Excerpt from “Questions That Get Results: Innovative Ideas Managers Can Use to Improve Their Teams’ Performance” (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2011) by Paul Cherry and Patrick Connor of Performance Based Results LLC.
By Paul Cherry and Patrick Connor
You hear this adage all of the time, but it is so true! If you want your team to function at its best, you need to encourage cooperation, not
competition. The atmosphere at a company dictates much of the behavior of its employees. If your team is not functioning optimally, most likely there is something you can do to fix it. Patrick experienced this firsthand when his very talented, motivated, and organized executive assistant, Rita, came to him one day to give Patrick her two-weeks’ notice. Patrick was upset, but assumed that she had received a better offer, so he asked her about it. He was startled to learn that Rita was making a lateral move to a similar company and was not getting a significant raise in pay or benefits. Patrick asked her, “Why are you leaving?” Eventually, she confessed to him that she was having an ongoing conflict with another employee on the team, Timothy. Armed with this information, Patrick implored her to let him mediate the issue and make an attempt to solve the problem before she left.
After several meetings between Patrick, Rita, and Timothy, the conflict was resolved. Rita was able to get a commitment from Timothy to stop barking orders and demanding that she drop all of her work whenever he needed help on his projects. Timothy also received a warning from Patrick that this type of arrogant and demeaning behavior would not be tolerated. The immediate result was that Patrick was able to solve the problem and keep two of his valued team members on board. More broadly, Patrick realized that he needed to (1) put more emphasis on cooperation among his team members and (2) provide an outlet to those who were having ongoing conflicts with one another. He also had to admit to himself that he had not been engaging with his employees as he should have been. Had Patrick been engaged, he would have been aware of the conflict and worked out a resolution long before Rita ever considered finding another job.
If you notice conflict among your team members, you have to address it head-on. You cannot simply ignore it and hope it will go away, because many times the best and brightest on a team will leave for greener pastures if their current environment is toxic. Even if there is no apparent conflict at the present time, you and your team can still benefit from going through the team-building exercises described in this chapter.
Whenever you have people working together, issues are bound to arise, but when you have already laid the foundation for how to work together as a team, these issues are much less likely to turn into full-fledged problems. The first step to resolving conflict is to gather your team together and ask some of the following questions:
“What problems or challenges are we facing as a team?”
“What opportunities should we take advantage of in the next few months?”
“What is preventing us from working together effectively?”
“What is our purpose as a team?”
“Are we able to achieve that purpose right now?”
“How can we be more effective?”
“If you have a conflict with someone else on the team, how do you deal with it?”
“Do you feel as if you can come to me to talk about a problem you are having with someone else on the team?”
“How can I encourage you to perform better as a team?”
If you are aware of serious ongoing conflicts among your team members, you might need to have some one-on-one conversations before you hold a team meeting. Some team members may be unwilling to bring up their issues with others on the team, especially if this is the first time you have asked them to do so. In those cases, it may be best to meet with the troubled member prior to the team meeting, so you can get a full understanding of the conflict. Also, if there is a team member that you know is causing tension or strife, you should meet with that person beforehand and take steps to coach him or her to demonstrate the appropriate behaviors.
At this point, you might be starting to worry that you are going to end up spending all of your time solving your team members’ problems. This is definitely not what we are advising. Once you have met with your team and established a consensus to operate as an effective team, you can turn much of the problem solving over to the members themselves. For example, one of the most frequent complaints a manager hears is, “I’m behind because I don’t have the work I need from another team member.” When managers hear this, they often get involved to rectify the situation. Of course, we would love it if our employees were able to address this situation on their own, but we cannot expect them to do this unless we give them the tools.
Excerpted with permission of the publisher John Wiley & Sons, Inc., www.wiley.com, from “Questions That Get Results: Innovative Ideas Managers Can Use to Improve Their Teams’ Performance” by Paul Cherry and Patrick Connor of Performance Based Results LLC © 2011
Paul Cherry (Wilmington, DE) is managing partner and founder of Performance Based Results, an international sales and leadership training organization. With 20 years’ experience in organizational development and performance improvement strategies, Cherry has coached more than 1,200 companies including Blue Cross, Shell Oil, Wells Fargo, Hilton, Johnson & Johnson, Harley Davidson, and Philips, as well as more than 400,000 individuals. On average, his clients report a 20:1 return on investment by putting his strategies into action. Cherry is the author of “Questions That Sell” and a guest instructor at the Iacocca Institute at Lehigh University and the University of Phoenix. http://www.pbresults.com/
Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulCherryPBR
Patrick Connor (Wilmington, DE), as managing partner at Performance Based Results, is responsible for the development, delivery, and reinforcement of training. With more than 25 years of experience in sales and executive leadership, Connor has trained 500,000-plus individuals and clients, including corporate executives, government employees, academics, and Olympic coaches and has conducted programs for the manufacturing, transportation, banking, pharmaceuticals, and health-care industries.