Over spring break, my family made a trip to Scottsdale, AZ for a little fun in the sun. Unfortunately, our sun-fun was interrupted by a few days of below-average temperatures that made any time in the pool pure misery. (We took advantage of the cloud cover and low temps to go hiking, and it was even a little too frigid for that!) Of course, no one in Scottsdale is going out to buy parkas and gloves because everyone knows that the weather we experienced that day was an anomaly, not a rule. In fact, the very next day the temperatures were back into very pleasant “pool territory”.
Similarly, in any workplace, there are bound to be occasional conflicts and disagreements between team members. These conflicts can arise from a variety of factors, including personality clashes, differences in work styles, and even simple misunderstandings. While it’s certainly important to address conflicts and work to resolve them in a healthy way, it’s equally important to focus on the overall culture of your team and how it is trending, rather than getting bogged down in the specifics of individual conflicts.
It’s important to “focus on climate, not the weather.”
Weather-type conflicts might include disagreements about the best way to complete a project or differences in opinion about a particular idea or direction. When tensions are high, and people care about the work, it’s likely that there will be some degree of conflict. That’s normal, expected, and healthy.
The climate of your team refers to its overall cultural trend. This includes things like the level of trust between team members, the effectiveness of communication and collaboration, and the overall sense of morale and job satisfaction. When the climate of a workplace is trending in a positive direction, team members are more likely to work together effectively and to feel motivated and engaged in their work. On the other hand, when the climate of a workplace is negative, team members may be less productive and may experience higher levels of stress and dissatisfaction.
So how can we focus on the climate of a workplace, rather than getting bogged down in specific conflicts?
Don’t Become Obsessive About Small Skirmishes Or Conflicts
Because of insecurity, some leaders feel the need to immediately squash any conflict because its seen as a sign of instability or a reflection of their leadership. Instead, work to resolve conflict within a healthy framework (I discuss this in my book Herding Tigers) and according to the agreed-upon values of the team.
Focus on “we” language and paint a vision of a better possible future
How you talk about your team, expectations, and culture sends a major signal to team members about your perception of its current state. Use inclusive language, help others see their part in shaping the future of the team and its work, and focus on where things are trending rather than on present conflicts.
Don’t allow behavior that’s deviant to your team’s cultural expectations to become normalized. If you say that you honor and value someone’s time, and you find that team members are persistently late, you need to weed that behavior out immediately and ruthlessly. If you find that team members are engaging in damaging talk about their peers, you must prune it as soon as you become aware of it. If you don’t prune what you don’t want, it will eventually grow into a major problem that overtakes your cultural climate.
Don’t worry about the weather, focus on the climate. However, consistent weather over a long period of time becomes the climate. So, make certain you are leading your team every day in the direction that you’ve set for them. Earn the right to be followed every single day.
Last modified: May 16, 2023