In any team, of any size, in any industry, there will be inevitable obstacles to overcome as your business evolves. As a leader, the way these situations are handled from the get-go can have a lasting effect on your team and how they react to future challenges. It's important to teach an effective approach for tackling these hurdles in order to maintain a healthy culture. Here are some key points to consider when your team is faced with a challenge.
Open Door Policy
As a leader, it's critical that your team feels comfortable coming to you with problems. If a single team member is struggling, it can ultimately affect the entire team. Conduct check-ins with your team to give them the floor to address updates, concerns, and possible solutions. Regular one-to-one meetings can provide this opportunity for your direct reports, while "skip-level" meetings with employees you don't supervise (over coffee, lunch, or in the office) can provide an outlet for other team members.
Your staff may feel too intimidated to voice a struggle or concern in a team meeting, so reinforce an open door policy for them to bring you concerns in a more private and comfortable setting. An open-door policy establishes trust and dialog between you and your team. Foster an environment where your team feels heard, supported, and appreciated to encourage them to create a more productive work dynamic. Ultimately, you probably don't have time to meet with everyone, so it's critical that your team understands your interest in hearing their challenges.
Walk The Walk
If a team member comes to you with a conflict, work with them on a solution and take part in actively putting that solution in place. Too often, problems are swept under the rug or given lip service acknowledgment. Nothing will erode your team's faith in you faster than that.
Having an open-door policy loses its power if the same problems keep resurfacing. Work to identify the core source of the problem and work on a solution from there. Internal conflicts and challenges kill morale, which of course affects company culture and productivity. Here are some key techniques to remember when dealing with conflict:
Don't point fingers; instead, look for a root cause
Settle your emotions prior to the meeting
Collaborate to address the conflict and provide a solution
Keep the entire conversation progress-oriented
Listen to understand, not just to reply
Consider your actions and what could you have done better in the situation
- Communicate the takeaways and provide a solution to address or avoid future conflict
Lead by Example
Fostering a winning team begins with you modeling the behavior you expect from your team. Reinforce your core values and walk your talk. Conduct 360 surveys to welcome your staff's feedback on your performance. At one-to-one meetings, proactively ask how you can help with any issues that have been brought forward. Your employee may have an idea of how you can assist but may also be too nervous to ask, so opening that door makes a world of difference.
Conflict amongst teams is inevitable, especially in fast-growth companies. To some degree, conflict is necessary to work out the challenges that come with growth (or the lack thereof). Managing this conflict by seeing it as its own growth process rather than a setback will ensure that your team knows they are safe and supported when they bring forward the issues that might otherwise hold you back.