It's been fascinating watching the Democratic National Convention this week. Because I like to remain objective, I switch among channels to get different views and commentary. What is even more interesting, though, are the commercials shown on each of the stations. A common theme running across party lines and ideologies is renewable fuel sources. Regardless of Republican or Democrat, Liberal or Conservative, it appears that we agree as Americans that our dependence on foreign oil is at a critical tipping point. And since wind, solar, and biofuels are all renewable sources of power, it's to our advantage to look to them for the future.
What about the renewable energy on our teams at work? Be they project teams or departments or task forces, how do the team members feel about showing up? Watch the body language as people file into the room for your next meeting. Are people showing up on time, bouncing in, talking animatedly about the work they are doing? Are they building relationships and bridges with each other and with those outside the team who can be beneficial? Or do they come in late, complaining, and dragging each other down? Is there sniping and back-biting and sarcasm? Are they building walls and spiteful alliances?
Both sets of team behaviors are renewable... whether a positive or negative culture has set in on your team, the energy driving it is contageous and easily permeable to those around your team. So, if it's a negative culture, what can you do to turn things around?
- Bring food - I know, I know, it sounds simple. Food is an amazing uplifter, especially if people see you have gone out of your way for them. There's something about sharing a meal or snack that makes people open up in a positive way. After all, there's a reason why Jesus had the Last Supper rather than the Last Board Meeting.
- Weed out the herd - if there is somebody who is negatively toxic, see what you can do to remove them from the rest. Chances are good their negative vibes are contributing to your downward tailspin. If coaching would improve the behavior, try that first; however, if they are chronically negative, you're better off dumping them.
- Code of conduct - ask the team to develop a code of behavior for what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior in meetings. Allow them to define the consequence for breaking the code of conduct (a coin jar that can go for something positive like a team outing or a local charity is the most common). It's important to let the team both define and police the behavior to prevent yourself from becoming the "bad cop" parental figure.
- Divide and conquer - have one-on-one meetings with people to discuss issues and ideas outside of the team setting. This allows you to begin building the relationships and connecting in a positive fashion. It also allows you to provide an constructive feedback in private (save the praise for the public forum; most people like being praised in front of their peers).
Making a concerted effort like this should have a positive, renewable impact on your team's energy level. Think of it as putting a solar-powered wind turbine on your team's culture and relationships... and their accomplishments.