old up your hand and spread your fingers out as wide as you can. Like you are holding your hand up and telling someone you will be there in five minutes. Now, bring your fingers together, with your thumb and fingers point up, like you are holding your hand up to tell someone to stop. This is the difference between teams that have space, and those that don't.
What does it mean to have no space between?
1. Do The Work, Fix The Cracks
If there is a crack in the wall over time dust, sand, vermin, and especially water will weaken the wall, and eventually, maybe years later, the wall will become unstable and fall. When we allow issues, whether personal or professional, to create space between each other we are creating a crack in our team wall. It is only a matter of time before the wall breaks. When a crack forms, you must fix it.
No space between means trust. It means we must be real with each other. It means caring about each other. It means when cracks develop we are courageous enough to be honest and seek to repair those cracks. We assume positive intent and when someone is wrong they fix it. Cracks aren’t permanent. Break out the mortar of courageous conversations and fix it.
These teams have honest conversations about the work, the interactions, and themselves. When there are issues between the team members they don’t wait , they address them head-on. They do it in a kind way but make sure that issues are not left hidden as they will, over time, cause cracks. They are comfortable saying “the story I’m telling myself about what you said/did/didn’t do is _____”.
4. Honor The Missing
They don’t talk about each other behind their back. If they do, because sometimes you need to, you MUST go and tell them. Gossip is a “four” letter word on these teams.
5. Argue & Listen
Behind closed doors they argue, challenge, and often disagree. When the doors open, they stand shoulder to shoulder with a decision. There are no “we decided but I was against it.” There can be, "we debated it and really dug deep and this is our decision and we all support it 100%." There is no silent voting on these teams - often you have to disagree and commit.
6. Care & Love
Not only do they care about the organization but they care deeply about each other. They put in the work to establish a deep connection with each other. Absent of this, there will be an artificial quality of supporting each other. Standing shoulder to should is about doing it because you want to, not because you have to. These teams usually view each other as friends and will do whatever it takes not to let their friends down. They will help them win.
7. Recognize Ego
Everyone has an ego and these teams realize it. They work hard to check their individual egos because they know their egos will cause them to take things personally, be defensive, not listen, or look down on others. These teams have a hierarchy and understand each person plays a role. Members bring their own unique strengths, weaknesses, and talents to the table. These teams work hard to leverage the group and make sure that each member feels safe to bring their ideas, and true self, to the team.
These teams are extremely respectful. You will find these teams use words like please and thank you. They ask, don’t direct. They respect people’s time. They respect people’s opinion, even when it differs from their own. They practice deep listening and loving speech. They repeat things to make sure they understand. They push each other to expand on ideas and say things like "tell me more, I want to fully understand where you are coming from." Respect also means being honest with someone when they don’t have a place on the team anymore. Treat them respectfully and help them land safely on another team.
9. Be Present
These teams are present for each other. They show up and they focus. Look you in the eye with "I care about each syllable you utter" focus.
10. Fear Free
People are their happiest and most productive when they are fear-free and don’t have to fight for their job or their status. Achieving 100% fear-free is hard but not impossible. It is very possible to create an environment where we each feel safe. Safe to be ourselves, share our thoughts, challenge our boss, and be the champion of an idea or the defender of someone else’s idea.
Teams must present, act, and in fact be a unified group. Nothing easy about that. The best things in life rarely are.