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StrategySep 09, 2013

Unity in Leadership Part 6: Maintaining Unity Is Constant Work

Matt Levy

Once you’ve built a unified team it can be very difficult to maintain it. It doesn’t take much for disagreements, perceived slights, or annoyances to ruin unity. You need to constantly work at it. The best way to illustrate this is to provide an example.

One of my mentors is my business partner, Rob. We have been through fire together over the last 10 years. I wouldn’t change a thing. The learning and growth resulting from our relationship has been significant.

One of the metaphors Rob coined and uses is a “brick wall.” The wall is what grows between relationships when unity is not prioritized or maintained. Individual bricks represent points of contention. A brick can be as simple as a misunderstanding or as serious as a perceived intentional breach of trust. When a brick is laid and not addressed, the wall grows.

Rob has modeled how to keep a brick wall from growing between us. If either of us senses a brick has been laid, it is important to address it quickly. Otherwise that lack of communication will become a wall that ruins our relationship. How we address each brick is just as important as what we are addressing. We must assume the best about each other. Intentional bricks are far less frequent than unintentional bricks. Only time together, consistent behavior, and an understanding heart can create the kind of trust we desire in all of our relationships.

It’s hard work and is rarely achieved. Most of us are unwilling to deal with bricks. Sometimes it’s easier to just let it go, avoid the confrontation and let the unity slip away. But if you want a strong team, you need to do the difficult work of tearing down those walls.

As your team’s leader, you need to be setting the tone. You need to make sure you aren’t putting up your own walls and you need to encourage your teammates to address their own bricks. It will mean taking time for difficult conversations and working through some issues. It can seem like a distraction. But in the end your team will be stronger and your organization will thrive.

Address the bricks in your team. Work hard to maintain the unity you’ve built.

Wondering about tearing down walls in your organization? Post a comment below or connect with us on Twitter.

This is the final blog post of the series on Unity in Leadership. If you missed the previous posts in this series, we recommend reading Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4, and Part 5.

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