Positive Relationships, Systems that Serve, and Building the Capacity of Team Members

by Tim Yeomans

The Cornerstones of Leadership

So often in transition, we find ourselves charged as leaders with the immediate improvement of productivity. Upon arrival, we are expected to change a toxic culture, instantly improve performance, or clean up an existing situation and make certain that everyone on the team instantly has the skill to make good on all that is expected. 

In the moments where there is intense pressure to “go fast” and garner immediate results, it is important to remember that a positive culture anchored in solid working relationships is the cornerstone of any sustainable change for the better.  Short-term solutions and “quick fixes” rarely bring about the long-term desired results in any business environment. Long-term increases in performance and productivity involve significant investments in culture by the leader, for the benefit of the team.

When a leader considers the most effective use of their time and effort ultimately resulting in sustainable changes in performance, the following three categories of investments in the team are offered in order of implementation.

Whether a business is addressing employee retention, productivity, increased sales, reduced legal costs or any of the other myriad of challenges; effective leaders understand that the creation and sustenance of positive relationships within the team environment is the first step towards improvement.  Taking time to establish working relationships through shared norms of operation and easily remembered phrases that help team members recall the expectations for their professional behavior toward one another is crucial. It is very easy to imagine that monetary compensation is the main reason that people remain in a position or on a team.  Study after study has shown that positive professional culture, the presence of a supportive team, and a leader that takes a personal interest in their satisfaction and success are the first reasons why employees choose to remain.

With positive relationships in place and a regular affirmation of the culture present, the need to address the systems and organization of the team becomes very clear.  The question is not whether we have a system or protocol in place for a particular task, the question is really whether that system serves the purpose from which it is intended. “Systems that serve” seems extremely logical and perhaps even over-simplified, however in most organizations there is a great reticence to change established practices.  When these systems, that do not serve, become onerous and difficult to navigate the result is often a diminishment in job satisfaction amongst team members. Regularly reviewing protocols and systems by including team members in the identification of efficiencies and the process solutions is an excellent leadership strategy. Demonstrating, as a leader, a tangible understanding of challenges faced by team members in the performance of their work is a key affirmation of a culture that supports productivity.

As authentic opportunities for participation in building positive relationships and improving systems within the team occur, a leader committed to the long-term success of the organization is well served by making the effort to build the capacity of team members to move forward in their career.  Often, conventional wisdom would argue that such an approach will leave the leader with an inexperienced team and an ongoing set of problems with new employees. On the contrary, employees who feel that their leader takes a genuine interest in their future career success are much more likely to remain loyal.  In addition, healthy turnover is a very positive occurrence for highly functioning teams. If regular support for the ambitions and growth of employees occurs as part of the leader’s actions, there is a strong possibility for a residual benefit to the team through potential referrals and recommendations leading to positive new additions to the team (Sinek, 2014).  Transition, which is inevitable, then can be effectively managed in a proactive manner, rather than leaders finding themselves in constant reaction to turnover that is caused by job dissatisfaction.

Positive relationships, Systems that serve, and building the capacity of those we lead, are the cornerstones upon which leaders will see a sustained improvement in their areas of responsibility and oversight.  The importance of creating and sustaining a great working environment is at the heart of what we do at Fired Up Culture.