10:00AM: Your team meeting is scheduled to start.
You look down at your watch. It feels like the second hand is moving so quickly – precious seconds you could be using to respond to emails and finish that presentation seem to sprint away.
10:05AM: Everyone else on your team is with you in the conference room except for one person.
You know, that one person on your team who is ALWAYS late to meetings. You don’t like to put people in a box, but seriously – they are always late. And you can tell the team is just as annoyed about the situation as you are.
10:10AM: The late (and flustered) team member sprints into the conference room, ruffles through their papers to get the clean sheet out and pen ready for the meeting that was scheduled to start 10 minutes ago.
ARGH! How do you handle situations like this? Or even deeper rooted aspects of conflict?
We asked Coach Helen Cooper, with over 20 years of experience in coaching leaders of large companies and start ups, about conflict management in teams.
Here is what she had to say:
“Teams go through a normal formation cycle of forming, norming and storming. To minimize the ‘storming’ (the conflict), ‘norming’ is VERY important.
Engage as a team to really talk through and agree on team values. As a leader, you must be willing to facilitate and work with (collaborate!) the team… not dictate.
This creates a safe way for the team to talk through the specific behaviors required for success and to not put individual team members on the defensive.
An example of a team value might be, ‘we will listen to each other and not talk about each other.’ The value of listening to each other could help the team to talk through this behavior and ask ‘why’. Then, that individual has a chance to explain why.
Another value could be that when issues surface the team can’t successfully resolve among themselves (the example of being late), the team can expect the team leader to intervene and resolve these behavioral issues on behalf of the team.
So, after the conflict has resolved what do you look at next?
The ‘now what’ implies that the team continues to mature. If assignments change or the team scales, the cycle of team development of norming, forming, storming will repeat.
Teams must continually work on their team evolution when environments change. Time is required to discuss not just ‘what’ the team must deliver but also ‘how’ they are going to continue working together.”
Take a look at your team this week. Is your team currently forming, norming, or storming?
Also, think about if your team has established “norms” for team behavior. If not, look at scheduling a meeting to talk through some of these things.
It may help you to navigate the storm that will eventually come!