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Avoid 5 traps that divide groups

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in Centerpiece,Leaders & Managers,Team Building

Bossy know-it-alls make poor team ­leaders. To build unity among your group, display humility and strive to learn from others rather than tell them what to do.

Avoid communicating these five destructive messages to your team:

1. I’m smarter than all of you. If you think, “I understand this, and anyone who disagrees doesn’t understand,” you invite dissension. Armed with this mindset, you might label those with opposing positions as misguided, uninformed or just plain wrong.

What’s worse, you’ll wind up listening to those who share your views and shut out everyone else. Teams will falter if their leader fails to dignify their contributions.

2. I’m right, you’re wrong. Reducing a complex issue to a right-wrong construct can get you into trouble. Instead, let groups grapple with gray areas. Encourage them to debate with you and keep an open mind.

3. My motives are pure, but those who disagree lack pure motives. When you claim you’re the only one who cares about the truth, you risk seeming sanctimonious. Casting yourself as an earnest trust-seeker while accusing team members with differing views as having questionable motives undermines your leadership.

4. I can lash out because my feelings are justified. Giving yourself permission to explode in anger or act rashly because team members left you no choice stokes ill will. Groups will think, “How dare our leader try to justify such inappropriate behavior!”

5. I’m part of the solution; you’re part of the problem. Power-hungry tyrants fail to consider that they might be contributing to the problem. Instead, they assume that they’re blameless and others are stirring the pot.

Bring teams together by rising above petty power grabs. Listen for understanding, not agreement. Accept differing perspectives and be willing to admit when you’re wrong.

— Adapted from Smart Leaders, Smarter Teams, Roger Schwarz, Jossey-Bass.

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