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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fixing a dysfunctional team...from the inside

In my last post, Tascha, the manager I've been writing about, was working on the relationship with her boss, Jim (and before that she was working on building her team...she's been very busy with all that relationship stuff...).

Guess what? Tascha has been working hard on building that relationship with Jim and has had some level of success. It's amazing. Success has definitely led to success for her. First she got positive response from her team and then from Jim. Tascha is on a roll and doesn't want to lose momentum. Therefore she's going after another group where the relationships are pretty dysfunctional -- the one with her peer managers.

You see, Tascha is one of 1/2 dozen managers who report to Jim. One of the reasons Tascha thought Jim was such a jerk was because, instead of working to build a cohesive team with the managers, he seemed to like them to be at odds with each other. Tascha isn't really sure why, but maybe it's because Jim doesn't know what else to do and when the managers are fighting with each other, they're not ganging up on him.

What can Tascha do to help build a team where she's just one of the members and where nobody trusts anyone else? She feels it would be easier to do if she were the boss, but she doesn't want that obstacle to get in the way.

She's looking for guidance. Here are a few ideas (and you've seen them before) with a two-pronged approach:


WIIFM (What's in it for me): Help the boss understand how a strong, committed team can help HIM be successful. He needs to understand that people will respond to him (who doesn't like that?) and that this will make him look good and get him promoted (and who doesn't want that?).
Resources: There's a good chance that Jim doesn't know what to do to be a good boss and build a great team. Tascha needs to be willing to share the resources she's found and developed, when building her team, with her boss.
Credit: Tascha has to be OK with Jim getting all the credit for any success and even encourage the limelight being on him. He needs to feel the success and it will hopefully make life better for everyone.


Trust: Once bitten, twice shy, so reach out. Tascha needs to take a chance and be open with her fellow managers, but be careful because it might take a while for them to be able to pull their talons back and trust her. A great way to start building/repairing is to do something for each of the other managers while expecting nothing in return. Take small steps and work on one or two of the colleagues at a time.
Empathy: Tascha being able to put herself in the other managers' shoes is key in building any relationship and the effort has to be sincere.
WIIFM: Just like above with Jim, Tascha's coworkers need to understand what's in it for them to build a relationship with her, personally, as well with the rest of the team. You'd think it would be obvious, but unfortunately that's not always the case.

A very big challenge for Tascha is having the finesse and smarts to pull this off. She has to use her leadership skills to help the others feel good about what's happening and maybe even feel like whatever good things are happening are because of them (like it's all their idea).

I have to applaud Tascha. She is definitely working to better her organization and her life both vertically and horizontally. There will always be opportunities for this kind of work in any organization. What about you? Are you ready to be the catalyst for change like Tascha?

What are your thoughts?

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