So There’s a Problem on Your Team…by Jim Johnson

No manager/leader will ever have a career where everything goes according to the plan.  Something is wrong on the team you lead. The wheels get wobbly on the wagon.  Sometimes they fall off.  Sometimes you have folks in the wagon that you wish were on someone else’s wagon.  Stuff happens.

There are times where a turn-a-round is a pretty simple fix.  Then, again, you’ll be faced with a team that is out of sorts – with each other, with you, or both.  Those times can be tough.

As the leader of your team, it is your responsibility to keep everyone on the same page, right?  Your boss will expect this of you.  Your company’s culture, I’m sure, demands it.  Teams that don’t function appropriately quickly stand out.  Managers who lead these teams also stand out.  So if you’re “stuck” in this situation, how do you handle it?

First, own it.  Whatever is happening…whatever has been said…what ever is the complaint…own what you can of it.  Take responsibility.  There is truth in difficult situations.  Find it and act upon it.  Yes, there will be drama, lies, and innuendos.  Stay clear of those.  Acknowledge the truth and act.

Second, understand your role and your team’s role.  As the leader, you will be setting the tone and leading the charge towards change.  Your team will be watching you.  That’s good.  Model the appropriate attitude and behaviors.  And know that it’s not all on you.  Each member of your team needs to be committed to helping the team out of its hole.  Personal opinions and biases get in the way.  Leaders can fall into the trap of blaming the team.  The team will talk about the leader behind his/her back.  Everyone is looking for a personal win.  But in business, “the house wins”.  You and your team needs to realize that the success of the business is paramount.  The best scenario is to bring alignment from both the leader and the team to what will be the “win” for the company.

Third, communicate.  If things aren’t going as you wish they were, don’t stop communicating.  You are still the manager.  Tell your team where they are succeeding.  Share with them where they are not.  Communicate change clearly.  If you don’t, your team will fill the “holes” with what they assume is happening in the change.  

Fourth, coach.  Spend significant time moving your individual team members forward.  A difficult team environment is not an excuse to stop developing your team.  They need you more than ever.  Keep the conversation on personal growth and your team’s/company’s metrics.  Don’t get caught up in the drama of one employee talking poorly of another employee.  Keep the conversation on what that team member can control and encourage them to meet/exceed their goals.  Give them the resources to do it.  Be there for them.  

Fifth, listen.  If you don’t, someone else will (i.e. HR, CEO).  Practice active listening.  Ask questions and then listen.  Take notes.  Follow up and follow through on what you hear.  Your team has a voice – listen to it.  

If you’re in a rough team environment, take heart.  You have what it takes to lead them out of it.  Keep short accounts with your team.  Don’t ignore bad behavior.  And by all means, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT your interactions with your team.  You’ll be glad you did.  

You are a team leader.  If your team is off track, lead them back on it.  It won’t be easy.  But it’s your job, right?  You can do it.  


“Nothing will work unless you do.”  Maya Angelou



5 Leadership Roles To Get Your Team Walking Through Brick Walls


by Terry Starbucker

“Wow, they would walk through a brick wall for that guy!”

I’ve heard this sentence a few times in my career, spoken about great leaders I have known and respected. I’ve even uttered it myself on a couple of occasions. It’s one of the highest complements a leader can get, because of its underlying connotation – that person is an uppercase LEADER. There’s no question of the cohesiveness and esprit de corps of the team. Their loyalty is on their sleeves.

They trust that their leader will do right by them, always – that translates to results, and ultimately, greatness. And perhaps even some gaping holes in a few brick walls.

How can you get to that place with YOUR team?

I’ve observed 5 critical roles that a leader must play to get their teams “walking through brick walls” for them.

The Counselor – Not every day is going to be a good one, and not everything is going to go the right way. The team needs a way to relieve the pressure brought on by these ups and downs – but it can’t happen in public. That’s where the leader comes in behind the scenes, making themselves available to their team when the chips are down, letting the steam come off honestly through active listening, and then offering quiet and steady encouragement.

The Defender – When the leader is in public, and the arrows fly about the team’s performance, the leader takes the hit – or, if the critique is unjustified, the leader passionately defends the team’s honor. The blame is never on the team – it’s on the leader. Conversely, when things go well, the praise is always on them (Think Jim Collins and his concept of the Level 5 leader in his book “Good to Great”).

Read about the other 3 roles here:

The Aim Frame

In the book, The Competent Leader, Peter Stark & Jane Flaherty discuss how to develop consensus in chapter 13.  One phrase jumped out to me as I read through this great material.  “Focus on the aim frame.”  What they are referring to is that too often in meetings where consensus is sought, participants are focusing on everything but the same goal – the aim frame.  As they write:

“When groups have a difficult problem to resolve and are trying to come to a consensus, it is helpful for the manager to focus the group in the aim frame.  Focusing on the aim frame asks the group two questions.  The first question is “Where does the group want to be with the decision or what is the ideal outcome?”  The second aim frame question is “How do we get there?”

I like this concept.  It’s true!  I’ve seen it at work.  I’ve seen it in relationships.  I’ve seen it in professional sports.

As a manager/leader, think about a team member you lead right now that needs some development.  They need to grow to the next level.  It is so easy as the “boss” to point out shortcomings or, as we like to call them, “opportunities”.  We can call for lists of action plans to address these.  The team member then brings back their action plan, works it, and what do we do?  We call for another round of action plans to address shortcomings.  How do they end up feeling?  Damned if I do/Damned if I don’t.  Without a correction (from you), this employee is at risk of choosing “I don’t” and you lose them.

What if you take Stark’s & Flaherty’s idea of the “aim frame” and work with the team member to ask those 2 critical questions:

  1. Where do you want to be 3-6 months from now (could be a new skill, a mastery of a current duty, etc)?
  2. How do we get you there?

This is realistically setting a specific goal and then creating a plan to get there.  Both of you need to come to a consensus of the goal.  Buy in on both sides is critical.  Are there shortcomings that need to be addressed?  Of course!  But those can be tackled on the way to achieving the goal.  As their manager, you work along side of them coaching them, counseling them, steering them to keep them on track.  But you are keeping the goal in sight.  You are reminding them that the goal can be achieved, but they have to keep up their end of the agreement (so do you!).

How will your team member feel about himself/herself with this approach?  Challenged.  Valued.  Proud (as they achieve steps along the goal path).

How will they feel about you?  Empowered. Valued. Respect.  Trust.
Focus on the aim frame and what the difference it will make in the lives of your team and your own life.

17 Competencies of a Leader by Lee Glass

June 25, 2012

Business Leaders

Competence is defined as the ability to do something successfully or efficiently. As we know, there are many definitions that describes a leader. Various interpretations! Leaders come in all shapes, sizes, cultures and genders. However, the thought process is that “the stuff” that it takes to be a successful leader is relatively similar.

A study was taken by AchieveGlobal Inc into the nature of leadership and its impact in the workplace. The goals of this study was to determine leadership qualities that top executives in North America need to lead organizations.

This study consisted of 353 senior executives — 143 top managers with the actual title of or functional equivalents of CEO, COO, president or chairman as well as 210 of their direct reports.

The research revealed 17 competencies that make up the profile of a leader. These competencies may be grouped and summarized as follows:

  1. Handle emotions in yourself and others.
  2. Make decisions that solve problems.
  3. Show compassion.
  4. Support individual effort.
  5. Support team effort.
  6. Respond to identified customer needs
  7. Share information.
  8. Manage cross-functional processes.
  9. Take initiative beyond job requirements.
  10. Manage projects.
  11. Manage time and resources.
  12. Take responsibility for your own actions and those of your work group.
  13. Display technical competence.
  14. Make credible presentations.
  15. Create and describe a vision.
  16. Manage changes required to realize a vision.
  17. Display professional ethics.