An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.

Any leader that has ever tried to rebuild a team that’s been ravaged by toxicity, re-engage disengaged employees or remedy pervasive burnout would agree with this old maxim and wish fervently they could turn back the hands of time.

What kept them from doing the work that could have prevented these types of workplace calamities? It comes down to trading the equivalent of long-term investment for short-term gain. What does this look like?

  • Overlooking a star performer’s less-than-ideal behaviour,
  • Not having feedback loops in place that allow a toxic employee to wreak havoc without detection,
  • De-prioritising managing the ‘people’ side of the house, and instead concentrating on deals, projects, and meeting financial goals.

Any sports fan knows that professional teams don’t automatically perform at a championship level. They require constant coaching and adjustments. Your company is no different, and when you let the people side of things slip, that’s the equivalent of a coach saying there’s no need to practice.

How to stay in front of issues like burnout, toxicity, & disengagement: 

To continue the sports analogy, success requires regular practice. One thing we run into frequently with new clients who have tried surveying their people in the past but struggled to do anything productive with the survey results is skepticism from their employees, who fill out the survey but then leave comments like “I wonder if anyone will read this.”

Developing an organisation’s ability to listen – and respond – to feedback is an important competence for staying ahead of internal challenges. It’s also a change for many, which is why we focus on keeping it simple and easy with surveys that take just a few minutes, and AI on the platform that does the heavy lifting on the reporting and data visualisation.

Likewise, we recommend four steps for preventing the kind of issues that can derail a team. Here they are, and we think you’ll agree they’re pretty simple:

  1. Develop an anonymous employee feedback system,
  2. Get comfortable with employee feedback, and the opportunity it represents,
  3. Embrace transparency,
  4. Demonstrate that you’re listening by facilitating change.

These four steps also represent a blueprint for an agile, continuous approach to assessing your team and identifying issues before they grow into problems. An ongoing process is necessary – teams of people are dynamic, and they don’t tend to operate in a “steady state.” Any number of variables – new projects, misunderstandings, incorrect assumptions, old data, perceived slights, issues at home – can affect people on an individual level, and thus quickly impact the team.

By staying in (albeit anonymous) touch with employees consistently, a leader can become tuned into changes and act to make adjustments and course corrections to keep the team dynamics healthy.

If you’re thinking this all sounds like a lot of work, consider the people who coach professional sports teams, comprising athletes who are the best of the best. Why do some teams succeed and some fail? And why do some teams with superstar talent fail to impress? It all comes down to team dynamics and the myriad variables in play. Managing personalities and motivating people is a key to team success – and it’s a primary preoccupation of successful coaches. In-game strategy is not their only job.