5 Steps to Mending Divided Teams

Leadership transitions stir anxiety in the workforce. Often, it’s not disagreement with strategic philosophy that makes teams uneasy, but the simple fear of change. Even when the organization isn’t healthy, it’s easier to normalize the pain than it is to brace for transformation. A typical coping maneuver is to create factions within the team. Choose your side by the way you expend energy – adapting to new circumstances or trumpeting how horrible it is that we’re not who we used to be.

It’s not unusual to see merged businesses continue to struggle with old-guard/new-guard issues even a decade after acquisition. When you ask someone why they won’t collaborate, they often cite an “us and them” theme as the obstacle. Team assessment metrics sniff this out quickly. Workplace satisfaction surveys frequently rely on high and low averages to determine whether employees are engaged. If you dig a little deeper, standard deviation statistics unveil whether these average scores come from teams that are in unison, divided, or shaped by a few important outlier opinions.

The actions leaders take to mend divided teams are rooted in basic change management principles. To travel successfully from current state through a transition state to a desired state, teammates must:

1.       Acknowledge the value and inevitability of the change.

2.       Celebrate, let go, and mourn the “way it used to be.”

3.       Embrace the temporary discomfort associated with re-investing in something unknown.

4.       Collaborate in the clarification and restatement of the team’s philosophy, mission, values, and vision.

5.       Hold each other accountable to the future the team just created.

Transition, by its nature, leverages the value of struggle to push growth. Every teammate will eventually come along for the ride either enthusiastically or kicking and screaming. In time, a new normal settles in until, of course, the natural cycle of change reboots the process.