Throughout my time in the corporate world as a team member and leader, I found that, at any given, time teams fall into one of four categories:

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Image from Awake Ethics

Obviously Category A looks most desirable to any leader, right? Category A teams have a solid team dynamic that enables relatively effortless and enjoyable collaboration. These teams are able to make impactful progress toward objectives and support their organizations as they grow. They enjoy peaceful days where collaboration feels effortless and productive. They celebrate wins and achievements that matter. Sounds great, right? Unfortunately I have found that most leaders and teams do not genuinely consider themselves in Category A. It’s not such an easy place to reach in practice. How do we reach Category A and actually stay there? Before we talk about how reach Category A and stay there, let’s take a look at how and why these differ from the other three categories and why many teams don’t find themselves so effortlessly in Category A.

Are you in Category B? Category B teams are usually found within larger organizations. These teams are peaceful and sustaining day-to-day but are often stagnant. Collaboration is successful but is more operational than transformative. This category is stable and may be desirable if you’re looking for consistency. However, these teams do not make progress toward new objectives and they don’t contribute toward business growth.

On the other hand, Category C teams are high growth teams that thrive off quick wins, highs of achievement, and highs of praise. Category C teams are commonly found in start-ups. These teams often have interpersonal conflict, animosity, and lack of alignment, which are not sustainable for growth. There is a lot of achievement and quick-win growth but no commonly shared system of behavioral conduct that enables collaboration and progress. Category C teams build their skyscraper on a foundation of sand.

If you hang out in Category B or C too long, you will likely end up in Category D, which means the environment is not peaceful and there is no progress. Teams in Category D are likely to suffer high rates of expensive turnover, become unprofitable, and eventually die out.

Category A teams require an elevated leadership style: a leader that is curious, dedicated, and enthusiastic about the mission of the team. What if we are all of these things? Why do we often find ourselves not enjoying our days, our interactions and relationships at work, and feel stagnant or stuck? What keeps leaders from reaching Category A? Is it even possible? I actually found, as a leader, that the most common obstacles to successful collaboration and progress result from a misunderstanding of ethics and lack of a common ethical language amongst leaders and team members. Ethics have many different interpretations in business. Secondly, actionable methods for putting ethics into practice were missing. We often have great thoughts and intentions for how to approach our leadership but when we dive into the day-to-day work, we don’t quite have a way to begin putting them into practice with our teams. It’s hard to actually get on the track toward peaceful collaboration and impactful, meaningful progress.

Therefore, Category A teams need leaders that understand and practice ethics. I have found that an understanding of ethics and motivation to put the understanding of ethics into practice enables you to cultivate a culture of peace and progress. Which category is your team in currently? Don’t worry if the answer is not Category A – that’s why I wrote my new guidebook, Awake Ethics! I have worked with many teams not in Category A. As leaders, we need a certain mindset, understanding, and team exercises that get us to Category A and help us stay there. It’s an ongoing practice.

In my new guidebook, Awake Ethics, I present a universal system of ethics and show why, in practice, an understanding of ethics drives better collaboration and progress. I provide exercises for putting the principles into practice. The book is full of exercises (actions!) for developing Category A teams.

Looking to lead better, more meaningful days and make impactful progress? Exercise your way to Category A!