But sometimes, despite our best intentions, the leader has to manage; the coach needs to call a team time-out and intervene. Most often it's when team members aren't getting the job done or creating chaos and dissension in the team.
Tough Team Duty:
Of course, we would expect a fully competent and committed team to handle the proverbial bad apple. On a good day, peers will step up and do it. But even in the showcased businesses we read about in magazines employees get tied up in knots if a co-worker needs anything more than coaching. The reality is, most teams aren't ready to take on situations that challenge their intra-team relationships. And when team members can't manage a problem like this, the leader needs to step in and manage it.
To be fair, nobody -- neither team members nor leaders -- gets excited about confronting an employee and anticipating that awkward moment when the employee reacts. It can be doubly painful if the employee is emotionally challenged. It's a whole lot easier to ignore it.
Unfortunately, when teams ignore the problem they ignore or cover up the costs to the business. And costs can really add up for a team with a leader who can't or won't manage an employee problem when team members are stuck. Put a measuring stick to it and costs can be out of sight not just for the troubled team, but for every team it touches.
How Good Leaders Manage:
Good leaders can detect problems that are sure to cause team members heartburn. They don't abdicate their responsibilities leaving their teams to flounder. They intervene. And when they do, they don't strip their teams of accountability. They step in to manage what the team can't and quickly return to leading and building team member capabilities for the next tough spot. Done well, leaders maintain their accountability for team results while supporting team members in maintaining theirs.
When a team has a leader who can and will manage an employee problem when team members can't, the payoff can be huge. It shows up when co-workers stop wasting time in workarounds to avoid the "pariah" in the corner that nobody wants to deal with. Instead of team members whispering in the halls and at the water cooler, they start having authentic conversations that restore trust. Top performers have more reasons to stick around instead of jumping to other departments or companies to escape team problems. Costs and efficiencies improve as employment levels stabilize and co-workers begin working as a team again. Employees get more done and make customers happier because they spend more time collaborating on how to address customer needs and improve team results instead of on problems created by a difficult co-worker.
Who doesn't appreciate a leader willing to quickly quash an employee problem everyone is tired of dealing with? When a leader chooses to be accountable by managing situations team members can't, it's a win for team members who appreciate support for the team as well as a win for the business, which reaps the financial windfall from a better working team.
Trying it on for Fit:
- Stay connected with staff by spending time in the trenches talking to core employees about their commitments, challenges and successes.
- Hold regular and frequent all-team member staff meetings with maintaining social connections in the team as one of the core objectives.
- Be part of the team without micro-managing core employees or first-level leads.
- Keep individual and team commitments at the fore of conversations about teamwork and performance.
- In the rare occasions that call for managing, step in quickly and decisively as a committed and accountable member of the team without removing responsibility for team success from other team members.
Send an email and let me know what you learn from your experiences. I would love to hear from you!