Every manager faces it–those times when your team is not behaving like a well-oiled machine and you finally have to step in to do something about it–or him, or her, or the situation. Before you make any decisions, get away from the noise and ask yourself a few questions, like these.
Is this a short term problem?
In some cases, an individual may start behaving in a less than effective way, but only for a short time. This can be due to personal issues of all kinds, or a short term health issue, etc. If the person is usually cooperative, and you know of extenuating circumstances, you might try to be extra gracious during that window of time when their normal patience and kindness is not as evident (i.e. while their husband/son is deployed, while they get elderly parents into assisted living, while their child is ill, etc.)
Is it time to step in?
Although sometimes you can wait (see first point), often it is better to deal with problems in their early stages. Approach the offending team member with questions, privately. Draw them out to find out what may be motivating their recent behavior. This is easier if you’ve already established regular meeting times with this individual so an issue can be addressed as part of the normal course of reviewing their work, for example. Keeping “short accounts” can protect situations from becoming very harsh and more difficult to work around.
Do I need to involve others?
A team leader needs to be observant and a good listener, so he/she can consider whether a problem is happening with more than one member of the team. For example, if you start having several people coming to you individually about the same individual, you may need to ask each person the same set of questions, write down notes, and see if there are any consistencies with the complaints. In other cases, you may not need to involve anyone else, but instead prepare to meet with the person based on your own observation.
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Am I the problem?
Do some self-examination to assess if you are going through a difficult time and taking it out on your team. Get the help you need for everyone’s sake.
Ask yourself these questions when facing a team problem so you can take the appropriate steps to mitigate it quickly. I offer team building consultations…let me know if I can help!