07 Nov 2015

Team Leadership Lessons Taught By My Dog – Lesson 7

As Jake has developed from a puppy in our house, we have had to teach him what is accepted and not accepted as part of our team. In Lesson 5 I highlighted how Jake’s development needed to be embraced by all members of the team; this is particularly important when it comes to inappropriate behaviour. A rule set by one member of the team (no dogs on beds) and then broken by smaller members of the team (‘we were just playing on the bed with Jake’) creates not only disharmony (and raised voices!) in the team, but also causes confusion for Jake.

In the same way that positive behaviour in the team needs to be discussed and agreed upon, so too does negative behaviour. As always, the common sense rule should not apply; just because you assume that something is inappropriate does not mean that everyone agrees with you. It is important that areas of non-performance (and the consequences) are discussed and agreed upon because a lack of agreement can undermine the best laid plans.

So how do you do this? Here are some simple ways to get started:

1.            In the same way you though about what you love team members to do, also consider ‘What do team members do that really annoys me or wastes my time?’

2.            Consider why you don’t like that behaviour and how it makes you feel. (It doesn’t need to be around the campfire, deep and meaningful emotion – does it make you feel annoyed, frustrated, unprofessional, out of control etc)

3.            Tell the people in your team what annoys you, how it makes you feel and the impact that this has on you, the team and/or the business.

4.            Once you have worked out what annoys you, get the rest of the team to discuss the same thing. Ensure that team members focus on actions and behaviours, not on individual team members.

5.            Agree on the things that annoy and frustrate all members of the group.

Now for the two most important points:

6.            Get the team to agree on what should be done if the team rules are broken. This ensures accountability by everyone in the team, as well as ownership. It also means that if one team member pulls up another for inappropriate behaviour, it is not personal – they are just adhering to the team rules that everyone agreed to.

7.            Ignoring a break in the team rules is the same as saying the behaviour is appropriate. Team rules are rules that have been agreed to and should not be broken. If someone makes a mistake it should be owned – the person should accept responsibility or the team should ensure that they do. Referring back to lesson 6, this is how trust is confirmed.

As a team leader, supervisor or Manager, sometimes we need to tell people when they have performed badly or have done the wrong thing. Trust me, it is much easier when the entire team knows what the rules are and what the consequences will be. You go from being the bad person to being the person who is just enforcing the rules that have been agreed upon by the team – a big difference. Once agreed, the team rules don’t always have to be enforced / reviewed by the leader – if everyone knows the rules, it can be reminded and enforced by all members of the team. Clarity around what should and should not be done in teams provides a sense of surety, calm and trust between all members of the team.

For some reason, the idea of agreeing what is right and wrong within the team seems to have been forgotten by middle Managers – either it hasn’t been taught by Managers above them or there is fear in regards to stamping their authority over a team. So long as your team rules are agreed by all and within appropriate business rules / laws, why can’t you set the standard for the team?


Does your team know what they should and shouldn’t do in your team? Have the consequences of poor behaviour been agreed? When was the last time you turned a blind eye to a team member’s indiscretion? You now know what you can do to fix it!