A Swahili proverb states: “Unity is strength. Division is weakness.” When your team is unified, everything works better. Everyone on the team is happier and more productive, making the team more effective in general. And when your team is divided—whether in purpose, planning, or motivation—everyone suffers.
Clearly, unity is one of the most important things leaders can work on with their teams. But some common leadership habits do just the opposite. Here are 4 leadership habits that kill team unity.
1. Avoiding conflict.
Leaders don’t like conflict on their teams (who does?), but conflict is unavoidable. When you have multiple people with multiple viewpoints working on the same project, there are bound to be times when people disagree, and sometimes, things can get heated.
Some leaders try to sweep conflict under the rug or just wait until things blow over. While that might seem fine in the short term, it’s not a good long-term strategy for promoting team unity. Avoiding conflict can lead to long-held grudges and deep rifts within your team. It’s a much better idea to address and work through problems in a way that allows everyone to feel heard and respected, so they can move forward together.
2. “Going easy” on some employees.
Members of a team want to feel like everyone is pulling their weight. When some employees see other employees getting away with bad behavior—whether that’s consistently showing up late, running behind on deadlines, doing subpar work, or simply not contributing—it automatically creates and feeds divisiveness on the team. Some team members might accuse their leaders of playing favorites, or they might stop trying as hard (since they believe there won’t be any consequences for doing so).
Leaders should treat all employees equally and fairly. If for some reason a team member needs to lighten their workload (e.g. for medical or other personal reasons), that should be communicated to the rest of the team.
3. Under communicating the goal or purpose.
Every team should have a goal. Nothing will promote team unity more than having a clearly defined purpose that every member of your team is invested in and working toward. And few things will hurt team unity more than not having such a purpose. After all, if you’re all not working toward the same thing…are you even a team?
Many leaders either (a) introduce the goal to the team and then never mention it again, or (b) communicate it for a while, but then worry that everyone is going to get sick of it, and stop talking about it. Leaders should never be afraid to over communicate their team’s purpose and goal. The more you remind your team of the purpose, the more unity will be built around it.
4. Not building relationships.
It’s easy for leaders to focus solely on productivity and “getting the work done.” But sustaining team unity has just as much to do with the people as it does with the tasks, and ignoring the social aspect of a team can be a death blow to team unity.
Give your employees time to build relationships with each other. Provide opportunities for socializing, like a happy hour, a group lunch, or even a team retreat (and yes, you can hold these events virtually, too!). Time spent getting to know one another will help your team work better together and will create a more enjoyable working environment.
Are your bad leadership habits killing team unity? Then it’s time to turn things around. Be aware of your leadership habits and how they affect your employees and teams. As their leader, you can have a profound impact on them—for better or for worse.
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