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Your team is a reflection of you.

Taking on this statement, you may feel pride, or you may feel horror.

To avoid grotesque reflections of distorted fun house mirrors, take on these five tips:

  1. Know every day your team watches you. What you do sets the bar, defining the real permissions and expectations. If you take vacation, your team will take vacation. If you’re distracted during meetings, your team won’t bother to focus either. Your team will even reproduce your body language such as hand gestures. No, I’m not kidding. There’s a survival (and success) instinct to mimic the person with the most power.

I’ve observed this mimicry not only in my own experience as a leader, but also with many of my clients’ teams. But don’t take my word for it – check out the research on mirror neurons as well as the relationship with those in power and mirror neurons:

“The human brain has multiple mirror neuron systems that specialize in carrying out and understanding not just the actions of others but their intentions, the social meaning of their behavior and their emotions.

‘We are exquisitely social creatures,’ Dr. Rizzolatti said. ‘Our survival depends on understanding the actions, intentions and emotions of others.’

He continued, ‘Mirror neurons allow us to grasp the minds of others not through conceptual reasoning but through direct simulation. By feeling, not by thinking.’”

Shared identity comes from common language and mirrored mannerisms. Do you like what you hear? Do you like what you see?

When you wonder, “I wish my team were more ______________,” (accountable, passionate, efficient, committed, helpful). Ask, what would it look like if I were more _____________. What would I say?

  1. Beware of resting frog face. Back when I ran the moving company I installed a small mirror at head height inside my office.  Every time I wanted to leave my office, I would have to confront my reflection. It wasn’t to check my teeth or my hair.  It was to make me aware of my natural tendency to look frowny.  When I’m in the throes of concentration, the corners of my mouth naturally turn down.   My “resting frog face” wreaked havoc on my team.

Be aware of what your natural tendency non-verbals communicate (fidgeting, eye-rolling, distracted, arms crossed) and choose to actively shift those that don’t serve you or your team.

  1. Speak on purpose. Your language will echo through the people of your company. If you swear, then swearing is allowed. If your mantra is “it’s all good,” then blind optimism prevails. If you complain “there’s never enough hours in the day” then your team also buys into time poverty and uses it as a scapegoat. If you cheerlead, “We’ve got this!” your team believes in their potential. Your mantras will be repeated.

Be especially cognizant of how you talk about money and how your own money beliefs serve (or don’t serve) your team.

Also consider disrupting common biz speak. For example, call due dates “finish lines” instead of deadlines. You’d rather have your team feel like they’re crossing a finish line, victory arms in the air, than a deadline, a word born of the boundary line that if crossed by a prisoner meant they would be shot dead.

  1. Whack-a-mole shiny squirrels by pausing before you “throw something out there.” What you say goes. Have you ever noticed how you will simply share a thought that comes to mind or mention a consideration, and your team will begin to run with it?  As the head cheese, your suggestions, concerns and ideas are given undue weight.  Be cautious about having a notion pass your lips without thoughtful consideration. A simple, “Hey guys, what do you all think about X?” can result in leaps and bounds of unwanted implications.
  2. Keep the fire in your belly lit. Your vibrancy is contagious, however so is your apathy. Fake smiles won’t cut it, nor will empty words of encouragement. If you’re simply not feeling it, lean on the people, words, music, and experiences that lift you up, fill your energy bucket and ground you. Tap into your life’s purpose and how your work feeds that quest.

Be that which you want to see in your team.


Want to learn how to build a rockin’ workplace team with effective leadership techniques like the ones above? Read Culture Works: How to Create Happiness in the Workplace.

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3.7 min readLast Updated: June 7th, 2022Published On: September 19th, 2017Categories: Organizational Development ProcessTags: ,

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