4 tips for creating teams that swear by each other, not about each other

- June 7, 2023 3 MIN READ


Working with others can be like listening to music. Great songs (Africa by Toto, anyone?), like great teams, can inspire and energise us. Conversely, think of a song you despise – Let It Go from the movie Frozen is mine. How does that song make you feel? Do you want to leave the room, skip it or choose another one?  It’s a similar reaction when you work in a terrible team, explains Adrian Baillargeon, author of Teams That Swear.

Unfortunately, regardless of what music is streaming on your device, humans have yet to perfect teamwork despite working together for centuries.

Safework Australia estimates that workplace conflict costs Australia $10.1 billion annually. In 2018, Harvard Business Review revealed that team dynamics directly affect 92 per cent of work stress.

Not sure what song would describe those statistics, but I’d guess it wouldn’t get much air time.

How to improve your team’s dynamics

Connection and trust play a significant role in a group’s dynamics. Interestingly, studies have shown that swearing amongst teammates can create more confidence in the group.

So, does that mean the office or Zoom meetings should become places of profanities? Well, sort of. It depends on how your team swears.

As an experienced leadership team performance facilitator, I have found these tips will help your team swear more by each other and less about each other to help your team shine.

1. Manage your performance energy

Before a team can be at its best, each individual must be at their best. To ensure this happens, everyone should know what drives their performance energy. That is, what they need in their lives (work and home) to perform at their ideal energy levels more often than not.

Teams can do this by reflecting together on when they’ve been at their best, what habits they were practising, and making one of those habits non-negotiable in their routines.

Leaders can also emphasise the importance of their teams’ performance energy by checking in at the beginning of a team meeting and asking them, “On a scale of 0-10, where is everyone’s performance energy at right now?”.

Leaders can also ask this during their one-on-ones and see what kind of conversation opens up.

Work team in hard hats and hi-vis clapping and cheering

2. Complacency is costly

Hidden issues fester, they always explode, and it’s never pretty. That’s why it’s critical for teams to deliberately discuss how they do teamwork.

Setting aside ten minutes on the team agenda to see if anyone needs to say something sooner, clarify an action, or swear by someone is a simple and powerful way to prioritise the team. Teams that consistently focus on their team dynamics win quicker and more often.

3. Relationships matter most

Hybrid working arrangements trade off a strong sense of community and camaraderie for convenience and expedience. Strong relationships fuel connection and psychological safety while facilitating feedback and constructive conflict – all critical to stronger bonds in teams.

To improve the relationships in your team, prioritise face-to-face opportunities for the group to interact more deeply. When teams connect, trust builds, enabling groups to work through setbacks, struggles and squabbles much quicker.

Kick off a meeting with someone sharing a photo from their childhood and have them share how that time shaped who they are today, or create shared experiences by visiting customers together. Volunteer together. The key is to do something together.

Connectivity fast tracks team success, so be intentional about making this happen.

4. Clarity creates cohesion

Teams with clarity and alignment react and adapt better. Ensure your team is clear on and regularly reviews:

  • Its purpose – Why does our team exist?’
  • Each other’s roles and responsibilities – Who is doing what, and who is not doing what
  • Team and individual objectives – Does everyone know each other’s KPIs?

Behaviours also shape successful teams. Agreeing on which behaviours amongst each other will drive the best outcomes creates a greater level of clarity amongst the group, and becomes the foundation for the team’s character.

Getting your team to swear by each other instead of about each other benefits everyone. It doesn’t happen by accident.

The very best leaders and teams know how to get the best out of themselves and understand the importance of being deliberate when creating team dynamics. When teams are aligned and have each other’s backs, they will shine and keep the good tunes playing.

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