Building a Splinter-Free Team Culture: Addressing Small Irritations Before They Derail Momentum
Recently, I was helping my husband and my dad on a renovation project. We’re currently restoring a home built in 1900, complete with all the character and quirks that come with 123 years.
Dad and I were working on reinstalling some of the original baseboard and trim in the home and needed to make a modification to one of the pieces. Keep in mind, these are beautiful original pieces of elaborately cut wood trim that we are being careful to preserve. As dad and I gently carried a 12-foot piece of trim to the saw for a little adjustment, a slight slide along the rough edge of the board quickly embedded a splinter in the palm of my left hand.
Now, let’s just pause here for a moment and clarify what is probably obvious. While I enjoy the product of restoration, the vast majority of my time is spent using my hands to pound out letters on a keyboard and a little less time pounding nails with a hammer. So, as you can imagine, a tiny little splinter did not meet much resistance when it encountered my flesh.
Immediately, our project ground to a halt while I quickly tried to extract the splinter before it became more deeply embedded.
That small little splinter completely hijacked the momentum of our work. The discomfort and pain were too much of a distraction for me to focus on our project until I attended to it. More than the immediate physical discomfort of the splinter was the understanding (based upon much experience) that if I left the splinter unattended, it would get buried even deeper in my skin, making it more difficult to remove and likely to result in an infection.
What does my renovation splinter have to do with culture? One of the common mistakes that I see leaders make is ignoring splinters in their culture.
- Maybe it’s that one really talented lone ranger team member who is exceptional at what they do, but they don’t work well with others
- Maybe it’s the leader who lacks emotional intelligence and often demeans or dismisses others
- Maybe you’ve allowed a value to be ignored
- Maybe you’ve tolerated bad attitudes or gossip
Splinters in our team cultures are detrimental to the health of our team. While they seem small, their impact is large.
We typically try to ignore or look past them, subconsciously hoping they go away, but you can never really ignore the pain they create.
In some cases, you build up a little tolerance and those callouses mask the problem below the surface for a bit longer, but eventually they resurface and require attention. So, what steps can you take to address the splinters in your culture?
3 Next Steps to Address the Splinters in Your Culture
- Get honest. Where have you let some things slide with your team? Take inventory of values that are being violated or bad habits you’ve left unaddressed.
- Get feedback. Perhaps you’re uncertain if you have splinters in your culture. It’s always more difficult for a leader to have a pulse on the culture throughout the organization. Before you jump to the conclusion that there aren’t any splinters, assemble some of your team and ask them if anything is hindering the health of your organization. Additionally, you could consider doing a staff culture survey to get helpful feedback about your culture. Reach out to our team to learn more about how we can help facilitate a customized survey for you.
- Take action. With honest reflection and helpful feedback, make a plan to address the splinters in your culture.
I want you to be as sensitive to splinters as my wimpy hands are. This is not an area where I want you to “toughen up” as a leader. As leaders, we must stay sensitive to the things that can derail our culture.
Splinters in our culture are going to happen. It’s part of the work, but addressing the splinters quickly is what enables us to get back to work as quickly as possible, avoiding the long-term pain of infection.
Culture work is the most important work you can do to maintain the health of your organization, so keep leading well!
Are You New to The 4Sight Group?
Did you know that 4Sight has a comprehensive culture process to help you assess your current culture, define who you want to be, and build a plan to achieve the culture you desire? One of our certified LeadCulture coaches would love to guide you through the process of unleashing your team and accelerating growth. Schedule a free call to learn more.
Keep leading well!
Jenni Catron and The 4Sight Group
Jenni Catron is a writer, speaker, and leadership coach who consults churches and non-profits to help them lead from their extraordinary best. She speaks at conferences and churches nationwide, seeking to help others develop their leadership gifts and lead confidently. As Founder and CEO of The 4Sight Group, she consults with individuals and teams on leadership and organizational health.
Jenni is the author of several books, including Clout: Discover and Unleash Your God-Given Influence and The 4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership.