Help Your Team Become a Tribe and Build Productivity, Health, and Even Happiness

By Aimee Marcelo
Career & Job Search Strategist


We all want to live in a happy, healthy world. Can that also apply to our work environment? Yes! And the book, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”, by Patrick Lencioni is a great read about why teams go south. Let’s turn the terminology upside down to something more positive like “The 5 Pillars of Galvanized Teams”.

5 Ways to Build Teams that Move Mountains

Pillar 1: Build Trust

Every great leader I have ever worked with believes deeply in the need to build trust in their team. This starts from the top of the organization’s structure: the CEO and all C-Level Execs on down. These leaders are able to show their strengths but more importantly allow themselves to be vulnerable so authentic conversations can occur to build real solutions. Mistakes happen and people own them, learn, and move on. By allowing for vulnerability and openness with others, they will be able to ask for help or be willing to help others when needed.

Pillar 2: Don’t Be Afraid of Conflict

Teams that trust are also capable of having discussions about issues that matter. This acceptance of conflict creates a sense of harmony. If team members can openly express opinions, there will always be a way to work together, gather new insights, and productively use conflict to get to the best solution. The key is to convey conflict without using destructive language.

See renowned marriage therapist John Gottman’s “4 Horseman of Apocalypse” for 4 forms of destructive communications to avoid when working through the “messy middle” of conflict. Even though these are both used for marriages, they have often been applied to work relationships as well.

Convey conflict through honesty but not verbal attacks. Be ok with receiving honesty as well. It might sting, but know that every great leader goes through this. Even if you don’t intend on being a leader someday, build and operate with a leadership mindset. It will keep you endlessly employed, and more importantly, well-grounded in the shifting tides of change in business.

Pillar 3: Commit to Decisions as a Team

Employees need to feel comfortable sharing their opinions at work. They also need to feel heard if they are to commit and buy-in to decisions and make commitments as a team. If their voice is heard or valued from the start, they can pull up enough to see the big picture of how it moves the company forward instead of just looking through their own lens/perspective of how their specific job is affected.

Most importantly, committing as a team, means letting go of your ego and putting the team before your own work drives and needs.

Pillar 4: Hold One Another Accountable

Holding others accountable is not easy. Again- the way you say it has to be honest but it must not attack a person’s character. Often asking in the form of a question is the best way to approach this. “Joe, why have your numbers gone down this month?”. Maybe Joe had a bad month personally. At this point, Joe will hopefully disclose this and work toward a solution, instead of feeling defensive.

Employees will hold themselves or others responsible if they feel like part of the project or team. This is especially true if deadlines are clear or standards of success are laid out.

Pillar 5: Pay Attention to Results

When employees are accountable, they are also paying attention to results. If the team, as a whole, is consistently looking at results, it will make it easier to actualize a team’s efforts and the overall goal. “Keep your eye on the ball…together as a team.”

Healthy Tribal Culture and Team-Building Tips

Instead of going solo at work (think “lone wolf”), work together as a team to exponentially increase productivity, success, happiness, and the culture of your team, or tribe. If you are a team player, you will always be valued (it brings job security) but more importantly, you are building a positive “tribe” culture. If you can master this at work, you can employ this even at home with your own family or friendship circles.

Creating a healthy tribal culture = language + behavior. That’s it.

The words we use create our reality. How you describe yourself, your work, and others around you creates the world you live in. Upgrade your tribal culture by upgrading the words you use.

Language examples:

  • Infinite potential
  • Making an impact
  • Imagination and group commitment
  • Competing with what’s possible, not against another organization
  • What are the next right things to do?
  • Language focuses on “we” not “me”

This work culture emphasizes shared core values and working together. Employees want to work and make an impact. People in this healthy tribal culture are fully themselves and seem happy, inspired, and genuine.

Behavior examples:

  • Inclusion
  • Collaboration
  • Vulnerability
  • Open and honest communication
  • Talking about things you care about
  • Coming together around these common causes
  • Forming missions to make something great happen
  • Build partnerships to accomplish what’s important

These changes start with you and begin to build outward as others watch and can begin to modify their behavior to match. As they say, “be the change you want to see”. These changes happen directly within each person. Help your coworkers and company culture get ‘unstuck’ by demonstrating the types of healthy language and behavior in relationship building that can achieve higher performance, less stress, and more fun.

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