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Bridge deep divides with mutual respect

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in Leaders & Managers,Team Building

Many teams operate in name only. The participants dislike one another or lack trust. They may excel in their individual jobs, but as a group they may place self-interest ahead of collaboration.

Often, team members view their leader negatively. They may conclude that their boss doesn’t listen or makes unrealistic demands.

If this sounds familiar, here are two words to help you regroup: mutual respect. Everyone needs to start from scratch. Rather than insist, “I come first” or “I know best,” they need to think, “Let me understand how the others see this.”

Yes, that’s tough to do when tempers flare and personal animosity intrudes. But it’s better than pretending to problem-solve by staging long, laborious meetings where people defend their position while trying to undermine their adversaries.

When disagreements arise, the first response by all parties should be to examine opposing views. Train your team to withhold judgment until they gather facts. Make sure they ask questions and listen with an open mind to the very people whom they’re tempted to write off.

At the same time, remind the group of its main purpose. What is the collective goal?

By encouraging everyone to step back and focus on their shared responsibility to produce results, their primary motive will be to benefit the organization’s bottom line instead of vying for the upper hand. Shift their attention to what matters most—and what’s to gain by cooperating.

Take baby steps to build trust. Have team members look past their suspicions to forge common ground. Reduce the feuding by helping them reach two-way understanding.


Give specifics if you want to produce behavioral change in your employees. Rather than insist on integrity, define it. Cite everyday examples of how workers can demonstrate integrity (admit mistakes, advise customers honestly, etc.). Rather than say, “Give exceptional effort,” quantify what such effort looks like (number of files processed, amount of sales generated, etc.). Lofty words lose their meaning unless you illustrate how you want people to act.

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