Why harmony in your team may be a risk

Garie Dooley

  • Author, keynote speaker, coach and facilitator
  • Website
Garie is the author of Phenomenal Teams, and a keynote speaker, author, coach and facilitator. He has supported teams globally and within Australia from corporate boardrooms to elite sport teams including AFL premiership winners, Super Rugby champions, Sheffield Shield winners, netball grand finalists and rugby State of Origin winners. He’s obsessed with stretching and growing the ‘brave’, the ‘mavericks in the making’ and the ‘game changers’ to create Phenomenal Teams and Legendary Leaders.

A common struggle for frustrated leaders is understanding why their teams are not delivering more or why they are not embracing a new strategy or organisational change.  

A team stops moving forward when its currency becomes ‘but we get along so well’. In this context, currency is aligned to what the team trades on. When a team trades on ‘we all get along’, harmony is embraced by the leader and becomes the principal driver within that team. By raising this concern, leaders inadvertently articulate the reason for the disconnection.  

A phenomenal team trades on performance and consistently exceeds expectations. It is accepted that tension and embracing conflict are necessary parts of delivering to that level.  

Let’s be clear though, embracing conflict is not the same as initiating conflict. Embracing conflict is simply accepting that having real, uncomfortable conversations is often the only way to get the actions needed to move the team forward. Avoiding these conversations to maintain harmony will slow your team down.  

Leaders need to be aware of the triggers that push their teams into a harmony-driven – dare I say – fake team.  

The blame-complain-defend approach

When team members are discussing project delivery and performance or when they are addressing friction points in the business, listen to the language being used. Inevitably, when there are low levels of trust within the team, conflict and real conversations are avoided. There is a blame-complain-defend approach when discussing performance. It is never the team’s fault. There is always someone else who has the biggest impact on the outcome. No one is willing to take responsibility or be accountable for where the team has arrived. There are no resolutions to issues around performance.  

A victim mindset

If a blame-complain-defend approach is left unchecked, a team will adopt a victim mindset. It is a confronting truth that teams start to present as victims because their leader tolerates, accepts and, in some cases, fuels this culture. They buy into the victim mindset.  

Herein lies a disturbing element. By pursuing harmony as a team’s currency, the leader is accepting (consciously or unconsciously) a blame-complain-defend culture. Leadership within this team becomes defined by this approach and the leader allows or initiates conversations like:  

Senior management doesn’t listen to us.

The customer is being awkward.

Our competitor keeps cutting its pricing.

The sales teams over-promises.

The marketing team doesn’t support us.

The warehouse needs to get its act together.

The referee was useless.

Because of COVID ….  

A harmony-driven team is a fake team

And so the disturbing outcome is no real, action-based, forward-thinking, accountable leaders or teams emerge. As long as everyone gets along and there is someone or something external to blame, this fake team will always find and agree on a reason for not delivering or performing.  

A harmony-driven, fake team moves slowly and becomes easily distracted. Safety and trust levels within the team are not high enough to encourage real conversations around performance. Even though individual team members may be highly skilled in their functions, the team will be slow to evolve if real conversations are avoided, if trust levels remain low and if likeability is valued as a team’s currency.  

Your team’s performance is at risk if you value harmony over real conversations. When members of a harmony-driven team don’t speak up about their own and others’ behaviour and performance, they are letting the team down.

Tags: Leadership strategies

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