We all tend to have at least one employee in our team doing things without understanding them. We explain, then write it down in an e-mail, discuss with that employee what we expect to see as a final result, align the time frame for the final product to be received, and then when the deadline approaches, we receive a product that is far away from our expectations. A conversation with the employee follows to understand that they have understood different things than the ones we have discussed and do not even understand what not delivering results or a product in the expected format will cause.
What many leaders do in such situations is ignore the problem. With time passing, this problem does not solve but raises new issues. And that all happens until we reach a point where there is no solution but to erase it aggressively and as fast as possible.
The leader demonstrated that ignoring the problem or leaving with it is a common technique of self-defense, but his technique always moves the situation into a deeper conflict.
J. Bershin has said it clearly: “What we ignore today can cause us to suffer tomorrow.” To ensure balance in relationships at work, leaders need to focus on helping the employees become goal achievers instead of acting like robotized machines.
There are several things a leader can do to secure the best future performance for the team while working with the team members.
ASSESS AND ACT ON KNOWLEDGE
Many teams struggle to achieve results because people do not have specific knowledge crucial for doing the work. No matter how experienced we are, we always miss something in our work. And if the leader wants to build a high-achieving team, then knowing what the team has as a piece of theoretical knowledge is a must-go-trough start. Assessing the level of expertise is also helpful in understanding what results the crew can achieve now and where the leader must start from to secure the future, and strategic results will also be achieved.
ASSESS AND ACT ON SKILLS
Years ago, I had a colleague of mine, who passed the Project management fundamentals course six times, but did not do anything to transform the knowledge into practice. That caused discomfort for him while being promoted to new roles and slowed the team’s success when he had to work on projects.
Knowledge is a good start, but the second category the leader must look at is the one that shows how people the teamwork. There are many cases well known when the team member has passed through a training course, has gotten his certificate, and then nothing taught in the class has ever been implemented in practice. Practical skills are the element that makes people and teams successful. This is what builds know-how. If people lack skills, then the leader’s job is to ensure there will be enough space and opportunities for them to make that missing skills
ASSESS AND ACT ON ATTITUDE AND VALUES
Once there was a very productive and successful player in one of the teams I led. But as effective and influential this person was, his values differed from the officially declared company values. The person achieved results but was neglected by others and disconnected from everything happening in the company’s life. Once this person needed help, no one answered his requests. After less than a month, we had a new colleague, and the team started working better than before. The story looks like a cliché but is true. Unfortunately, many leaders and teams tolerate distant behaviors “just to get the work done.” The leader of the team has responsibility for the team members. No matter how hard the goals look or what type of pressure and dynamics the environment brings, people who are not a good value fit and demonstrate unacceptable behavior are more stoppers than supporters of teams’ progress. If the leader wants to have a high-achieving team, he has to act with integrity and be honest about everything he identifies within the group. If there are skills and knowledge, but the attitude is not acceptable, then a clear conversation must set rules for achievements and behavior demonstrated. Compromising with a bad mood or lack of values creates a toxic environment where trust and success are replenished with unethical behavior and a lack of team spirit. And these last two can quickly turn a high-performing team into a black hole.
REMOVE THE OBSTACLE
It sounds rude, but when the leader sees that acting supportive does not lead to positive change, he must go to the endpoint where there is no return. To heal a wound, we use medicines. To recover a team, if the peals of knowledge, skills, attitude and values do not work, we will need to operate and extract the wooden place. The leader must actively act on replacing people who do not fit into the team to ensure mental balance and higher results. In this step, tough decisions must be taken, but what shows the leader’s real value are these tough decisions. No matter the situation, acting with integrity and making the decisions that need to be made is critical to engaging the team with the future success to be achieved.
Every leader and team reaches a point where results become from excellent not so good or not satisfying. At these moments, the leader is the one who must actively search, find and implement the best solution, according to the situation. Teams operate as small high-tech machines. They are perfect until time passes, and some of the wheels do not stop delivering the same result as the more prominent machine (the organization) needs it. At these moments, the leader’s behavior is the one to make or break the team’s cohesiveness and drive to achieve results.