By Cloé Caron

In the world of leadership, every action we take has a significant impact on our team’s culture, whether we realize it or not. Imagine putting in additional effort to create cohesion within your team, elevate each individual’s performance so that decisions are made at the right level by the right people, and build a culture of accountability, only to have these efforts destroyed in 5 minutes!

This is what almost happened to my client, let’s call him Étienne. Since autumn, we’ve been working with Étienne on his One Team, which means we’re helping him build trust among team members, establishing a team contract with their team’s USC, setting common goals, success measures for celebration, team standards, and helping them identify meeting governance that will allow them to manage both operations and more strategic aspects.

In this context, Étienne organized a team exercise where they had to decide on certain aspects of their governance related to team standards. One of these standards is being prepared for discussion topics.

During the preparation conversation for this exercise, I emphasized the importance of follow-up individual interviews after the exercise that Étienne was about to conduct, the famous “1-1s.” I stressed to Étienne the importance of these interviews in consolidating team cohesion and building an environment where everyone feels heard and supported. The importance of highlighting how each person contributes, through their behaviors, to upholding team standards and thus, trust.

To this, Étienne said something seemingly innocuous but potentially destructive to what he had been working on for months with a commendable intention to develop a team to its full potential and performance. He mentioned that to make his team comfortable receiving feedback, he would ask them if they agree with what was decided during the team exercise and then provide personalized feedback.

This is the 5-minute moment that could have destroyed months of work supported by a noble intention to develop a team to its full potential and performance.

On those words, I warned Étienne of a potential pitfall: compromising the progress made in building team spirit by consistently seeking approval for his decisions during individual interviews. I explained to him that these meetings are the ideal opportunity to encourage each team member to fully express themselves, without fear of judgment or repercussions. I reminded him that authentic conversations must take place when all team members can contribute, and individual interviews are precisely the time for that.

I highlighted the importance of creating an environment where every voice is heard and respected, where trust and openness are encouraged, and where decisions are made collaboratively and informed.

By favoring individual interviews, Étienne shows that he cares about his team, their well-being, and their development, and that he is willing to invest time and effort to support them in their professional journey. However, this must be done with absolute respect for the supremacy of team decisions. Team members must know and experience that if they have something to say, they do it in the right forums, with everyone’s knowledge. If they disagree, they say so in that same forum and align within that forum. This is the best way to build trust, solidarity, and team cohesion. Ultimately, every action we take as a leader contributes to shaping our team’s culture. By encouraging open communication, collaboration, and accountability, we create an environment conducive to growth and collective success. And that’s how we can truly maximize the impact of our actions as leaders.

What did Étienne do? He conducted his exercise. The team aligned on meeting governance by reiterating team standards related to meetings (preparation, presence, and decision-making) and focused their 1-1s on the following question: “What does our team governance mean to you? What do you need to adapt in your approach to fully contribute to our team governance and standards?”

He made each member of his team reflect on the role they play in the team’s health.

Later, he told me, “It’s the gesture that was most powerful in accelerating team dynamics and could have been the most destructive if I hadn’t realized the impact of revisiting the team’s decision.”