TOP 3: Behaviours that confuse your team

Leaders are you hearing things like “Are we doing this now?” or “But I thought you said…” from your team? Could you be unknowingly confusing your team? Your “voice” can become inconsistent at times when you are experiencing disruptions in the workplace and your message is getting lost with all the noise surrounding your team.  Download my guide to understand the “Top 3 Behaviours That Confuse Your Team”. (After the Case Study)


CASE STUDY: Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Have you heard of a Hackathon? A hackathon is usually a day an organisation sets aside where employees are asked to work together and think outside their regular, day-to-day roles and functions to come up with new products and processes. This concept has been around for a few years now and was made popular by tech-tycoons like Google and Facebook.


CEO, Trevor, decided to create a Company Hackathon where he posed a contest to the whole company to come up with as many ideas as possible to either a) help build a profit or b) saved costs. Trevor wanted to encourage every person in the organisation to come up with an idea – a solution to an old problem. He also encouraged teams to come up with ideas, so that way everyone could be involved. The aim was that each team (or individual) would submit their ideas and explain what the benefit of the idea would have for the business and how it would achieve the goal of building profit or saving costs. The CEO would then pick the top 5 ideas who would then be required to pitch their ideas to him to “sell” why they thought their idea was best. Trevor would then select a winning idea to be awarded budget to create a prototype of the solution.


During the Hackathon, I was asked to come in and assist by running my innovation workshop where I could help one of the teams work through ideas and develop solutions to old problems. I was very excited to be a part of it and see how teams were approaching it.


This company had long been a client of mine and for as long as I remember, they operate in very traditional, conservative and bureaucratic ways. They have lots of processes, rules and regulations that need to be followed, so, I was intrigued to see the CEO taking a willing approach to introduce an innovation concept into this mix.


Or so I thought…


While “innovation” seemed important and had been a seemingly welcome inclusion on new agendas, it was not truly an innovative culture.


The reality of this company is similar to many others – there were time pressures, project deadlines and things that just needed to be done. However, what I saw in this company is that there was a top down culture coming from the CEO directly which had a major emphasis on mistakes… the CEO would regularly point out small, grammatical errors in documents and request them to be corrected before he would even continue to read the document. In addition to this general mistake-blame culture, decisions in the organisation were becoming a problem. Decision-making was made quickly and there were major ramifications if those decisions were not well thought out. Committee after committee was created to ensure a collaborative and consultative approach was taken, but in reality, decisions were made from consensus.


So, it didn’t really surprise me that when I came in to deliver workshops during the allocated hackathon day, I could see the conservative and bureaucratic culture of the organisation was seeping into the way the leaders operated during what was supposed to be time for innovation… As I looked more closely at the leader’s behaviour, this is what I saw:

  • Leaders wouldn’t take the time to discuss ideas, instead they talked about day-to-day projects or tasks (like a work in progress meeting)
  • Leaders would be busy most of the time, running from one meeting to the next. They rescheduled team meetings and bumped one-on-one meetings with a team member if a ‘more important’ higher up meeting arose
  • Leaders who were involved in the idea-generating sessions would tell their team “Great idea!” but then not provide any support, guidance or further encouragement to assist on how to get their idea up and running

Don’t get me wrong – I could see the leader’s hearts were in the right place, but their actions spoke louder than words.


By the end of the hackathon, what ended up happening is that very few innovative ideas were generated. The ideas that did arise were old ideas that already existed before, but just were given a different title or slant… it wasn’t really innovation.


Without even realising, Trevor’s own actions had bred a culture of people who were operating un-innovatively by default, because they were picking up on what he was DOING rather than what he was SAYING. While he said he wanted to encourage innovation, what he was doing (and in turn, what his leaders were picking up on) was actually the opposite. The unwritten rules that were governing this company under the CEO’s leadership meant they were just not quite ready for a concept like the hackathon.




Do you sometimes express a desire for your team to achieve something and wonder why the team doesn’t make the change happen?


Is it possible you might be asking for something, but your behaviours are demonstrating the opposite? Even though you have the best intentions, because you can see the bigger picture as what’s best for them.


A different example of this is to say you offer flexible work environments, but as a leader you expect your people to be in attendance at all meetings face-to-face. Or perhaps you expect your team to reply instantly to your emails / calls, but you may not get back to them until the next day?


Let’s find out what messages you are giving to others…

  • What behaviours do you praise in your team?
  • What issues you wish not to discuss in your team?
  • What words do your team use over and over again?


I have put together a guide of the Top 3 Behaviours That Confuse Your Team. During my travels as an organisational psychologist, I regularly see leaders falling into these behaviours without even realising it. Could you be giving off these signals without knowing? Could your leadership be like Trevor’s and creating an undercurrent culture that is directly conflicting the message you are trying to speak to your team? Read the Top 3 Behaviours That Confuse Your Team here and I will take you through the signs of if you are exhibiting these behaviours without realising and what you can do to correct your behaviour to avoid it in the future.



Are you guilty of the top 3 behaviours that confuse your team?

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It may be time to take stock on the impact of your communication and identify "accidental" language that creates confusion or doubt in your team.