Cure Toxic Team Issues with Visionary Leadership Strategies

Cure Toxic Team Issues with Visionary Leadership Strategies

Cure Toxic Team Issues with Visionary Leadership Strategies

My 360 assessments or shadowing of leaders in real-time as they interact with teams often reveals the root cause of many problems. Executives may have a detrimental impact on the workplace without realizing it. Deep-seeded negative habits are like contagious pathogens. Put a leader who has mindset issues in charge of high-value talent and that leader can bring down the whole team.

I know, because I’ve worked under that kind of leadership that stifles collaboration, motivation, and innovative creativity. Leadership with bad DNA limits performance. But identify that DNA and make it vibrant and healthy and you can turn an entire organization around. Do that and you’ll develop a reputation as not just an outstanding leader but an iconic one.

Here are five of my expert insights into how you can make that happen.

1) Build Top-Down Team Trust  

Without trust in both the leader and their teammates, you’ve got a problem. People need to trust that you’ll do what you say. If you don’t trust your team to do their job and achieve the desired results you will micromanage them. They’ll never feel free to innovate, take calculated risks, share bold ideas, or take on more responsibility.

In many companies where I consult the team members complain to be about “company nice.” That means senior leaders are too nice to have candid conversations about how you can raise the bar, improve your skills, and elevate your career. If employees show room for improvement, don’t be afraid to point it out. Tell them, and give them your support to grow. Don’t micromanage like a helicopter parent afraid to delegate responsibility or hold them accountable. Trust them enough to tell the truth. Then they’ll trust you, too.

2) Foster a Cross-Collaborative Culture

Reaching across the grid is one of the most effective ways to strengthen corporate DNA. Each unique talent and area of expertise can be shared through cross-collaboration. When I began at Federated Department Stores (now Macys), for example, I did not have experience running a retail store. But I brought lots of experience in accounting and finance, which was where I first started my career. As my career progressed, I helped other general managers understand how to look at their businesses differently through the store profitability lens. Eventually my background and helping others succeed made me a very successful senior-level executive who knew how to drive bottom line results.

Similarly, you can bolster your team and broaden their skills and outlook by working with other teams and departments. Create your own inter-departmental think tank, and then reap the rewards as you also expand your scope and network. That will put you in a better position for running the whole company, too. That’s a pretty amazing fringe benefit you’ll gain by being a collaborative leader.

3) Inoculate Your Leaders for Resilient DNA

Every company today is undergoing organizational change – whether it’s a merger, acquisition, or change in senior management. You have to train your team members and leaders to be flexible and resilient and not afraid of change. Create an environment where it’s okay to try something new and fail. That’s how you learn and grow and become less fearful of being a bold innovator.

If your workplace is plagued by weak performance, take a closer look at what I call the company DNA. #leadership #morale #culture Share on X

Let all of your leaders know that you will support them when they take smart, calculated risks. When sudden changes disrupt the company and threaten to weaken the cohesiveness of the culture and corporate DNA, stay upbeat. Worrying won’t help. But a positive attitude and upbeat messaging during times of crisis will make you a more valuable leader. You will be a steadying influence on others, and teach by example that change can mean good growth – not fear and chaos.

4) Lead One Life, Not Two

Those who work for you and around you want to know your personal interests, hobbies, and about your friends and family. It’s only natural, and when leaders or bosses don’t share that kind of information it can make them seem aloof, disinterested, and too distant.

They also want you to be interested in those aspects of their own lives. That will influence their performance at work, so make the effort to stay interested and informed. Instead of seeing a work/life disconnect, I personally believe we have just one life. Both components (work and home life) depend on the success of each another, for healthy work/life integration.

5) Don’t Postpone Celebration

People want to know that they are contributing to the overall success of the organization or department. Make that apparent to them by not just celebrating major victories, but also smaller successes along the way. Nothing encourages a team mindset of future success like the experience of winning. So recognize the contributions that future success is built upon.

Bold action, intelligent risk-taking, entrepreneurial spirit, and innovative collaboration are all ingredients of strong workplace DNA. I challenge you to think of those kinds of elements that are the foundation for a big win that just has not yet come to fruition. Then publicly celebrate them to encode that DNA in your teams.


Some diseases can be traced all the way back to our core DNA. The same is true when it comes to issues within corporate cultures. Take a closer look at what I call the company DNA. Improve it and you can ignite performance, accelerate productivity, and boost workplace morale in truly incredible ways.

Sarah’s Leadership Acceleration Insights

Ask yourself these questions to help you ascertain the health of your leadership and corporate DNA:

  • What personally transformative experiences and values do you share with your team? Are you knowledgeable about the important aspects of your team members’ lives?
  • Are there synergistic opportunities for you to team-up with other leaders across the organizational grid, for everyone’s benefit?
  • Do you catch yourself hovering and micromanaging instead of trusting and delegating?
  • How do you reward strategic risk takers and innovators?
  • What can you do to celebrate small, incremental project victories?
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