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What to do when you inherit a toxic team

There’s some good news and some bad news.  

The good news is, you’ve been promoted. You’ll lead the team. You are the boss now.

And now the bad news - you predecessor is gone for a reason. 

He was: egocentric, controlling, unwilling to take (or give) feedback, dishonest, unsupportive, insecure, incompetent, disengaged, a bully, a narcissist…. (fill in the blank). 

His legacy? A dysfunctional team and a toxic team culture. 

The moment you realise exactly how bad it is, you feel like running to the hills. 

But you don’t - and you won’t. You are determined to make it work. 

So where do you start? 

Here are the first steps that will get you started towards creating a healthier team culture. 

1. Reduce uncertainty 

A change in team leadership has a major impact on the team dynamics. Uncertainty is nerve wrecking for most people. It feeds gossip and may create further dysfunction.

“What is the new boss like? What will she want from the team? What’s her modus operandi? Will there be restructuring? Will I keep my job?” 

Find out what are the burning questions for people in your team and do everything you can to reduce the amount of uncertainty people experience. 

What can be particularly important is to give people an opportunity to get to know you.

Arrange formal and informal meetings, share your background and your “user’s manual”.  Let people know what makes you tick, what are your quirks, strengths, weaknesses and core values. And ask them about theirs. 

2. Slow down…to speed up

If you are anything like the majority of newly appointed leaders, you are probably eager to make some changes - and fast. 

However, being new to the team gives you the same advantage that night-vision goggles give to someone whose team operates in the dark: it allows you to see what’s invisible to the rest. 

So instead of rushing to do things to improve the culture in your team, take your time and use your “goggles” to inspect those aspects of team culture that are deep in the team’s “collective unconscious”. 

When people say things like: “this will never work” or when they avoid discussing certain issues openly with their colleagues, they are clearly driven by certain beliefs or assumptions. You want to know what they are. So instead of convincing, pushing, cajoling or otherwise influencing, ask first: “What makes you think so?” or “What stops you from discussing this with Tom?”. Uncovering those beliefs and assumptions that impact the way people perceive reality, think about problems, interact with others and take decisions will be invaluable in identifying effective ways to manage your team and shaping its culture later on. 

3. Create clarity

Many toxic teams lack clarity and alignment around common goals and values. 

The best foundation for a healthy team culture consists of your team’s purpose, vision, values, priorities and objectives. 

Take some time to explore questions such as: 

  • Why do we exist as a team?
  • Why do we care?
  • What would success look like?
  • What are our personal values and how do they align with the values of our organisation?
  • What are our goals and priorities.
  • What will it take to get there?
  • What are we not willing to tolerate? 

The last question is quite an important one and here you might have to be tough.  As Steve Gruenert and Todd Whitaker said, your culture is being shaped by the worst behaviours you are willing to tolerate. 

The culture of any organisation is shaped by the worst behaviour the leader is willing to tolerate Steve Gruenert and Todd Whitaker

 

 

Topic: Culture #CultureLab #Toxic

WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT ME?

I’m a culture strategist and I work with leaders
and teams around the globe to help them create
a culture that brings their  boldest vision to life.

  • I love spending time with my husband and my friends, reading, walking in the park near my home, dancing Argentinian tango and traveling. My two favourite places on Earth are Venice in Italy and the Serengeti in Africa.

  • I love spending time with my husband and my friends, reading, walking in the park near my home, dancing Argentinian tango and traveling. My two favourite places on Earth are Venice in Italy and the Serengeti in Africa.

  • I love spending time with my husband and my friends, reading, walking in the park near my home, dancing Argentinian tango and traveling. My two favourite places on Earth are Venice in Italy and the Serengeti in Africa.

  • I love spending time with my husband and my friends, reading, walking in the park near my home, dancing Argentinian tango and traveling. My two favourite places on Earth are Venice in Italy and the Serengeti in Africa.

  • I love spending time with my husband and my friends, reading, walking in the park near my home, dancing Argentinian tango and traveling. My two favourite places on Earth are Venice in Italy and the Serengeti in Africa.

  • I love spending time with my husband and my friends, reading, walking in the park near my home, dancing Argentinian tango and traveling. My two favourite places on Earth are Venice in Italy and the Serengeti in Africa.

  • I love spending time with my husband and my friends, reading, walking in the park near my home, dancing Argentinian tango and traveling. My two favourite places on Earth are Venice in Italy and the Serengeti in Africa.

  • I love spending time with my husband and my friends, reading, walking in the park near my home, dancing Argentinian tango and traveling. My two favourite places on Earth are Venice in Italy and the Serengeti in Africa.

  • I love spending time with my husband and my friends, reading, walking in the park near my home, dancing Argentinian tango and traveling. My two favourite places on Earth are Venice in Italy and the Serengeti in Africa.

  • I love spending time with my husband and my friends, reading, walking in the park near my home, dancing Argentinian tango and traveling. My two favourite places on Earth are Venice in Italy and the Serengeti in Africa.

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Let me guess: you are here because we met in real life, someone you trust mentioned my name or you’ve seen one of my posts on social media.

Whatever brought you here, I’m thrilled that you’ve come around.

This site is where I share useful resources, information and thoughts about what’s widely considered a somewhat nebulous and complex topic:
the organisational culture - and things related to it.

If you work in an organisation, your culture is probably the most powerful force shaping yours and your organisation’s future. And yet, you are probably
still not clear about how to deal with it in the most effective way.

My mission is to demystify organisational culture, to make it more accessible and less overwhelming in its complexity.

I hope that what you find here will help to do just that!