and aspirations you do not understand. Leading your team with constant communication will enable healthy interpersonal relationships to grow to an overall mutual trust. When you do, you will be surprised how much more attentive people will be when you do have something to say.
- When no one is following your lead. Now for maybe the toughest question to ask yourself: Is your team genuinely enthusiastic to follow your lead? Have they truly caught onto your vision? Better yet, is your vision worth following? A motivated team should not have to be dragged along, but be eager to support your goals. To build an effective and unified team, it requires an effective leader who knows how to build a collaborative culture from the start.
In Nielsen’s resignation letter she included, “I hope that the next Secretary will have the support of Congress and the courts in fixing the laws which have impeded our ability to fully secure America’s borders and which have contributed to discord in our nation’s discourse.” That won’t happen without attention given to teamwork and avoidance of team breakdown.
With the many goals and visions at hand, we can easily forget to constantly assess the health, function, and communication within our teams.
It is all too easy to move forward with tunnel vision towards our agenda and forget to support those who are helping make it happen. Whether in government or corporate office, in order to lead effectively, the health of our teams should be at the forefront of our agenda.
Dr. Kent Ingle serves as the President of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, and is the author of “Framework Leadership.” A champion of innovative educational design, Ingle is the president of one of the fastest growing private universities in the nation. As president, Ingle founded the American Center for Political Leadership at the university and is also a founding member of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. Before becoming Southeastern’s president in 2011, Ingle held leadership positions in higher education and the nonprofit sector in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Seattle. Ingle is the author of several leadership books and the creator of the Framework Leadership podcast. He currently serves on the board of the Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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