Don't Make Me Turn This Team Around!
Jun 16, 2018
Managing a team sometimes feels like a long vacation in a crowded station wagon in the middle of July. If you're part of the team, you're crammed in the backseat with your "siblings" and trying to vie for personal space and attention. If you're the manager, you're trying to drive the team to your destination while managing their many needs throughout the trip. You resolve disputes, you provide nourishment, you adjust the temperature, you navigate, and you do everything you can to make sure they grow personally and learn from the experience.
How do you decide who gets to sit by the window, and who gets to choose the music? When one of the team is disruptive, how do you handle it? While some may be hesitant to compare team management with parenting, there are many similarities and crossovers. There are managers who dictate and don't ask the opinions and thoughts of the team, but instead feel like they know best and should make all the decisions for everyone. Then there are those who welcome the thoughts of the team members, collaborating and integrating the many aspects of team. Team members, as individuals, go through phases of needing more, or less, attention and guidance. Sometimes they thrive on their own, and sometimes they need direction. Some want to try new things, learn new skills, and venture out of their usual path. Others want predictability and routine, and the security of knowing what to expect every day.
With the whole team in the same vehicle, on the same trip, headed to the same destination, it can be a challenge to meet each individual's unique and varying needs, while accomplishing the mission, and keeping everything on course. Here are a few helpful hints to make the trip go as smoothly as possible:
- Sit the team down together before beginning the trip, and show them the map - the starting the point, and the destination. Show them the viable options and routes for going from one to another, and let them have some input and discussion on which route might be best. You're the manager, so you are responsible and make the final decision, but let everyone know the big goal, the options and possible consequences of each, where opportunities and obstacles may lie, and then by deciding the right path together, everyone is knowingly and willingly going the same direction.
- Prepare the team for possible setbacks. If you tell kids on a trip that it will take 8 hours, and you run into construction, traffic, a flat tire, a delayed dinner time, etc., and the trip ends up getting you to your destination 2 hours late... those last 2 hours will be nearly impossible to deal with. The kids' expectation is for 8 hours. Anything over that pushes them outside their expectations and seems like a difficulty and an inconvenience. As delays and obstacles occur, throughout the mission, the more clearly you communicate each delay to the team, the more easily they will flex and bend and transition into the new plan and the new expectation for arrival.
- Give the team something to look forward to. Whether it's the final destination, rewards along the way that encourage learning from the experience, or a team accomplishment worth working toward, give them a goal. Having something to work toward as a team bonds individuals. Having something to look forward to helps a team unit, and individuals, stick with the mission through the rougher parts of it.
- Acknowledge good contributions to the mission. Whether it's good behavior from a kid on a trip, or a team member who works with a great attitude and always looks to problem-solve rather than focusing on obstacles, acknowledge and announce those team members who are very clearly working to be a contributing member of the team. This encourages that strong team member, but also helps set an example for the others as to your expectations.
- Quickly correct counter-productive behavior. Don't let one team member bring down the rest of the team by allowing them to continue negative behavior . Stop it as soon as you see it, and do what you can to correct it and help the individual grow and learn what the team needs and what you expect from its members.
- Be flexible. Somebody, at some point along the way, is going to have to stop the whole vehicle because they have to pee or puke, RIGHT NOW... and can't wait. So everyone must stop to meet the need of that individual before the group can continue. Ignoring issues, pretending obstacles don't exist, and making team members suffer unnecessarily doesn't keep progress going forward... it breaks down the team. Stop, make the investment in time and energy to care for an individual's needs, so that they can rejoin the team in a stronger way and then the team can proceed forward together.
- Communicate progress along the way. Don't just start a mission and then work the team members through to the end, and then one day announce that you're done. Communicate clearly, regularly, and honestly with the team about progress and changing goals and needs, if any. Communication builds trust.
Teams need a leader, and strong leadership brings about the best in the individual team members as well as building the strength of the team unit. Think about what kind of leader you are with your team. Do you lead with a vision, growing and developing your team members, looking for their future strength and independence? Or do you just want followers who simply do what you direct them to, who don't want or need anything from you other than further instruction? Or are you somewhere in between? Based on your leadership style, what types of individual team members and team units are you building? What is your goal for your team and its members?
Every team needs a leader, every leader needs strong team members. They build on each other - "as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another." (Proverbs 27:17)
Ms. Morgan is the founder and Executive Training Director of Academy Hour, a training provider offering mental health & leadership courses to law enforcement, first response teams and public safety personnel. She is pursuing a Doctorate of Education: Global Training & Development degree, has earned a Master's degree in Counseling, and holds a Bachelor's of Science in Behavioral Sciences. She previously served as the Training Officer for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. Ms. Morgan is LEFR (Law Enforcement First Responder) certified, as well as being trained as Armed Private Investigator and Security.
Ms. Morgan writes/publishes therapy resource workbooks & training materials, and serves as a member of the International Public Safety Association's Mental Health Committee, and as a subject matter expert and presenter of leadership & mental health training sessions for the International Public Safety Association and the Justice Clearinghouse. Ms. Morgan also serves as a curriculum developer and instructor of mental health courses for the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training in Oklahoma. Ms. Morgan is a certified trainer for Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), and is trained as a QPR (Question Persuade Refer) trainer as well as a Crisis Prevention Institute Non-Violent Physical Crisis Intervention trainer. Additionally, she is Oklahoma Supreme Court certified as a civil mediator, and she has achieved Mensa membership status.