Whether you are leading a small work team or a large organization, there are bound to be some team-related challenges. Having some ground rules in place, as I suggested in my last blog, will certainly help, and…you can’t just post those on the board and walk away. As the leader, you need to proactively identify and resolve issues before they impact team members, their work or the business.
Here are 5 common team challenges and what you can do as a leader to fix them.
Lack of trust. This refers to trust in you and in each other. A lack of trust impairs productivity and may lead to missed deadlines, milestones and even project failure.
Solution: Build trust by being very clear about team purpose, individual roles, and expectations. Be open, honest and consistent. Be willing to tackle tough issues and to stand up for the team. Demonstrate empathy. And demonstrate that you trust the members of your team.
Poor communication. Infrequent, incomplete or disrespectful communication impacts employee engagement and may lead to errors or intra-team conflict, ultimately affecting productivity and goals.
Solution: Communicate clearly and regularly. Share as much as you can, especially about business information that may impact the team or their work. Listen. Ask for feedback, ideas, solutions. Model open, honest and respectful communication so the team will mirror that among themselves.
Lack of accountability. When people aren’t held accountable for the quality and timeliness of their work others may have to pick up the slack resulting in conflict or missed deadlines or – at worst – project failure.
Solution: Be sure everyone clearly understands expectations and the impact of not meeting those expectations. Challenge your team to higher performance goals and establish an environment where they hold themselves – and each other – accountable for results. Include regular progress reports, open sharing of mistakes and lessons learned, and team discussions on how to move through roadblocks.
Conflict and tension. Some conflict is good for airing different ideas. However, when left unchecked or unmanaged, it can lead to distrust in the leader and impair team progress.
Solution: Harness the power of diverse thinking. Create an environment that encourages fresh ideas and approaches. Reach out to those who are less vocal to ensure that their ideas get added to the mix. When everyone feels heard and appreciated, “conflicts” become productive discussions. When tension arises between team members, facilitate a discussion to get to the root of the problem. Overlap of responsibilities, perceived lack of effort or contribution by a team member, and personality differences are common causes.
Working in silos. When team members each march to their own drum, chaos ensues, wasting precious time and resources.
Solution: Be sure everyone has a clear understanding of their role, other team members’ roles and the importance and interdependence of each role and task in achieving team goals. Establishing this knowledge up front will prevent duplication of effort, project delays and team conflict.
And remember, the best teams bring diverse personalities, skills and experience to the table. Recognizing the value that each individual’s skills and traits contribute to the team and how they complement each other will help you lay the groundwork for a well-functioning, high-performing team.
Till next time,
What is it that differentiates a high performing team from a team that never gets beyond the “storming” stage in the forming/storming/norming/performing (The Tuckman Model) journey? How does a high performing team continue to achieve milestones and meet deadlines even as dynamics change due to a new or departing member? How do they manage to overcome the inevitable differences of opinion or even conflict to stay on track?
They establish and adhere to Rules of Engagement.
Think back, for a minute, to when you were in school. No, not college. Think waaay back to kindergarten or elementary school. Most likely on the first day of class your teacher shared with you “the rules.” No talking in class. Raise you hand to go to the bathroom. No fighting. Turn your homework in on time. You knew what the expectations were upfront, and you knew (and, yes, perhaps even experienced) what the consequences were if you didn’t meet those expectations. The goal of the rules was to create a harmonious and productive environment for learning. Without establishing and enforcing those rules, the classroom could have been chaos.
And so it goes with teams. In fact, we’ve seen (or at least read about) that chaos on a nearly daily basis with one very, very visible team. Don’t let that happen to your team.
Allocate some time – as a team – to establish your team Rules of Engagement. These should align with your company values and culture. As you think about what to include, consider things that have been an issue for the team in the past – what guideline can you put in place that will prevent that issue in the future? Here are some topics your rules can address:
Communication. What is the preferred method – email, phone, in person – for sharing information vs. decision making vs. resolving conflict?
Meetings. Is there a limit on length? How will you handle chronic late-comers? How will you ensure that everyone is heard (at the meeting rather than post-meeting in a hallway discussion)?
Decisions. How will you make them? A vote? Who’s the tie breaker?
Conflict. What’s your process for managing it? What will you do when it escalates?
Other potential topics are prioritization, accountability, coordinating task hand off, reviewing each other’s work. And certainly don’t forget to include a general rule about good behavior – kindness, respect, integrity.
Diversity of ideas, opinions, skill sets, experience and background enhances a team’s ability to innovate, and to provide the full complement of capabilities to achieve desired results. The best way to leverage those capabilities and to increase your team’s performance is by defining and maintaining your Rules of Engagement.
Till next time,
“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” - Former CEO of GE, Jack Welch
In my last blog, I talked about the importance of your continuing to grow and develop as a leader. Now let’s talk about the importance of growing and developing your people. Both are essential if you want to prepare your organization to succeed today and into the future.
Employees need to feel valued, connected, challenged and recognized. Providing them with opportunities to build on their strengths, learn new skills and prepare for the future needs of the company demonstrates in a very real way that they are integral to the organization and its success. And when employees feel that kind of connection they will be more engaged and loyal.
Employee development can happen in many different forms: on-the-job training, personal development, cross-functional projects, coach and/or mentor, special projects, stretch assignments, training courses, reading and personal study, online courses, peer coaching, job shadowing, etc. The important thing is that it is available and encouraged.
Too often development opportunities are limited to “fixing” an employee’s weaknesses rather than leveraging and developing their strengths. Yet, according to Gallup, organizations that focus on employee strengths have higher engagement, less turnover and a better bottom line.
Create development plans that take into consideration organization goals and the skills and behaviors employees will need to contribute to achieving those goals. It’s also essential that individual employee career goals and personal interests be taken into account in development plans. All too often employees have skills and talents that are under-utilized. In fact, 74% of employees feel that they are not reaching their full potential. (The Learning Wave)
Also consider the skills and behaviors employees will need in the future to succeed (yes, even if it’s not in your organization). According to a report from the World Economic Forum, the top 10 skills in 2020 will be:
- Complex problem solving
- Critical thinking
- People management
- Coordinating with others
- Emotional intelligence
- Judgment and decision making
- Service orientation
- Cognitive flexibility
Creating, implementing and supporting development plans for your employees will not only help keep them loyal and engaged, it will ensure that your organization is ready for the challenges and opportunities of the future.
"The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay." - Henry Ford
Till next time,
Conflict on teams is inevitable. Yet when managed effectively, it can actually be a good thing. New ideas are born; relationships are deepened through the airing and resolution of differences; teams grow stronger. When you are a leader in the midst of conflict, however, and attempting to deal with it while juggling everything else, it can be a bit overwhelming.
Here are 5 tips for managing team conflict effectively.
Be self-aware. Understanding your leadership strengths and how you react under stress is essential to handling conflict in a constructive manner. Often our positive traits can be perceived as negative when we are overextended. For example, if you tend to set the bar high for yourself and others, this may be perceived as an unreasonable demand for perfection by a team that is struggling with workload or other internal issues. If your strength is leading through people, when stressed you may spend too much time trying to make sure everyone is happy rather than focusing on the collective team goals.
Know your team. The best teams bring diverse personalities, skills and experience to the table. Recognizing the value each individual’s skills and traits contribute to the team and how they complement (and potentially conflict with) each other will help you lay the groundwork for effective conflict resolution. Build team awareness and appreciation of different styles, and provide opportunities for productive interactions and mutual understanding.
Make the time to just listen. When a deadline is looming, and the team can’t seem to get past a conflict barrier, you may be tempted, as the leader, to force an end to the issue and just push your position through. Don’t. Make time to listen to all sides so you can get to the core of the issue and help the team develop a solution.
Harness the power of diverse thinking. Create an environment that encourages open communication and fresh ideas and approaches. Reach out to those who are less vocal to ensure that their ideas get added to the mix. When everyone feels heard and appreciated, “conflicts” become productive discussions.
Chart the way forward. Embrace the “lessons learned” from the bumps on the journey, refocus on the goals and move forward.
Want to learn more about your leadership style and the styles of your team for more effective conflict resolution? Contact me at kcolligan@PeopleThink.biz.
Till next time,
If you’re a leader, chances are that at least a portion of your team is working remotely, or for that matter, in another part of the world. Increased globalization and advances in technology have changed the way we work, with some teams never actually being in the same room together. While virtual teams have many benefits – an expanded talent pool, reduced office space requirements, the ability for employees to work from anywhere – they are not without their challenges. Especially for leaders.
A 2016 study by RW3, LLC, a cultural training service, Trends in Global Virtual Teams, found that some of the biggest challenges for global teams were: colleagues who do not participate, pace of decision making, and different role expectations held by team members. The study also found that the biggest challenge to productivity was the lack of face-to-face communication, which respondents said impacted managing conflict, establishing trust and building relationships. All important components for team success.
Leading virtual teams, especially global teams, requires an additional set of leadership skills. Yet few leaders receive training that specifically prepares them for this role. According to the RW3 study, while 74% of respondents had received formal leadership training, only 34% had received global leadership training. Likewise, although 85% of respondents said they work on virtual teams, only 22% said they had received training to increase their productivity on virtual teams. Clearly, there’s a development opportunity here.
In the meantime, here are some tips for leading virtual teams effectively.
Be engaged and available. Team members working from a distance, whether it’s in a home office in the US or from a global location, can feel isolated. Engage with individual team members on a regular basis to ask how things are going and to provide support. Be available to them when they have concerns, ideas, or just need to talk.
Leverage video technology. Use videoconferencing, Skype or any other tools available to you to allow team members to see each other. This is especially important when the team is forming, and when critical issues and/or decisions need to be discussed. Also consider having a team site where members names, locations, role and images are posted.
Create ground rules for virtual meetings. In our ever-connected, multi-tasking world it’s hard to keep people focused on one task, especially if they’re out of sight. Agree on ground rules up front, such as “cell phones off,” “one person speaks at a time,” etc. Distribute the agenda prior to the meeting and send out a recap afterward. Factor some time into each meeting for team members to have open discussion and to get to know each other better.
Establish communication guidelines. Create a process for regular communication, expected response time, and how issues will be prioritized. Encourage team members to use video or phone calls to work out issues or when information may need clarification. Remember, email is one-way communication. Picking up the phone (or Skype!) can go a long way in building trust and developing relationships.
Respect and rotate time zones. Be sure that everyone knows where their team members are located and their respective time zones. Establish a “best time to call” list for intra-team communications. Rotate time zones for team meetings so one person isn’t always the early-riser or later-worker.
Practice cultural sensitivity. Minimize misunderstandings by providing cultural training to all team members. Create a team environment that welcomes diversity of thought, backgrounds, experience and communication style. Provide opportunities for team members to educate each other about cultural nuances.
"Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success." – Henry Ford
Till next time,
As I work with leaders in different organizations, I’m hearing a common frustration: “there’s no sense of accountability.” When things don’t get done – phone calls returned, reports submitted on time, projects completed on time and within budget – instead of people owning the problem, they make excuses or shift the blame.
“I don’t know how it happened.”
“I think Sally is the bottleneck.”
“It’s not my job.”
“I didn’t have time to do it.”
“It’s not my fault.”
“No one else got theirs in on time.”
Sound familiar? I agree with Ben Franklin, who said, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.”
It’s time to ditch the excuses and create a culture of accountability. And it takes leaders, teams and individuals working together to create and maintain that culture.
Set the example by owning up to your mistakes, oversights, missteps. If you never accept personal responsibility for something, how can you expect your team to?
Find (and share) the lesson in the failure. What could you have done better, what will you change? Acknowledge the impact that your actions (or lack of action) had.
Create a trusting environment with open communication where all team members are encouraged to share successes and failures for the purpose of learning and continuous improvement.
Be clear about expectations. Employees are responsible for tasks and activities and accountable for outcomes. Be sure those are clearly defined and understood.
Hold people accountable. Be clear about both expectations and consequences.
Understand what accountability means. Merriam-Webster defines it as "the quality or state of being accountable, especially: an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions." A lot of people use responsibility and accountability interchangeably. A responsibility is something you are required or expected to do, such as an activity or task. Accountability is you owning up to the consequences if you don’t do it or the outcomes are less than expected. Accountability is after the fact.
Avoid the blame game. Children often deflect blame because they are afraid of getting in trouble. Some adults do it for the same reason. Others because they are embarrassed and want to save face. Still others (one particular example in the news a lot lately) because their POV is that nothing that goes wrong is ever, ever their fault. It’s always someone else’s. Pulease! Be a grown up. Accept the blame. Apply what you learned. And do better next time.
Ditch the excuses. Instead simply say: "Yes, it was my fault. I dropped the ball. Here’s what I learned. Here’s how I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again."
As a team, hold each other accountable. Get clear about interdependencies and the impact of mistakes and missed deadlines. Work on creating an environment of open, honest communication that will support this.
“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have the time to do it over?” – John Wooden
Till next time,