• Mark Topley

All hands on deck?

Updated: May 20, 2020

How to get your team behind you before the coming storm

The impending return to work will be one of the most challenging periods you have ever faced as a business leader. There are stormy waters ahead, and to navigate them successfully, you will need your team to be united.

Last week I wrote a blog post and recorded a video to help you get your team aligned for rebuilding. The content focussed on a change management formula:

(D x V) + F > R

Where D is Dissatisfaction, V is Vision, F is First steps, all of which combine to overcome R - Resistance. The feedback from that post has been really positive, and I am so glad it’s helpful. 

But what would it be like if we could reduce the amount of resistance that exists in the first instance? What would it be like to have a team who are primarily with you, for you, and for the team? This post will highlight three things that I believe are critical. 

For me, COVID-19 has sharply focussed the importance of some timeless leadership truths. In particular, why some teams buy in, and some don’t. The businesses that intentionally and proactively embrace these truths are rewarded with what Richard Maloney calls the ‘We’ People. 

The ‘We’ People

‘We’ people are driven more by a sense of loyalty and mission than individual need. They come to work every day with the intention to do their very best. They focus on getting better at their job all the time. They don’t just show up every day, but they’re emotionally committed to their own success and that of the team.

I see them everywhere in my clients' teams - they are rallying, and getting behind the work to steady the ship and plot a safe course for the stormy waters that dental businesses undoubtedly have ahead. And the key ingredient that these teams have and others don’t? High levels of trust.

Trust is the emotional capital that leaders need to draw upon to gain buy-in from their teams. 

To succeed and move forward together, you need a large deposit of trust in your team's emotional bank account right now. And whether this ‘account’ is doing ok, is empty, or even overdrawn, it’s never too late to start making deposits. Here’s the currency you need:


Integrity is much more than simple honesty. It’s about making sure that what you say is what you do. There can be no difference between what is expected and what is experienced. That’s a tall order, and impossible to deliver on, and so when you do ‘mess up’, you need to ‘fess up’, and trust will be restored. If you don’t, then you will have trouble convincing anyone that you have true integrity. 


One of the questions I am often asked is ‘How can I get my team to care about the business like I do?’ The short answer is ‘You can’t.’ The long answer is better news. Although it’s nigh on impossible to get everyone to care exactly like you do, you can get them to care deeply. The answer is invitation.

There is huge power released when people feel part of something bigger - a mission that they feel connected to and part of. I am a huge fan of Don Miller and the Storybrand team, who have done excellent work to help leaders clarify their business message so that it connects with people. And their take on mission statements is worth checking out. In essence, Storybrand’s view on business mission is that there are three parts:

  • A challenge to overcome

  • A destination to reach

  • Something important at stake

For example, the challenge may be ‘dentistry is painful’ or ‘a confident smile is out of reach’.

The destination may be ‘for everyone in X town to have a dental experience that is pain free’ or ’to make a confident smile something that anyone can afford/access’

The stakes may be ’fearful patient’s oral and general health will suffer’ or ‘otherwise people will live life with a needless lack of confidence’. 

Now, these are 5 minute examples that I have pulled out of mid-air, and I’m no copywriter! But i hope they begin to illustrate that the use of story, which you invite people to become a part of, you create a workplace experience which is about mission and a purpose, rather than tasks that result in a paycheque.

your people will be as committed to you as they feel you are committed to them


The reality is that your people will be as committed to you as they feel you are committed to them. One of the curses of the modern age is that people have become expendable and a secondary consideration when a business hits hard times. The knee jerk reaction of leadership is too often to choose layoffs as a first resort to meet targets. This is short sighted and in my opinion morally wrong. And where layoffs are unavoidable, they should be done well. Contrast the approach of Air BnB CEO Brian Chesky with the overnight layoff of 500 staff by one high-profile chef.

So, how have you shown up during COVID-19? What’s your communication been like? Have you practically demonstrated your commitment to your team? Have you led courageously and absorbed the pressure? 

You may now be rolling your eyes with this talk of ‘people first.’ And I understand that even when you do lead well, you will still have 20% of your team made up of what my friend calls the BMWs (bitchers, moaners, whiners).

And you’re right.

The course of action for this group is different, (and more on that next week). For now, suffice to say that you will get what you expect or tolerate, and so your thresholds for both need to be clearly set. 

But the overwhelming majority of your team will respond positively to a caring approach, and when they do, everyone wins.

What will you do differently this week to start increasing the balance in the team emotional bank account? 

You’ll no doubt have a team meeting coming soon. I suggest you plan it well, and use every contact point with your people to reinforce integrity, invitation and commitment. Invest in your team’s trust, and you will weather the coming challenges much better.

For more resources:

201 views0 comments