How to organize and lead work teams in toxic environments?

Our expert, Egber Hernandez Diaz, offers a list of precise actions that a manager must take to coordinate, motivate and lead the working group towards success, promoting individual appreciation and complying with the organization’s plans.

By Egber Hernandez Diaz, independent Specialist in Marketing and Sales*


I want to start this column with an interesting quote from Leonardo Da Vinci: “In the service of others, I can never do enough. No job can tire me. The ducats and precious stones fall like snow in the hands of those who serve others.”

An unusual topic for executives is to recognize those occasions in which we accept challenges in deteriorated and toxic work environments due to the lack of committed leaders. Upon realizing, perhaps our first thought as leaders is to say “where am I working at?” However, those of us who like challenges and dealing with people are passionate about changing the attitudes and dynamics of the areas where we collaborate to create motivated teams in order to obtain the results organizations expect from them. In that sense, I want to provide twelve recommendations on best practices that have helped me to develop high performance teams, determined and ready to give a 101 percent of their capabilities.

1) Team mantra. A fundamental aspect is to define what values and attitudes will be held within the team, which will serve as a spearhead to establish the new direction that one wants to take within the group. In this way, we develop a ‘vision’ that motivates and encourages people every day and guides them to success.

2) Clarity. An important part of beginning the reconstruction of leadership within a work team is the clarity of the information that is shared and what is expected of each team member. To do this, individual sessions will have to be held where they talk and agree (verbally and in writing) on the obligations of each employee, what they must do and what the organization requires from them in the future.

3) Responsibility. Many times, teams do not know the impact that their work has on the entire organization. Thus, it is important that the leader detects the KPIs of each area in charge and establishes metrics that show in a practical and direct way the impact that the work of a collaborator has on the company. By the way, it will be essential that employees understand that every position is key to achieving the company’s goals, showing the ‘butterfly effect’ that each person can have in the final balance. Teams must meet weekly and have a monthly evaluation to see what is next, how they are performing and what needs to be corrected.

4) Openness. Sometimes, it is said politely: “My doors are open to discuss any issue.” The truth is that many bosses declare this out of commitment, but do not put it into practice. Consequently, it is necessary to have a real opening; to be an honest leader, treating everyone equally regardless of positions, always showing a willingness to help the team as much as possible. Otherwise, the team will not be united enough to achieve common goals.

5) Innovation. Occasionally, a part of the stagnation of the teams derives from the routine of their activities and how unwilling the bosses are to innovate. The spark that opens the imagination of the teams is to challenge them to innovate in their areas and to tell them that that their contributions can improve the results and processes of the organization. This is how we can raise the demand and make the radical changes necessary to strengthen the dynamics of the group.

6) Consistency. Key rituals or activities should be established to maintain the monitoring and evolution of the team. One possibility is to generate spaces where everyone feels included, celebrating the successes and proposing improvements and solutions for errors. This strategy ensures that the team sees that each one is a fundamental part of the whole and that the group values successes and stimulates support and learning about what did not go well in order to correct it.

7) Hello and Goodbye. Leaders greet all people every day, while bosses pass by without saying a single word to anyone. A cordial and respectful greeting always makes a difference. It is a sign of support for an employee that is going through a bad personal or professional moment; and motivates the one who is doing things right. In addition, it produces a spirit of group harmony that promotes the synergies and dynamics necessary to propel the work teams towards the achievement of everything they pose.

8) People with completed cycles. A difficult and at the same time important issue is to be able to determine the moment in which some professionals have already completed their time within an organization. One option is to offer them to remain close to the group, but exercising other roles. The second possibility is to invite them to look for new opportunities in other companies. By the way, it is vital to detect these situations and quickly resolve them to prevent an internal climate of uncertainty, restlessness and disunity between the teams from expanding over time. The existence of a dissatisfied or toxic person within the group can break the internal balance and alter the work plans of the team.

9) Trust. If we do not assume the dimension of our responsibility as leaders, and accurately and adequately distribute the tasks, the team will show distrust and demotivation, and will force us to be constantly supervising each member of the group. Therefore, we need to give them confidence in order to wait for the planned results based on the clarity and vision that we transmit to the teams. The lack of mutual trust between the leader and the team will cause the former to expect the worst of the latter, and for them to produce mediocre performances. It is essential, then, to trust people to reach the predetermined goals.

10) Personal and professional development. Lately, some executives use to talk about an ‘emotional salary’, the one that makes people in a group stay motivated. It is important that, as leaders, we promote personal growth; give collaborators opportunities to practice a hobby, improve their health habits or recover from complex personal situations. As the leader develops this capacity, employees will thank him/her, which will greatly strengthen the team’s commitment.

11) Fulfill what is promised. It is vital to keep promises to the team, be it training, a salary raise or a change of position. Leaders must respect the initial agreements. If not, this will damage the team and lead to disintegration in the medium term, due to the apathy and disinterest of the collaborators towards what the leader asks.

12) Always try to be kind. To achieve superior results, we must consider different attitudes. Being kind is the key to open the most stubborn people. Always showing a friendly face and an optimistic attitude, even in critical moments, will lead to success in the medium and long terms. Being kind is not a sign of weakness or lack of demand. It is about building the confidence and empathy necessary to push the work teams towards achieving their goals.

Surely, there are many more issues to optimize within a company. Being consistent in these mentioned points will reaffirm the company’s direction, reaching the established goals in less time and in a better way. The job of a leader is to find out how to help and serve his/her collaborators. It is there where well-commanded teams will make a positive difference for the organization.


*For over 19 years, Egber Hernandez Diaz has been applying his knowledge and skills in marketing, sales and customer service in important gaming companies, such as the Mexican operator Logrand Entertainment Group, and in respected companies of other industries. He masters issues such as online & offline marketing and market research; he has led projects of his specialty under the PMI methodology, and has launched products with excellent results locally and internationally.

He has a degree in Marketing from the Instituto Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, Mexico, with a specialization in Digital Marketing from the Digital Marketing Institute. Hernandez Diaz also has MBA studies and a wide range of certifications in topics such as coaching, SEO, NLP, leadership and strategies in social networks, among others.