Teams Deserve Better: 7 Ways to Get Ahead of Cultural Decline

As the powerful Maya Angelou once said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

There’s much discussion these days about what employee engagement really is, about the whole person versus the worker, about the future of the workplace and great vs bad leaders. The volume is going up on the inner work needed as leaders to foster healthy teams and cultures. The onus is on leaders to dig in, ask and open to feedback, reflect, be accountable and step into a learning and growth mindset over being fixed and stuck. The cost of ‘stuck’ is just too high – lost productivity, poor engagement, talent turn-over and more.

What are some of the signs your team is disengaged, and trust is waning?

  1. When asked for thoughts or questions, people are quiet.
  2. Lack of individual accountability, neglecting to follow through on what’s asked of them.
  3. Cliques are forming and private conversations are on an incline.
  4. People are on their laptops and phones in meetings regularly, distracted and ‘checked out’.
  5. People avoid debate, ‘fierce conversations’ and creative tension.


In a team coaching book club I’m part of, we discussed a disconcerting trend and an epidemic – team coaching assignments are so often called upon to address team dysfunction and crisis.

So what are some things you can do to get ahead of the decline?

  1. On direction for the team, bring the team into the process, ask for input and feedback.
  2. On decisions being made, share them with transparency as much as possible.
  3. When you make mistakes, own them and share your commitment to do differently and better in future.
  4. Avoid favourites on the team; be inclusive and invite diverse perspectives and talent.
  5. Your people are more than worker bees. Take performance, learning and development seriously and show genuine, personal interest in mentoring and using a coach approach with your people – regularly (not just once a year).
  6. Invite healthy, respectful debate, feedback loops and new ideas. Create the space that help your people to be seen, heard and understood where no idea or input is bad.
  7. Set precedents on how meetings should be facilitated, the energy you bring, demonstrating ‘all-in’ presence.

I was in leadership roles for years, and I know the constant inner work it takes. It was humbling and vulnerable and equally some of the most rewarding work of my life. It was only until I started to study and develop my leadership with commitment and intention that I ‘woke up’. The work paid off – watching the people in my circles thriving.

So many teams deserve better from their leaders. The work of a great leader is uncomfortable, takes bravery, and it’s ongoing. When leaders care, people feel it and trust goes up, at the root of engaged performance and sense of belonging on teams.

If you’re seeing the signs of decline, what is your gut calling you to do differently? Getting ahead of it and doing the work can lead to a more purposeful, meaningful, fulfilling leadership path, and a rallying team at your side.

May you lead with fervor!