The basis for this post is an e-mail I sent to the team with whom I currently lead. Until recently, we had not made team-building a deliberate focus; we had not made standard enforcement a priority; we had not allowed our strategic objectives to shape our day and instead have permitted the crisis of the day to become our main effort. Because self-awareness is critical to anyone or any team that wants to realize his/her or our potential, we have made it a point to make ourselves acutely aware of our areas for improvement as a team. What we have yet to really do is help members of our team become self-aware. Though we have started down the path of 360-degree feedback for the more senior members of our team, we have yet to truly embrace the value of peer accountability and constructively critical conversations across the team. Last week, I enjoyed what my teammate and I mutually characterized as a “genuine” conversation. This conversation focused on how she can better help the team, how I could better help her, and how each of us might improve as individuals. I returned to my desk and wrote the below e-mail to the entire team.

“Over the past few weeks, I have had the pleasure of enjoying what we will call “genuine” conversations with a few members of the team.  On one occasion a member was kind enough to initiate a “genuine” conversation with me.  I prefer the term “genuine” over what others may characterize as “difficult”.  I think it is important to differentiate because amongst a true team there should be nothing “difficult” about such a conversation.  These “genuine” conversations are a result of genuinely caring about our shared mission, genuinely caring about meeting standards across the team, and genuinely caring about how others are perceiving us as individuals and as a team.

I will be seeking out some additional “genuine” conversations and I hope that each of you will initiate some of your own.  When someone demonstrates the level of care that inspires us to initiate such a conversation, please receive it as it is intended.  We have these conversations because we care.  We have these conversations because we are committed to the J7 Values.  We have these conversations because we want to reach our collective potential.  Choosing not to have these conversations (and yes, inaction is a choice) communicates a lack of commitment to each other, the mission, and ourselves.

Leadership is demonstrating our commitment to these conversations by using the 360 Degree Feedback that LT Murray is spearheading.  As you reflect on your J7 experience, please ask yourself when was the last time…

…someone cared enough to constructively tell you how you might be missing the mark?
…you constructively let someone know they were falling short?
…you let standards slip by not expressing your disappointment in a missed deadline or a meeting that started late?

A true team enforces standards, provides constructive feedback, and creates opportunities to have “genuine” conversations.  Are we a true team?”

Since sending this e-mail, I have enjoyed some additional genuine conversations. Some I initiated and some initiated by others. I have also witnessed others engaging in genuine conversations of their own. That said, the majority have yet to get over the hump and realize that a genuine conversation is worth the discomfort they might experience while executing one of their own. I can’t help but feel that the more genuine conversations in which we engage, the better we will become.

  • Is there someone on your team that might benefit from a genuine conversation?
  • Is there someone about whom you care enough to invite out for a cup of coffee and a chat?
  • Are you prepared to say “thank you” to someone who cared enough to pull you aside and let you know how you might be even better than you are?