Healthy Teams Inside Unhealthy Organizations: What To Do

What word or short phrase would best describe your team culture? Now step back a minute and widen the lens. How would you describe your broader organizational culture? Are the definitions more alike or greatly contrasting?

Often, I have the opportunity to ask similar questions of team leaders, and the responses received typically run along two very dissimilar channels — direct and confident or reserved and unsure. The latter is even more pronounced when the direct report is in the room.

A common finding across multiple sectors is this: department and individual team culture is reported as healthier than the whole of organizational culture. Might this be your reality as well?

healthy team

Healthy teams within unhealthy organizations signal something worth digging into, but don’t fret. Protected silos of security are natural across broad sectors of organizations. Here are some familiar examples:

  • Your favorite football team may have a powerful offense but a terrible record.
  • Your child may be enrolled in a healthy school within a dysfunctional district.
  • Your business unit may have exceeded quarterly expectations while the organization is on life support.
  • Your state may be celebrating a budget surplus while the nation’s financial outlook is troubling (to say the least).

A good leader can build a good team. Great leaders are the ones who are secure and skilled at building bridges of healthy culture across the organization. They know how to multiply what they do, in other words. Silos of excellence won’t multiply, in fact, they might actually subtract from the overall health of team culture.

Edgar Schein, organizational culture specialist and author, believes that culture is a pattern of shared basic assumptions learned by a group to solve its problems. Among these basic norms are the organizational values, mission, vision, and a common leadership language set within simple tools that scale as an effective and efficient medium of communication. Said differently and succinctly, healthy organizational culture creates a clear pathway of organizational clarity within a secure human system for success.

Positive or not, every organization has a culture. More than curb appeal, it reinforces and inspires the way people behave “in the moment” and serves as a predictor of what one might expect in the future. Secure leaders pay close attention to individuals, teams and wider organizational culture. Owning and managing your zone is important, but responding and leading healthy community culture is truly the mark of a leader worth following.

If your team embraces a collaborative and human-centric approach, while your organization’s brand is “results and winners rule,” you should not be surprised to find a level of distortion, frustration and inconsistent behavior within your system.

So What’s The Solution For Security?

  • The X Factor for accelerating healthy organizational culture is personal humility and incredible will (for the organization – not self). Secure and liberated leaders will be observed modeling, “don’t follow me, follow our cause.” Ego feeds upon small wins but can’t live within larger causes.
  • The logical next step is to clearly understand and adjust all behavior to the organization’s larger cause. Beyond your team strategy and quarterly objectives must be a believed and embraced vision built upon agreed upon values. Hook your larger wagon to these powerful and robust forces. What is your bigger cause?

Will you settle for being a good leader in a good organization, or are you willing to grow to become a great leader driven by a greater cause — are you for organizational excellence rather than self-superiority? What motivates you? A well-managed silo, or a well-led network?

The human condition is naturally challenging, as we all have appetites towards success over significance. Strong, liberated leaders don’t start out secure. Secure leaders are not natural. They BECOME and grow from patterns of less mature subtractors and dividers into more fully developed leaders who not only know how to add, but can multiply what they do.

So how about you? Are you ready to BECOME and multiply? We would welcome the opportunity to talk to you more about how GiANT can partner with you to transform your leadership and build enduring greatness across your entire organization. Email us at, or me at