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Team Problem Solving

As with most of today's leaders you probably have the good fortune of having very bright, well educated and capable team members. That's the good news. The difficulties that arise with that benefit is many times these employees, whether they are managers or individual contributors, believe that they have the best solutions. On one end of the spectrum they passionately argue their strong opinions, are inflexible in hearing other options and unwilling to compromise. At the other end, they offer their suggestions, listen politely but secretly remain attached to their point of view while they go along with the dominant team member's opinion, afraid to risk dissenting, but don't really commit to their solution.

Neither of these behaviors gets the team to the best productive solutions. It's likely that you have seen this at some point in your career. I remember hearing from a witness that I consider to be honest and not taken to exaggeration of a manager so passionately engaged in disagreement with the remainder of the management team that he banged his shoe on the conference table to emphasis the strength of his opinion. It was explained to me that he was from New Jersey and so this "in your face" behavior was tolerated. How scary is that?

What can you do to be intentional and lead your team to something is done, for example, it is useful to just say so and allow the others who do have considerations to find a compromise. It is easier to arrive at a compromise with fewer opinions.

In addition, the format of the meetings - the meeting room, using an agenda, facilitator, attendees, ground rules etc. should be consistent every time so that the participants are clear about the expectations for the purpose and anticipated outcome of the meeting. I also recommend that the team be cognizant about how much time should be spent on discussion of a topic. This allows the team to have consideration of the value of time compared to the import of the topic being decided upon.

Do you have time critical decisions to make with your team? Having a trained facilitator is an enormous support for teams so that all members may contribute and not have the added burden of leading, facilitating and participating.

Team Problem Solving Tip
Intentionally building trust in the workplace is one of the most significant actions a leader can take to increase team effectiveness. This is done by displaying predictable behaviors to your team members over time. Studies reveal that employees report they are less stressed and more confident with a boss who is tough but consistent, meaning they know where they stand and what to expect rather than a boss who is congenial all the time but unpredictable in her/his decisions and policies.