For this last glimpse of Winnie and Winston’s workplace, let’s take a look through Winnie’s eyes.
From Winnie’s perspective, she’s forced to lead an under-performing team of blamers and complainers. Winnie’s pride, and perhaps her job, is at stake. She perceives that Winston plays a leading role in her difficulties with his habit of offering unsolicited advice in front of the others.
This article is one in a series about the workplace. You can find the first article in the series here.
Winnie knows that she has to make changes. While she perceives that she’s stuck with a difficult team, it’s up to her to make it work. She’s the leader; she’s responsible. What can she do?
Let’s ask Winnie she wants. “I want to lead a successful team!”
What, specifically, defines “success” for Winnie? That is, “If you had a successful team, what would they be doing? What would you be doing?”
Winnie thinks that’s obvious. “I wouldn’t have people complaining about every little thing, People wouldn’t blame others when something goes wrong. And I wouldn’t have Winston always piping up with some know-it-all comment.”
OK. Winnie’s clear on what she doesn’t want. Let’s try to uncover what she does want. With further thought, Winnie decides that she wants “…a productive team who get along with each other and with me, where each person takes responsibility for their work. And I’d like the team to innovate, to keep improving.”
What has Winnie been doing? “When Winston complains, he riles up the team; then they all start complaining. So I just shut that down. Talk like that does no good.”
Is this behaviour leading Winnie toward what she wants? “No. If anything, it’s getting worse.”
What can she do that would be more effective? It may help Winnie to hear the following observation from the book, “Using Lead Management on Purpose” by Ken Pierce.
“Most workers are used to talking about their problems, but they are not used to getting effective help with them. Most of the advice they get… reinforces what is usually their initial opinion: the problem is someone else’s fault.”
One option Winnie could try is to ask her team, “What could I do that would help you be more successful?” And as she recognizes that team meetings haven’t been working well, she might be more effective asking, listening, and discussing the question with each member individually.
Winnie may get an earful (especially from Winston)! Her team may perceive that they are criticized but never helped, and that she wants to squeeze every ounce of work from them with no appreciation for their efforts.
She may also hear some wonderfully innovative ideas. Further, if she can shift her perception of Winston away from “he’s threatening my authority” to “he’s a creative contributor who simply needs guidance,” she may be on her way toward having the innovative team that she wants.
What do you think? Is it true that workers aren’t used to getting effective help with their work-related problems?