I hear a lot of teams describe themselves as a family. I like that description as it implies that the group has great affection, strong bonds, deep relationships, and a high level of commitment toward each other. However, just because you’re a great family doesn’t necessarily make you a great team.
Sometimes I observe those same teams making excuses or covering for one another when their teammates underperform. They don’t hold each other to the standards that they mutually set, and they don’t expect or even demand the best to be exhibited in each other every single day.
I have a great family, but we haven’t always behaved as a great team. Tom and I love our new life together and our beautiful blended family, but we have to work hard to be a great team if we want to go the distance. That means Tom and I will both have to be willing to call each other out on any broken agreements, sloppy communication, or fearful choices and stand in the heat for the other’s greatness to be realized. When we do this, we make each other better people.
The same holds true for my relationships with my own kids even though they are grown. There are still expectations of behavior and rules of engagement and the desire to see them become the very best citizens, parents, and humans they can be. I challenge them to keep improving, encourage them through the process, and hold them accountable to the promises they make. Because I love them, I refuse to let them settle for less than they could be. Because I love them, I don’t make it easy for them. I’m standing for their greatness in every conversation… even when they aren’t. And by the way, my children make me better too by holding me to the exact same standard for how we operate together in relationship. (I sometimes hate that part. ☺)
Exceptional teams set a high bar, make agreements, hold each other accountable, and have crucial conversations when a teammate is not performing or keeping agreements. This is sometimes challenging when you love each other like family… but it’s essential if you want to have a great team.
Of course, just like a wonderful family, if one of our teammates is experiencing a personal challenge, we rally ‘round them with support and understanding, but that doesn’t mean we allow low-level performance, disengagement, disrespect, or lack of positive contributions for very long at work. You never let them get too comfortable with the status quo. The mission and the results of the team depends on every single person functioning at a high-level the vast majority of the time.
And it doesn’t have to be one or the other. It’s not a decision between being a family or being a team. It’s a commitment to have a great family and a great team. Loving each other, holding each other accountable, and standing for your team’s greatness at every turn makes you a better family and a better team. Don’t accept anything less from each other, ever.
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“It is not your job to make people happy. Your job is to get them better. Holding people accountable to high standards and results is nothing to apologize for.
Failing to stretch them to their potential is.”
Dave Anderson, Author of No-Nonsense Leadership