Creating a united front as a leader, being part of united front as a team member
Why loyalty and integrity are part of a successful business strategy
What is a united front and why is it important?
The idea of the “united front” is one of the most powerful tools a team can have in their business strategy. It will not only make you a more effective and successful team, but it can help you weather big challenges you may face, such as changes in organisational leadership or threats to the sustainability of the company.
A united front is when your team is perceived as being aligned in purpose, principles, and values. You all speak well of each other, and stick up for each other when dealing with external partners. You demonstrate that you have good communication as a group, as evidenced by the fact that all members are consistent in their messages and responses.
A united front is created through the work you do as a team on agreeing the values you all share and commit to. A united front is created through loyalty, integrity, and honesty.
Some of these are illustrated perfectly in a story Leigha Mitchell recently wrote about what she wants from a company as a woman in tech. It includes things that I recognised that I want, too, as a leader and a manager:
“…have my back in the fight. I don’t mean that I want to be told how awesome I am, I want real advice.”
“[It’s beneficial to] be on a team that will tell other people how awesome you are. …. Seeing others be supportive of their team mates and brag about other’s accomplishments is a powerful thing.”
How to create a united front in a team
I consider establishing these values as one of the most urgent and important actions I take with new teams. Openly discussing the power of loyalty and integrity as teammates quickly breaks down defences and barriers that can exist when you are just getting to know each other.
New and established teams need to set some ground rules about how you will behave with and toward each other, and how you handle and express disagreement and frustration.
As a leader, I make it clear that dissent is acceptable and welcome as long as it is in the privacy of the team meeting or a one to one. If anyone has a problem with me, a teammate, a decision, or action taken, it is fair to bring it up constructively (preferably with an alternative or a solution to follow) but privately. It is only if I, or their teammate, prove to be entirely unreasonable or irresponsible about the issue and it could be damaging, that they should consider taking it up the line, over my head, or outside of our domain.
Over time we talk about how disagreements help each other to improve and grow, and how offering and receiving constructive criticism and advice is a valuable part of being in a loyal and protective team.
You can express your displeasure with a colleague, question their ability, or criticise their work, if you do so in private and if you do it respectfully and constructively. Exchanges may get heated, or slagging matches may kick off, but the minute you walk out of that team environment, to everyone else your loyalty should be unquestionable. If it isn’t, and you tell tales or break confidences, you are giving all of our power away as a team and making it harder on everyone to get stuff done. Reputations are made and broken by offhand, incidental remarks about colleagues and managers.
It is an extremely powerful tactic for becoming an effective and successful part of your company if team members help foster good reputations for each other outside of the team bubble. It is a point of integrity to “tell other people how awesome” you all are, including your leader, outside of the zone of the team. It makes all of your jobs easier. You are perceived as capable and effective, and this can grease the wheels for collaboration, getting required information or approvals, or simply make for a more positive working environment.
Why loyalty is an essential ingredient
As a leader, I would never criticise one of my staff to an external partner (including within my own organisation). It is my responsibility to build and cultivate a competent, effective team, and if someone is not up to the job it is my failure. I should be working with that staff member to improve or move on. If I talk about their limitations to others, it undermines their effectiveness outside of the team and shows that I am not doing my job.
As the leader of a team in a bigger organisation, there were plenty of times when I needed my team to have my back, to tell me about the things they thought I was doing well, and to discreetly and honestly tell me what wasn’t working for them. If they didn’t come to me first and proceeded to air the dirty laundry externally, it would always get back to me. This damaged our relationship, my effectiveness as a leader, and our success as a team.
But not blind loyalty…
This is absolutely not to say that people should lie, or spread untrue stories or paint unrealistic pictures of your capabilities and accomplishments. And of course, the duty of loyalty and honesty should never be an excuse for coverup and irresponsibility in breaches of safety or in instances of corruption.
Setting out the conditions that build a strong team with a united front is a key skill for leaders; and it creates the sorts of conditions that good, valuable teammates such as Leigha Mitchell say they crave, attracting and retaining the best talent, and lets us all do our best work.
I have written a book on leading and managing teams based on my twenty years of experience using a simple four-part model that makes it possible for anyone to get a grip and do a good job. I will be sharing the first chapter to everyone who signs up on my list in the next few weeks. You can sign up here https://tinyletter.com/eshassere to receive the first chapter as well as news of the launch.
I write about how I became the founder of a tech startup as a non-techie, over-40 female with no entrepreneurial experience, and all I am learning along the way. You can see more here: https://medium.com/@eshassere If you think this might be helpful for others on their entrepreneurial journey, please recommend and share by clicking the heart.