How Healthy Is Your Team?

doctor-563428_640Like most people, I dread going to the doctor. I put it off for as long as I can before finally breaking down and scheduling an appointment. I usually blame this reluctance on my busy schedule. It can be hard to find the time. Sitting in waiting rooms and going through exams can feel like such a waste of time.

If I’m honest though, it’s not the interruption to my schedule that keeps me from going in sooner. It’s fear; fear that the doctor will find something wrong. Even if I have symptoms that suggest medical intervention is needed, I’ll resist addressing them. I try to convince myself that nothing is wrong; what I’m sensing is temporary or even imaginary. If I just pretend everything is ok, then somehow things will work out.

Ignoring problems rarely makes them go away. In fact, by not tackling an issue while its small, I may actually cause it to escalate. Small annoyances, left unaddressed, become big problems. What begins as a slight irritation can spread, impacting adjacent areas and threatening the entire system. Suddenly, I find myself battling something overwhelming, spending more time, money, and effort to correct an issue that could have been corrected easily had I caught it soon enough. Like I always say, you receive an abundance of what you praise or tolerate. [Tweet “You receive an abundance of what you praise or tolerate.”]

Teams and organizations, just like individual bodies, are living entities. They require a certain amount of care to remain healthy. They, too, are susceptible to injury and illness. If caught early enough, steps can be taken to correct problems before they become systemic and threaten the health of the group. Attentive leaders perform periodic check-ups to ascertain the health of the team and identify issues that need to be addressed before they escalate. I believe there are five areas that need to be evaluate during a periodic team health-check.

  1. Check the team’s vision. Is everyone clear on the mission? Does everyone know what it takes to achieve success? Do the individual members of the team possess a clear understanding of their specific role and how it relates to the overall strategy?
  2. Check the team’s circulation. Does information flow easily in all directions? Do team members have the knowledge they need to perform at their best? Are the right individuals involved in discussions of critical issues?
  3. Check the team’s appetite. How engaged are members of the team at any given moment? Are people eager to get involved in new projects? Do individuals actively seek out ways to improve the organization?
  4. Check the team’s mobility. How quickly do members of the team respond to challenges? How well do individuals work together to achieve goals? How smoothly and efficiently are projects completed so that new ones can be initiated?
  5. Check the team’s flexibility. Do members of the team (including the leader) respond positively to change? How readily do people accept different roles they may be asked to adopt? Are individuals able to assume the roles of leader and follower with equal enthusiasm?

Obviously, I could take the analogy even further, but hopefully you get my point. Healthy organisms don’t stay that way without paying close attention to the early warning signs that signal something is wrong. Consider elite athletes. The best of the best are so in-tune with their bodies that the slightest hint of a problem is enough to send them to the locker room. They know that a little bit of attention now can correct potentially career-threatening problems.

They say “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” What do you say leader? Is it time to schedule a team check-up?


What do you feel constitutes a healthy team? Share your tips on our facebook page.