Great teams don’t happen by accident but as a leader or manager you can begin to lay the groundwork for a great team by establishing the ‘rules of the game’.
Aligning teams around a common agenda or code of behaviour takes a concerted effort to develop and maintain, but the benefits can be extraordinary.
The idea of teams having a code of honour comes from Blair Singer’s book, The ABC’s of a Winning Team. This is a one of the best team building books I’ve read and I often recommend it to clients.
He uses the example of sports teams to help illustrate his point and talks about how winning sports teams show incredible team spirit, loyalty and resilience under pressure.
This doesn’t happen by accident. It is the result of a deliberate strategy to educate and instil a code that all players are willing to uphold.
It’s an idea that also has merit in the workplace. I have worked with a number of organisations to develop a ‘Code of Honour’ and found it to be an extraordinary way to galvanise a team and create genuine commitment to the team goals.
However, the hardest thing about having a code of honour is not developing it, but maintaining it.
Once a Code of Honour has been discussed and developed by the team, everyone must be willing to hold their fellow team members accountable. This requires them to have the courage to call anyone who behaves in a way that goes against the code, even if it is the ‘boss’.
For example, I am currently President of a local Professional Toastmasters group.
We have a very clear code that is not written anywhere, but it is upheld by every member of the club. We only have 1½ hour meetings and we are rigorous about defending the agenda and sticking to time. Within this tight structure we all relax and have a lot of fun but if someone goes over time or messes with our finely tuned organisation, there will be 3-4 people that will quickly jump in to get us back on time.
And it’s not always the same people, and it’s certainly not always the President.
One business I worked with developed a code and whilst the owners offered lots of suggestions the one point all the staff wanted to include was, ‘Don’t complain. If you don’t like it here, leave.’
It’s very strongly worded, but it came from the team in exactly those words. So the owners wisely decided not to tone it down. And sure enough, it works. They don’t have any backroom whinging and complaining. It is a strong team with a strong commitment to producing excellent work.
Why have a code of honour?
A code of honour is a way to articulate your business values in very real terms. It gives a team confidence that they are on the right team – they know what the team stands for – and they agree with these values.
The benefit of having a code of honour is that it allows people to excel because they feel totally supported and secure. Everyone knows what is expected and what is acceptable so there’s no second-guessing or awkward surprises.
Having a code of honour keeps the good staff who appreciate the way you play the game, and encourages the people who don’t like accountability to leave.