A decision every Manager must make (or have made for them)
Do you allow your team to decide what and how they operate, or do you prefer defining and directing them?
It’s a complex decision.
But complexity is the reason we need teams. To solve issues of a scale, depth and complication that individuals cannot. But if your managerial approach to how your team handles complexity is laissez-faire, you don’t get a complex result; you get a confused one.
It is difficult to deliver a coherent result if everyone decides on their own route, reason or standards.
All managers are trying to make the right choice, strike the right balance. Is it to micro-manage the process and details, or to macro-manage the organization and flow.
Or could there be a third approach with the benefits of both?
Alongside time, deliverables or even desk-space, managers have something more profound to deal with in their team. How to manage reality. The shared reality of what the people in your team are seeing, contrasted to what they want to see made real.
Team dynamics are born of that mental interplay. Between the now and the future. Between big-picture and succinct detail. Because it is intangible and in flux, team dynamics are hard to detect, and even harder to direct. Dynamics also present another problem (that on the surface does not even resemble one).
A team without shared goals can look, sound and feel like a happy team. But it isn’t an effective team.
I call it the ‘law of avoid’. It states that we are naturally driven to achieve. But in the absence of a shared target – in other words a void of collective meaning – we will substitute our own targets. That is where the happy part comes from. The price? The reason to be in a team dissolves (‘we share a desk, not deliverables’). A sense of individuality takes over. The ‘I-mode’ is engaged.
Is everyone in your team busy? Are they busy on what you think, or even want them to do?
A manager avoiding the need to incorporate that individuality can survive. I’ve coached managers with a coincidence of individual aims in their ‘team’ combining to be enough.
But when they need to grow, to go after what only a team can get done, they needed to shape individual aims into a shared story. That is where a core management skill is found wanting.
Ready to open, hold and close real conversations?
Not all managers are. Promoted as a band member to conduct does not mean you are able to turn individual musicians into a musical group.
« But I don’t want to start a conversation I might not be able to cope with »
To not deal with complex situations, when you can avoid it, is very appealing. The unknown is a significant risk and it can cause stress. But when working with other human beings, » the unknown is a daily occurance. Part of my leadership experience was seeing how avoidance causes its own share of stress. As a coach I show that dealing with situations through frankness and humanity allows everyone to excel. When we loosen defences and learn together, the benefit is worth the effort – and the risk.
Expectations can be raised, but can they be reached?
It may be that our standard operating procedure puts us in a position of having to constantly justify oneself. There is « us » and there is « them ». Between the two lies a space of disagreement, or a source of dissatisfaction. Opening a real exchange to explore options, agree on objectives and how to achieve them will fill that void. Energy previously deployed debating, or fuelling dissatisfaction, is turned to producing.
« This is likely to generate emotions. This is not the time, nor the place ».
Is the right time after your team has broken up, or maybe after having lost credibility? Most of the emotions comes from not feeling acknowledged, seen or heard. In turning teams around I am constantly confirmed in my belief that indidivuals have the skills required to function effectively and adequately.
One cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs
I worked with a team that had experienced conflict. Those in the team lived with the fear of reliving this difficult situation without having understood the why or developing a new ‘what to do next time’. They had made the unconscious commitment to walk on eggshells and let things go. The price? Ache of discomfort, with a decrease of commitment and inefficient team operation. Hidden more deeply, a fear of where it all might go to if left unsolved.
By defusing the charge and getting some distance, the team could look anew at the situation. Still respecting the variety of views, and pace, of each individual view we worked on root causes that undermined shared meaning.
Less than a month later, the team started establishing new rules and the ability to do things differently. With that success came restored energy, which fed greater joy at work and a doubling of collaboration. By six months productivity raised by 30%. Disputes became about process, not about shared path.
On my invoice I had ‘facilitated discovery and learning’. What I really did was support the team to take its own responsibility for achieving the objectives. To be self-correcting, self-generating solutions to their most important or complex issues.
If the solution does not stick as well as the old problem, what you did didn’t work. Yet.
Are you ready to equip your members to talk about swapping individuality for interdependency. Swapping and sharing respective areas of responsibility in the interest of the group’s goals?
Or do you want them to work for their own benefit, in their comfort zone, with little regard to their impact on the collective?
You or your managers must share. Share concerns and targets, but also goals to steer team dynamics.
The value in this big box is not the pooling of many smaller boxes – we know we must create synergy to maximize the potential. This synergy is developed through exchange and commonality; an avenue can have some chaos and instability, but that leads you to places only teams can go.
The choice isn’t about degrees of latitude. It’s about shared destination. Does your team have it?
Create the synergy of shared goals. Your team will thank you, your clients and company will reward you.