Welcome to Part 3 of our series, Building a Kick-Ass Team From the Ground Up. So far we covered the initial two foundational phases of building a kick-ass team: The Start Up Phase and Building the Team Identity. Now, it’s time to talk about everyone’s favourite topic – conflict!
So you have a solid team that’s working together. They know what they need to do and they have a good sense of how to do it.
Perfect! Or is it?
This is the time where bumps in the road to success are most likely to appear.
Think of team building like first starting to ride a bike without training wheels. Once you’re up and first rolling along, you may begin to wobble. Careful you don't overcorrect in an attempt to save yourself or you’re going to fall flat on your face…
Here’s how to handle your team’s wobbly period the right way:
Right now is the single most important time for you as a leader to really be present! Since this is when your team is actually settling in, the dynamics of different people sets off a whole chain of events and awkward reactions. Make sure you’re easily accessible and frequently visible so you can address concerns immediately.
Kick-Ass Team Tip - MBWA:
Ever heard of MBWA? Management By Walking Around is a great success habit for any leader. An unstructured random walk around to check in with your team demonstrates interest; it’s a deliberate strategy to get to know your people and will give you a chance to redirect and course-correct as friction develops.
As different personalities emerge, conflict and power struggles will surely arise. This period is when you’ll hear the most resistance from your people and a lot of questioning about why and how you and/or the company are doing things.
In addition, polarization or splinter groups can occur as your people start to choose who they like and who they don’t. In worst-case scenarios, you may even encounter open and vocal power struggles, which can be very difficult to manage.
Manage through this challenging phase using these T.E.A.M. strategies…
1. Talk it Out
We always filter what we hear based on our own personal vantage point, coloured by previous experiences and jaded by our own distinct behavioural style. During this phase of your team building process you may notice your team divides as some disagree with approaches or just need to be heard before they ‘buy in’.
Before a team can really work well together, you may have to help them work through their differences, and the best way to do that is by talking it out.
Bring the team together to discuss issues that seem to cause confusion or frustration. You’ll need to actively listen, hear out the root issues vs. just the conflict then facilitate the solution. In some cases you may have to veto the dissent. If so, bring the team back to the norms discussed in Part Two. The more you can reinforce HOW the team should deal with issues together, the better.
2. Eat Together
This may seem like an odd strategy for building a team, but I assure you, the more often you eat together, the higher the camaraderie and engagement!
The concept of ‘breaking bread’ may have a spiritual connotation to some, but the truth is, when you eat with a group of people, it creates an environment of meaningful social interaction.
Eating together improves connectedness at a basic human level, and as such, people’s ego’s leave the room. Everyone opens up and gets to know each other on an even playing field.
Consider these inexpensive ideas for eating together as a team:
There isn’t a human alive who doesn’t want to be appreciated. Being valued helps us reinforce our own sense of personal self worth.
When someone has noticed you, or you’ve been acknowledged for your work, you’ll feel well respected and more important. AND, as a result, you’ll want stay part of such as kick ass team!
According to Gallup Research, “The best managers promote a recognition-rich environment, with praise coming from every direction and everyone aware of how others like to receive appreciation. This type of employee feedback should be frequent -- Gallup recommends every seven days -- and timely to ensure that the employee knows the significance of the recent achievement and to reinforce company values.”
Kick Ass Team Tip - Appreciation
During this somewhat stress-filled period, you’ll likely be pulled in many directions – you’re going to be a very popular person! In order to provide the comfort and assurance your team are looking for, it’s important to host regular check-in meetings.
There’s also another reason why regularly scheduled (and attended!) meetings will pay off. Believe it or not, it’s one of the key ingredients in developing THE single most important factor of a kick ass team – trust.
Your team wants to, and needs to, hear from you…often. Don’t assume they are fine to just get to work – right now is when your team needs your connection and oversight the most. Through this phase you’ll want to set more touch points than usual so you can manage expectations, head off issues and communicate progress or changes.
Kick Ass Team Tip - Meeting Etiquette:
Ideal Meetings for Kick Ass Teams (Yes all of these during team formation!)
The Bust Through Barriers phase of team formation can be a very draining time for you as a leader. You may be called upon to referee and manage conflict and be pulled in multiple directions. It is a vital time for your team and can be a make it or break it period in the dynamics of your team. Give Dots Leadership Solutions a call if you need help, we can do individual behavioural assessments, facilitate meetings or work through conflict and coach you through difficult conversations.
We want to hear from you - comment below about your own experience going through this conflict filled phase about how you busted through the barriers?
Lookout for the next chapter in the series - Building a Kick-Ass Team From the Ground Up – Part 4 – Kum Ba YES! This is the phase when team identity really comes through, everyone understands why they are on the team, there are established rules and processes and the team culture really begins to come to life. Now your role as the leader takes on a slightly different course of action.
Elaine Adamson is a leadership consultant with Dots Leadership Solutions Inc. A natural dot connector. Passionate about coaching team effectiveness and leadership development she shares over 25+ years of real-life tips and tricks that really work!
Elaine believes you can discover and leverage strengths to forge a strong team dynamic despite business challenges or organizational change.