Reason 9 – Ideas to Try

They Make You Work with People You Can’t Stand

Some key questions to ask yourself and your team.

Basic, really important ones:

  1. Have we looked after all of our task issues?
  2. Are interpersonal issues really affecting the performance of our team?
  3. Do the people involved in these issues want to resolve them?
  4. Who can we ask for help?

Interesting ones:

  1. Why do people not get along on our team?
  2. Are the interpersonal challenges we have caused internally with the team or externally?
  3. Are YOU the common denominator in the interpersonal challenges?
  4. Do we engage in conflict effectively?

Key points of this reason to hate work teams:

  • If you are working with category 1 interpersonal issues, keep in mind you are in essence learning a new language. It takes practice and your team is accountable for that practice.
  • Most category 2 interpersonal issues will be deeply rooted in some kind of a power dynamic and are complex and personal. Get help.
  • For the rest of the organization, team performance matters more than if the team likes each other.

Discussion and comment points for this post:

  1. How have you effectively dealt with a team where interpersonal issues override any other focus?
  2. Do you have one good ‘I can’t stand my team mate’ story? Go ahead, VENT! (Names will be edited out, except for the poster’s name)
  3. Have you experienced a situation where fixing a task issue has resolved what seemed to be interpersonal issues?
  4. What’s your best tip on dealing with style or preference issues?

Reason 9

20121022_105221They Make You Work with People You Can’t Stand

Of all the reasons to hate work teams this is one of the most obvious and the least talked about. We all have people we can’t stand. How is it that they inevitably end up on a team with us?

Teams are supposed to be cohesive units of highly effective individuals. Admitting you would like to rip the face off your teammate would only prove you are not a good team player which would likely put you at odds with one of the ‘core competencies’ of your organization. So it’s better just not to admit it, or go underground with your comments and slander the individual that way. Feelings however, have a nasty way of leaking and finding outlets. You might find yourself disagreeing with everything the person says, dismantling with flawless logic every idea they have, deviously and subtly pointing out how  they are the barrier to effectiveness but never, ever admit you can’t stand the sight of them.

Guess what. No one really cares if you like everyone on the team or not. As long as the team is effectively meeting its objectives, the seething rage you feel at the sight of your teammate is your problem. Maybe you’ve heard that if the people on a team don’t get along, the team can’t be as effective as it might be. Who can argue with that? It’s obvious and that’s the problem. Too many teams go through elaborate measures to address pretty obvious interpersonal problems and have done very little to understand what task they should be working on. A team whose members hate each other, but nevertheless work on a clear objective will be much more valuable than a team that does group hugs and has no idea what they’re doing. Get your task stuff clear first and then work on the interpersonal stuff. You’ll encounter fewer interpersonal issues if you go about things in this order, since a lot of interpersonal issues are really task or performance issues in disguise.

One exception. On occasion a team will have such problematic interpersonal issues that nothing else can be effectively focused on.  Every time you try to focus on the work issues the interpersonal black hole just sucks that focus into the blackness.  It’s not often that teams get to this point but if they do then you do need to sort out this mess before moving on.

There are really two types of interpersonal issues:

  1. Those based in style or preference.
  2. Those based on weird stuff.

Both require one critical factor to resolve them – all parties must want to resolve them. If this is not the case, not only do you have an interpersonal problem, you have a performance problem; with the person(s) not wanting to resolve it.

In the work world probably 95% of interpersonal issues fall into category 1 and can be effectively addressed without too much trouble. Thank heavens category 2 is only 5% because they are weird enough that it can be a big challenge to deal with, especially if they play out with someone in power.

Category 1 interpersonal issues usually require some version of better understanding the style or preference diversity in a team and how to best work with that diversity. There are countless ways of going about this and in essence the team is learning a new language to understand behavior. Like learning any new language it takes time, application, repetition and context. Often an external resource is helpful, just like with learning any language. A half day workshop won’t do the trick. It might get things started but the team will have to keep it going.

Category 2 issues are complex, often loaded with baggage that is hard to surface and likely harder to resolve. That’s why they are weird. Go get outside help. Your not learning a new language here, an old language is being forgotten and a new one invented.

Keep in mind 95% of interpersonal issues are category 1; don’t assume category 2 until all else has failed, including dealing with the issue as a performance issue.  Also, even when you are dealing with interpersonal issues, don’t take your eye and focus off the task at hand. When it comes right down to it, no one else in the organization cares about the interpersonal issues on your team. They care about the team producing results.

Discussion and comment points for this post:

  1. How have you effectively worked with interpersonal issues on a team?
  2. Have you ever worked on a team where members really didn’t like each other? Tell us the story!
  3. Have you ever seen an interpersonal issue resolved by making it a performance issue?
  4. When interpersonal issues go underground, what things have you done to deal with this?

Reason 8 – Ideas to Try

They Take Months to Make a Decision That Could Have Been Made in Minutes

Some key questions to ask yourself and your team.

Basic, really important ones:

  1. How important is this decision? You might want to use the following scale as a rough guideline.Importance scale
  2. Does the time it is taking to make this decision match the importance of the decision?
  3. How much time do we have to make this decision? Is it an appropriate amount?
  4. Is this a ‘what’ decision, a ‘why’ decision or a ‘how’ decision?

Interesting ones:

  1. How do we keep our objectivity in determining how important a decision really is?
  2. Would we like to be making decisions further to the right of the scale above or not?
  3. Do we have a good balance in using or not using team tools?
  4. Are we using team tools and simply not naming them as such?

Key points of this reason to hate work teams:

  • If no more relevant information concerning an issue is likely to come forward, then make a decision. Don’t wait longer for information that you either won’t get or doesn’t matter.
  • Decisions about ‘how’ to do things are just as important as decisions about ‘what’ to do.
  • Surveys are notorious time wasters. Make sure you REALLY need one before you go to the trouble of using one.

Discussion and comment points for this post:

  1. How have you handled situations when 1 or more people on a team really believe a decision that needs to be made is way more important than the rest of the team does?
  2. Have you ever dealt with a situation when a stakeholder affected by your decisions thinks the decision is way more important than the team does?
  3. How have you either sped up or slowed down decision-making on a team?

Reason 8

20151104_145419They Take Months to Make a Decision That Could Have Been Made in Minutes

This fate awaits any team that is bound and determined to apply every team tool and toy ever invented. Fresh from the latest team training session they brainstorm, fishbone, mindmap, vision, right brain activate, neuroscience themselves, SOP, input/output, listen with sensitivity, scenario plan, survey, prioritize and analyze everything in sight. They read the latest guru’s book on team Zen, rise to higher levels of consciousness and are at one with the universe. Their karma is amazing. All this to decide what soap dispensers to install in the new bathrooms. By the end of it you are ready to pull out your hair and scream for someone, anyone to just make a decision, any decision. Admit it, you’ve been part of this haven’t you? We all have.

The obvious question that is too often missed in the enthusiasm of using new techniques (or imposed techniques) is ‘How important is this decision?’ For the answer, the team needs to:

  • Consider the big picture context of the decision,
  • While at the same time focusing on solutions.

There is a direct, positive correlation to the importance of the decision and the amount of time needed to reach that decision. The more important the decision, the longer the time required, even though many teams do just the opposite. If your team can determine objectively how much time and energy the decision warrants, your decision making process will speed up considerably.

One particularly time consuming activity to be wary of in the decision making process is the survey. Sure, survey’s can be of value but way too often they are poorly done and are more of an excuse to avoid making a decision. Red warning lights should go off as soon as you hear the word survey. Surveys might be valuable to determine what issues are out there but are typically much less valuable in determining what to do about those issues. That’s why we have teams; to figure out what to do about those issues.

Basically teams have two general areas of value.

  1. They often make better decisions than a single individual (especially if you address all these reasons to hate teams!).
  2. They help in the implementation of decisions.

The second point is often of greatest value and this should not be ignored when determining the importance of the team’s decisions. Most teams take far too long figuring out WHAT to do and not nearly enough time figuring out HOW to do it. Interestingly, most of the team tools out there deal with figuring out the WHAT rather than the HOW. But that’s ok, because a lot of the work on the HOW will depend on the team’s environment, context and people, so it’s hard to have a set process for the HOW. It’s up to each team to invent the HOW that best suits their own environment.

Discussion and comment points for this post:

  1. What’s the most overused team tool?
  2. What’s the most effective team tool you have used?
  3. What’s your favorite book on teams (you can include this one!)?
  4. How do you know when you need some tools or when they are being overused?

Reason 7 – Ideas to Try

They Require You to Make Decisions by Consensus

Some key questions to ask yourself and your team.

Basic, really important ones:

  1. Is consensus the best way to make this particular decision?
  2. Have we REALLY listened to everyone?
  3. Even if we don’t agree with the decision, will we actively support it so the team can move forward?
  4. What will this active support look like?

Interesting ones:

  1. Is anyone on this team using consensus decision making as a weapon? Why might this be occurring?
  2. Do we talk about our team differently with people outside our team than we do with those on our team? Is this positive or negative?
  3. Overall, is our decision making as a team effective?

Key points of this reason to hate work teams:

  • The RESULT of consensus is that everyone will actively support the decision made.
  • The PROCESS of consensus is really listening for the validity in the points of view of others on the team
  • A signal that consensus is not working is when the passion goes out of the conversations and arguments. When this happens it might be time to consider a different decision making process.

Discussion and comment points for this post:

  1. Have you ever been on a team where consensus decision making worked really well? What helped in making it work well?
  2. And the opposite! Being on a team where consensus was just a pain in the neck (and elsewhere).
  3. What assumptions might be present when we think that consensus is a good way to make decisions?

Reason 7

20151104_144824They Require You to Make Decisions by Consensus

The word ‘consensus’ probably has about as many working definitions as the word ‘participation’. And about as many problems associated with it too. The real problem is not consensus but the different definitions that we apply to it. Definitions that can be used like weapons to slow things down, manipulate thinking and generally turn a team into a plodding, boring nightmare.

One of the biggest misconceptions about coming to decisions by consensus is the belief that everyone on the team must AGREE with the decision. This is fatal since it allows those team members with personal agendas or pet peeves to stand up in their self righteous glory and whine that the team can’t move forward because THEY don’t agree with the decision. Don’t you hate it when that happens!?

Even though the word consensus is a noun it should be treated as a verb, a word of action. The end point of consensus is that everyone will actively support the decision made. You may not AGREE with the decision but you accept that your points have been heard and considered and that the team must move on. Given this, you will do what is needed to actively support the decision. When you use consensus in this way there isn’t much room for whiners.

There is often great discussion and sometimes even good fights as different points of view are expressed with real passion. Everyone agrees that a decision must be made and that if the team is to move forward, as a team, everyone must support that decision. If you complain about the decision to others, outside the team then you don’t have consensus, you have cowardice or dishonesty and your team is in deep trouble. Consensus requires courage and honesty. If your team lacks these qualities, make decisions by some method other than consensus. You will have to deal with similar issues but at least they won’t take as long to surface.

It’s curious how often teams are expected to decide by consensus, when most other organizational decisions in organizations are not made in this way. Decisions in organizations are generally made by the person with the greatest power, no matter how camouflaged this may be. So why on earth should teams be different? This is not to say that consensus isn’t a great way to make decisions, but it is useful to be aware this approach goes against the normal and well learned traditions of the organization. It will not be easy and there will be times when it just doesn’t fit the situation.

People in organizations have power and one of the consequences of this is they can make decisions by themselves. If your team is operating in this type of situation there will be many times when it is most effective to make decisions in the traditional way; it’s normal and it works. Consensus should not be an etched in stone rule or an unquestioned approach, but one that fits the situation.

Discussion and comment points for this post:

  1. Why do you think many teams assume they should be making decisions by consensus?
  2. Have you ever made a team ground-rule that you would make decisions by consensus only to discover each team member had a different definition of what that meant? Tell your story.
  3. When a team does use consensus do you think they should also talk about what active support for the decision looks like? What do you think it should look like?

Reason 6 – Ideas to Try

They Force You to Brainstorm

Some key questions to ask yourself and your team.

Basic, really important ones:

  1. Are we ‘stuck’? Would a good brainstorming session help us out?
  2. Have we been brutally honest in narrowing down the ‘big list’?
  3. What’s REALLY going to work here?
  4. Are there some fringe ideas out there we should keep an eye on?

Interesting ones:

  1. Are we stuck and don’t know it?  How can we know?
  2. Are we using multi-voting to be more efficient or to get around challenges we have in being objective or concise?
  3. How can we (or should we) try to stay personally detached from our own ideas when it comes to figuring out what ideas to move forward with?

Key points of this reason to hate work teams:

  • Brainstorming is only a starting point to a larger process and it is the easy part. The tough part is narrowing down your list to the best idea(s) that can work.
  • Brainstorming is a DIVERGENT process, it opens things up. The end point of problem solving is a CONVERGENT process, narrowing things down.  Each requires a different way of thinking and interacting.

Discussion and comment points for this post:

  1. Why does brainstorming sometimes feel so dopey? How can we get over that?
  2. Have you ever had a disaster brainstorming session?  What created it and were you able to make it better?
  3. Do you have a story about a fringe idea that ended up being very important?