Whether it happens in our personal lives or in the workplace, it is normal to dread having hard conversations – it’s a commitment and a daily practice to choose courage over comfort. However, as previously discussed, part of leading a team is having the courage and tact to have the hard conversations and address the not so popular topics in a way that edifices the team and helps find resolution.
Even when your team reaches a very cohesive structure, you are still going to have someone who’s not perfectly engaged or that is even disruptive at any given time. Again, we are dealing with humans and if one thing is certain, is that humans are constantly changing and evolving (they might as well devolve from time to time).
By now we have established the importance of really getting to know the people in your team in order to build rapport, which will help to start building the blocks that will get your team further. Building a bulletproof team requires intention and daily nurturing.
However, more often than not, your team will go through ups and downs. Whether it is work-related stress or due to events outside of the work environment, the people affected will deviate from their normal selves. They may be more distracted or quieter than usual, or even more prone to aggressiveness. That doesn’t make them bad people. Part of the job of the leader is to ensure the well-being of the members of the team.
If you have the pulse of the team, you will easily be able to identify these behavioral changes. When you do, be mindful not to pry, yet ensure that your team member knows that you are there if they need to talk. On the other hand, they may come to you for advice; which gives you now an even bigger responsibility. You see, opening up is not always easy, but if you have earned that level of trust with them, focus on listening and guarding their confidence.
Remember the importance of listening…listen and limit yourself to asking questions to further clarify the topic at hand. Unless their issue is the need for upgraded machinery, support with backordered material or a job related escalation, your job is not to solve their problem, but to help them figure things out, so they can resolve it on their own.
This is critical for two reasons: Number one, you don’t want to be at fault if the advice you’re so selflessly shared, ends up making things worse. Number two, that old adage about teaching people to fish, instead of giving them fish. Your role as a leader is to develop and mentor those under your responsibility. Leaders create leaders and leaders are problem-solvers. You see, certain life seasons require us to reach a level of maturity to surpass them, and more likely than not, these may involve some level of heartache, it’s okay. We all need to go through certain situations in order to grow and if we don’t, we won’t be properly equipped for the challenges waiting for us down the road. Remember that cutting corners is never okay, and this is one of those cases in which going through is the only way to go.
I’m not by any means a gamer, if anything, I’m the complete opposite, but for the sake of clarity, let’s use a video game as an example to illustrate this idea. The concept around video games is that you have to go through different levels, in which you have to surpass certain obstacles and challenges in order to obtain certain tokens or keys that allow you to unlock the next level with the respective tools and weapons needed to survive in that given environment.
It’s the same with going through life and figuring out things on our own. With your team, helping them figure out who they are becoming and which tools they should be equipping themselves with, in order to advance to their next endeavor is 100% your job, but giving those tools to them without letting them work for them will instead be a disservice.
In one of my teams I had identified one of the technicians to have great aptitude for training into more complex manufacturing processes, yet I had been told he wasn’t interested in developing further. I found it very strange and while having a one on one with him, I suggested we try out such training, to which he completely agreed. He became the best in the team, great skills, consistent quality, with a preparedness and process follow-through second to none, this allowed me to improve his working conditions as the added value he was producing for the company, more than justified it. A few years later I learned from HR that my predecessor and that individual used to bump heads all the time and that there was a push from the manager (I would not use the term leader so loosely) to get rid of this individual, I’m glad he didn’t.
As leaders it is so critical that we identify if a negative behavior is driven by the team member’s lack of interest or by the leader’s inability to inspire them. At the same time, keep in mind that skills can be trained, but certain behaviors are innate and unless the person really works at it, are very difficult to permanently change. In equal amounts, poor behavior and poor performance are extremely detrimental to the success of any team. Bulletproof teams focus on eliminating both.
As JD Roberts, college and professional football coach once said, “when there is no consequences for poor work ethic, and no rewards for good work ethic, there is no motivation”
Thanks for reading and God bless,