Watch My Lips #1 – Why Doesn’t My Team Do What’s Been Agreed?

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Watch My Lips

Do you ever get frustrated that your people are stalling on what needs to happen to keep team performance on track? Does it drive you mad that what should be so simple for highly paid senior professionals ends up being so complicated? How often do have to forfeit preparation for a board meeting because a preventable crisis emerges in the team?

Reassuringly perhaps these experiences and feelings are pretty normal for global leaders. Sometimes of course the reasons are straightforward e.g. you’ve got the wrong people on the team or there has been a sudden change in market conditions. But you might be surprised about this: research1 tells us that it’s far more likely to do with our behaviours as leaders that is to blame . If team performance is eluding us, a large part of the problem is us. And conversely, in the area of key metrics like financial performance, organizations with the highest quality leaders were 13 times more likely to outperform their industry competitors. So that’s great news as it means we can do something about our teams that are not performing well. But where to begin?

I propose you start with yourself and ask what you could so more of, what you might stop doing and what you need to introduce that’s new altogether.

Here are three great questions to take you closer to that elusive smooth team performance:

    1. How clearly have you articulated your vision? Have you recognised that people need it described in different ways according to their thinking style. In a recent post about understanding individual brain types I outlined how using a diagnostic tool like Katherine Benziger’s thinking style assessment can help identify the best conditions for you to be ‘in the zone’ and to increase your awareness of how that might be radically different from your colleagues. If, for example you have very clear images in your head, you may need to take a step back and translate that into more of a process for people who do not think in this way. Similarly, you may connect up ideas which seem obviously compatible to you but incomprehensible to others. Remember, few people do telepathy!
    2. Are you unwittingly using negative bias with any of your team? Sometimes we can assume that a particular employee is naturally bad at his or her job. Often rooted in personality clashes, we then subconsciously look for information to back up that viewpoint, rather than letting data and observation discern what is really going on.  This then influences our relationship with that person and ultimately how valued they feel and how much discretionary effort they are prepared to give.
    3. How much attention are you paying to cultural differences? If you are delegating to people in whose culture individual initiative is not typically encouraged, or even allowed, what additional work might you have to put in order make it safe for them to go ahead and act? If you as a leader have been brought up to communicate very indirectly – “I’m sorry to trouble you but would it would be great if the report was finished quite soon?” –  then some of your team won’t recognise a task as urgent and required unless you are succinct and to the point –  “Jessica, we need the report finished and submitted by Thursday at 6pm EST. Can you commit to that?” –  how might you need to change your communication style?

Look out for for more powerful questions to test how robust your agreement process is whether you are doing enough to engage on a personal level in my next blog.

For more information on the work Clare McNamara does with leaders and their teams please click here.

© Move Ahead Global 2014



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Series NavigationWatch My Lips #2 – Three Ways To Step Up Team Performance >>

  1. DDI Global Forecast 2011 

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