What should be a well oiled machine is starting to feel like it needs a visit to the repair shop. Your team seem to be less clear about their roles and what they should be doing and there maybe there is even conflict arising in what has always been a harmonious and productive workplace. You feel like bringing more people on has created more problems instead of making things easier… what’s going on?!!!
Well, believe it or not, this is a very normal situation to find yourself in and relatively easy to set straight if you deal with it quickly and clearly. Is it also likely that while going through periods of sustained growth, this is something you will need to address regularly to keep things running smoothly. So what steps can you take to avoid this problem impacting your business?
Here is my 3 step process to get the team back on track:
1. Step back and take stock
As always, my first piece of advice is to step back and take stock... it might seem like a recurring theme, but it is almost impossible to address something like this on the run. Make a list of the things you have noticed are going wrong and where the tension seems to be. Ask yourself:
- What am I hoping to achieve with the new role(s)?
- What are the team telling me (with their words or with their behaviour!)?
- Is there a recurring point of tension or a consistent part of the process that is failing?
TIP: If you find it hard to write things like this down, make a list on your phone using the voice recorder or sit and talk with your spouse, business partner or a trusted friend (not involved in the situation) and get them to write down the things you are saying for you to read later.
- overlap with an existing role
- lack of clarity about how the new role(s) will work with the existing processes that were previously managed differently
- lack of preparation of the existing team for the new role.
- ineffective training/on-the-job-coaching for the person in the new role
TIP: This doesn’t have to be a laborious task - set yourself a timer for 20 minutes and see if you can organise your thoughts in that time.
So now that you have identified the main sticking points with the current situation, you can do something about it. Here is my recipe for fixing the problem:
- Have a brief 1-1 with each of the affected team members asking for feedback. Explain what you have observed and ask for their input about what is working and what isn't. Keep the meeting short, 10-15 minutes at most. Remember: you are not asking for an outpouring of emotion, so set the scene at the beginning of the conversation. Keep it as business-like and solution-focused as you can.
- Once you have the team's perspective about what is working and what isn’t, look for some common themes. Are there any particular processes that are proving more difficult than others? Has a lack of communication been an issue? Are there tasks to get done that aren’t clearly allocated to a particular team/team member?
- Work out what you would like to happen. Look at the list above and the feedback the team has given you and you will no doubt see some striking similarities. Draft a proposed solution, a set of actions about what should happen next, communicate to the team* and implement them. * it is up to you whether you would like to get more input from the team at this point, but always start with a clear set of outcomes that are important to the success of the business.
The outcome - Some things to remember...
Here are the most important things to remember while helping the team get back on track and back to that rhythm of humming along nicely:
- It is your business, not theirs, so they don’t always know what you are thinking, planning and hoping. Communicating clearly about what you hope to achieve will help nip problems in the bud as the team will know where you are headed.
- Act swiftly, but thoughtfully. Putting off sorting out this kind of problem isn’t likely to make it go away. In fact it is more likely to get messier!
- Document the outcome, including any changes to roles. If they are significant you might need to engage some HR help.
- Look at your team meeting and communication processes, do you need to improve these?
- The first few days and weeks of a new starter’s experience with your business can influence them significantly. To build a lasting and successful working relationship, it is important to start well.
Our good intent doesn’t always translate into the right result, but you can always do something about it. The most important thing is to get started, address the problem and get humming again. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, we don’t all have the answers to every problem that comes our way.