A Tale of Two Team Clocks

Published: November 24, 2010
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Welcome back to the team Clock blog where we invite readers to participate in the Ask/Apply/Act model Ask: raise a team challenge Apply: share a story Act: discuss action steps for consideration

Ask: Are all teams alike? Given similar challenges and interventions, will similar teams achieve the same outcomes?

Apply: Last summer, I received calls from two similar businesses requesting a Team Clock assessment and recommendations. Once the assessments were complete revealing similar challenges (leadership change, negative workplace culture, failure to innovate), both companies signed on for a typical Team Clock Institute engagement designed to establish a healthy team infrastructure, empower interaction dynamics that reflected respect and accountability, increase team effectiveness/productivity, and facilitate nimble adaptation to change. Over the past six months, both teams have delivered their best efforts with dramatically different outcomes. One team quickly acknowledged the gravity of their challenges and committed to reinvest in an approach that would leverage the advantages of their differences. The other team became mired in bemoaning the changes and spent their energy pointing fingers and casting blame. While key adaptations were underway on both teams, the second team had been slowed by the weight of their unresolved interpersonal issues. Simultaneously, the first team identified vehicles for successful resolution of past and present conflict so they would be free to experiment with new goals, accountability, trust and, ultimately, a refreshed round of innovation.

Act: Even the best intentions are trumped by powerful personalities and hidden agendas. The minority’s secondary gain (power/influence reward for unhealthy behavior) is often strong enough to derail a majority’s healthy agenda. When this occurs, leaders must be clear in their expectations for the team’s culture and hold employees consistently accountable for words and conduct that upholds the organization’s philosophy, mission, values and vision. If, heaven forbid, the toxicity resides in the leadership ranks, employees must find a way to rise above any negative momentum and create a subculture of excellence anyway. Eventually, either the climate shifts or people move on.

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Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst College where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.