Drawing The Line On Personal Conduct

A significant body of organisational research affirms how esprit de corps (that sense of unity and commitment to a task or cause) and camaraderie (the comradeship or fellowship developed between peers and colleagues) preordains team performance.

There is even some suggestion, that the level of personal intimacy – right the grateful pat on the shoulder, the frequency of thanking others, and personal and social comfort felt among work partners that leads to an embrace – developed on a team is one key indicator of team cohesion and goal attainment. These human behaviours are natural. Many global leaders would assert they are essential proof-points of a highly functioning team.

There is, after all, a natural sense of elation in achieving an important goal. There are the trust and friendships built along the way to reaching group milestones. And there are personal expressions of our true feelings that sometimes pour out when we are excited, pleasantly surprised or simply contented to have walked a journey with others we care about.
Each of us knows the special bonds built in pursuit of new business opportunities. An equal number recognise what success requires of a team and how great performers motivate and attract other superior talents to the table. In the best of cases, a shared commitment to a group goal brings out the very best in all of us, and success begets even more success.

Yet there is something today’s global leaders must be mindful of as we build the bonds of this team dynamic.  And that is the risk of over-stepping, in personal terms, the often unspoken cultural markers of what makes a team great and high performing in the first place. There are lots of examples of great leaders and teams getting too wrapped up in success and being blinded to the fact that they’ve pushed a bit beyond the comfort level of everyone on the team.

While team success hinges on meaningful interpersonal relationships, the most informed leaders understand when it’s time to bow out of a potentially sticky situation or when it’s time to re-mark the boundaries of what the team views as acceptable behaviour.

It would be easy to over-indulge at a company party and say the wrong thing, or, worse yet, do the wrong thing and have it impugn one’s great reputation. Or to circulate a joke that, on its face, may seem okay to tell given the laughter it evokes, only to learn later that one or more people were troubled or hurt by its retelling. Or even to allow something inappropriate to fester even if it was or is being committed by a misguided but well-intentioned actor.

The important lesson we need to learn, and, on occasion, re-learn, is that personal and social interactions with our team are very important, as are the ritual cultural markers of inclusion, respect and camaraderie. But the good spirits these usually evoke could also produce pain and discomfort if their boundaries are tested or pushed to the extreme.

Drawing the line on personal conduct is an important thing to keep in mind, particularly among the most tight knit of teams. Having the sensibility to check in with people to ensure they’re comfortable with team dynamics and the social markers thereof is vital for senior leaders. After all, what’s acceptable – and not acceptable - to the most senior leader sets the frame for the behaviour of everyone on your team.

Copyright © TRANSEARCH International 2015


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