As we enter the corporate world, develop as entrepreneurs or assume roles in non-profits, we are infused with the idea of teamwork. Whole corporate cultures are built around teamwork. As founder of VIM Executive Coaching here in Denver, Colorado, I am all too aware of executives who have run afoul of co-workers and superiors who have felt they were not team players.
Sometimes it’s the team
There is a whole lexicon built around “team.” There’s teamwork, of course, and team players, response teams, crisis teams, team building with team leaders and team developers who develop the teams. It goes on forever, this “team stuff,” and sometimes it is highly flawed.
I knew a marketing executive who was working for a company that was involved (to keep this as broad and non-specific as possible) in an aspect of healthcare. The executive was a highly moral and decent person, who had worked very hard to become a top marketing professional in the field. However, the executive knew some things that were increasingly agitating and troubling.
There were other executives in the organization who were given a green light, behind closed meeting doors, to engage in “subterfuge” in international and domestic markets to gain market share and favor with purchasing agents.
The executive sat down from across my desk and told me:
“Here we were, at an executive team building event at this plush resort hotel. The food was excellent, the facilities were first class. We had no end to speakers and team leaders telling us how wonderful we all were, and there was nothing we couldn’t accomplish together. At the same time, I personally know that several of those executives were engaging in questionable, illegal, sales and marketing tactics. How could I possibly relate to them as ‘my teammates?’”
The executive was forced into a group mentality that often expresses the sentiment of “everybody does it.” If several organizations in a certain industry go down the road of unethical behaviors, others are bound or obligated or feel forced to go down that road as well. It is wrong, of course.
In terms of the executive’s industry, healthcare, abuses have been widely uncovered and not only has there been a crackdown, but companies have paid massive fines and executives have received jail sentences. My point is that an entire team, going down a rabbit hole of bad, unethical decisions, hardly does justice to team building or those tasked with building them.
The executive who entered the door of VIM Executive Coaching had a legitimate concern and was embroiled in a critical decision as to whether to stay or go.
Teams are as good as their players
Of course, you might say, any team is as good as its players, but. The “but” does not have to include the phrase, “but sometimes the rules need to really get bent.”
There is a point at which any executive must decide if their role in an organization is reflecting authenticity or not. “Everybody does it,” and to extend that to a team and say, “every team member must do it,” is an antiquated, often illegal and certainly unprofessional way of going through life.
Negative team behavior need not only apply to obvious illegalities, but to other behaviors. For example, if an executive is part of a team where sexual harassment or discrimination or bullying is apparent, the executive must be authentic enough to say, “No, this is not me. This is wrong.”
Authenticity is cultivated through mindfulness. It is the “who am I, and what do I stand for?” mindset.
The executive we coached, through the cultivation of mindfulness and learning to respond to what was being seen and experienced became a much more authentic and happier person within the marketing team. Unfortunately, some team members did sense the executive’s lack of support for illegal activities.
We must report that in time the executive left the company for another position in an aligned industry, a company that took great pride in its people and its sense of ethics. Needless to say, the executive is far happier and more at peace with the decision to leave.
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