Short Circuiting Your Team

short_circuit_small.jpgA few days ago, my son came to me with a difficult decision. He was debating whether or not to stay in his position. The problem was that he had been having some difficulty with his team leader. As a member of a team, he felt a responsibility to keep this leader informed about the project he was supporting. However, whenever my son met with this leader he became frustrated and often felt devalued. This leader is addicted to his Blackberry. He acts as though the device and what it was conveying was more important than any information my son had to give. Because of this lack of attention, this leader too often missed the important information my son tried to convey.

Dr. Steven Stowell and Ms. Stephanie Mead explain in their book, The Team Approach: With Teamwork Anything is Possible, there are eight internal forces that short circuit teamwork. Two of these, “excessive pursuit of self interest” and “inflated egos and intimidation” seem to fit the way my son felt about his supervisor. I have to admit when I first read these forces I assumed that the authors were talking about the executive who does anything (ethical or not) to get up the ladder.

Excessive pursuit of self interest covers much more than the narcissist; it also covers those who think they are so busy that they fail to acknowledge those around them. When you pay more attention to incoming calls, emails, and interruptions you are silently telling the one you are suppose to be talking to that they are not worthy of your time or not valuable in your estimation. In this case, the information that my son tried to share with the boss and was ignored, lead to an embarrassing situation when the boss was unable to explain why a project was behind to a major client. More importantly, this embarrassing situation happened in a group meeting with representatives from all the different companies involved in the project.

When this boss returned from the meeting, a memo was sent out that was both intimidating and unduly demanding. If only he had listened when my son met with him, he would have known the information he needed and the embarrassment experienced by the boss and the organization would have been avoided. Obviously, my son has a decrease of trust and respect for this person. Dr. Stowell and Ms. Mead state, “Trust and respect are fragile and are earned over time through genuine actions.”

If you don’t take time to listen and assimilate all the information you are going to be embarrassed or caught off guard. How can you assume that you know where to go or how to answer if you don’t have all the information about the situation ahead? To quote Joe Namath, “To be a leader, you have to make people want to follow you, and nobody wants to follow someone who doesn’t know where he is going.” Are you too involved with the activity beasts in your life to hear those people around you?

Sadly, while my son liked his job and wanted to stay, he felt that he had to leave the organization. Think about the costs to the organization when this lack of trust , respect, and courtesy is exhibited. How much does it cost to replace team members? How much transition time does it take to learn the business? How long will it take for your client’s confidence in you and your organization be restored? Isn’t it more cost effective to spend the few minutes of complete attention to a colleague?

A final thought. Communication between team members is essential to the success of the team. But just as critical is the basic recognition that each member is valued and important enough to be listened to. James Humes said, “The art of communication is the language of leadership.’

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About the Author

Martha Rice