The Most Dangerous Threat to Culture & Leadership

Team.  Department.  These terms describe a group of people together.  We are all working together, right?

At first glance we may be, but have you ever noticed someone who just isn’t quite “part of the team”?  You may be noticing the first signs of a dangerous threat to your own culture and leadership:  isolation.

One of my favorite TV Shows, Lost, had a great scene early in the series that dramatizes the effect of isolation (scene takes place shortly after their plane had crashed on a desert island):

As you lead your team, you may not feel such a dramatic impact or risk of isolation, but maybe you did notice people who exhibit signs such as:

  • closing their office door
  • working with earbuds in, seemingly all the time
  • “too busy” for things like team meetings, team lunches or workplace activities
  • demonstrating a “just leave me alone to to my work” attitude in any number of ways

On the surface, these things seem pretty harmless.  But if left unattended, that kind of behavior can become contagious; it will start to erode your team’s culture, and undermine your own leadership.  It is important to address early on.

There are many causes of isolation, but a few environmental factors can make it more likely:

  • someone is new to the company
  • someone is new to the team, or department
  • someone works remotely, or in a different location
  • someone has done their job for a really long time and doesn’t really “need” anyone else for help
  • someone who just wants to come in to work, do their own job and go home

Individuals in these categories may simply be more likely to isolate themselves.  Many times this happens so subtly over time that they don’t even perceive it.

But I guarantee your team will be much better off if you eliminate isolation.

My advice to you, as a manager?  Be aware of these causes of isolation – if you identify possible risks or warning signs, take action!  Build trust with that person.  Connect.  Work with them and talk to them on an individual basis, in a meaningful way.  That is the heart of leadership.  Connecting with people.

What do you think?  How have you overcome isolation in a team you lead?

Comment below!