There I was at work: a team member said something that sounded like fearful gossip about another team (examples are in numbered headings below).
While fear-mongering and gossip does occur in the workplace, there’s a skill in correctly managing these interactions.
Sometimes, these are opportunities to discuss concerns that are or could be impacting project success.
Team leadership improves and organizational risk falls as team leaders learn to hear team member concerns, team members feel heard, and they begin working together to address the concerns (or determine they’re really fears or other things that don’t have direct impact on the operation).
When we explore productive interactions around team member concerns:
- We show that we take the concern seriously, and we strengthen relationships within the team.
- We earn greater ownership and commitment from team members.
- Team members begin to see their concerns as opportunities to improve risk and issue management, and they learn to escalate risks and issues more quickly.
- Teams develop more of the skills of high performance teaming, and they address concerns when it matters most: early in the project life cycle.
4 Things Team Members Say That Show They’re Engaged And Committed (And How To Support Them)
1. I’m Afraid We May Not Be Able To Meet Our Schedule
Work with the team to quickly check requirements, estimates, and schedule. Reach an understanding about whether their view is correct. In my experience, teams who voluntarily raise this concern are usually in good shape. Contrast this with teams who have been put in no-win situations. The same goes for teams in organizations where trust and teaming are low. In these situations, limited communications, secret-keeping, and passive-aggressive behavior are more likely.
Take appropriate mitigating action.
2. We’re Afraid It May Be Impossible To Do What We’ve Committed To Do
Like the above example, this is commonly a team that is uncertain about what else to do. With a little brainstorming and a few more days, I have never seen a team in this place fail. Of course, these were teams that had previously made the commitment about the scope of their work. Like the above example, if the team was handed this obligation and had no opportunity to take part in product definition and design early in the project, the communication pattern might be different, or nonexistent.
3. We Think Another Team May Not Know What They Need To Know
4. We Think Another Team May Not Be Doing What They Need To Be Doing
Early in my career, I took this as gossip or fear-mongering, and I took no action. This was a mistake. Now, I invite key members of each team to a quick chat to discuss overall progress, requirements, and design. In my experience, both teams are usually on track, and both teams learn something that enables them to improve performance. As an added bonus, the teams now have a shared conduit directly to one another, and they’ll usually collaborate going forward. Initially, I found it odd that teams sometimes need an introduction to one another in this format. This made more sense when I considered that many people appreciate an invitation. They don’t want to have to show up to an event or conversation cold and uninvited.
What communications have you seen or heard, that might be easy to dismiss, and are actually opportunities to strengthen relationships and collaboration on your team?