The Good, The Bad and the Ugly!
The good news is you have a great new project to work on. The bad news is the state of the team you have inherited. To put it mildly they look like a bunch of losers, the left behinds, the people who would not leave.
They have their reasons…
For instance John is two years from retirement. Julie just loves complaining. Jack has headphones on all the time and does not talk or engage unless spoken to. Then there’s Janice who should by rights have your job and is well, superior to everyone in the room and the next room if not the whole floor.
As manager you have to take control and make this work. Clearly each has a different agenda and as long as this remains your job will be impossible. You need to start talking to them as a team as well as individually.
As a team you want to emphasise what they have in common, the sky above, the ground below, the overall mission and recognise publicly that each has their own special skills and talents and that is what they bring to the party. Then you need to ask for their help to work in support of the mission, collaboratively.
Chances are, without knowing what this really means your new team will agree to agree and to start to understand the focus and the mission. Next you need to ask them to explain to everyone else what they are passionate about and how this project will be part of achieving their passion. Draw out the challenges that might be holding them back so you can start to think about how these might be resolved.
At the end of this first step you will start to achieve the necessary bonds and build up some expectation and excitement. Soon however these new feelings will be forgotten and the issues they have with each other and work will resurface and take over once more.
Your task as manager
Is to talk with each person to find out some of the good things that they are doing and have already done. You want to engineer an opportunity when individual success can be celebrated both inside and outside the group by publicly thanking them for their achievements and focus. It will help the team realise they are needed and give them the recognition they deserve. Making them happy does not cost a thing and can go a long way.
In the case of John who is about to retire you need to recognise and tap into his experience about the way things are done around here and help him to show others how to make things happen.
In the case of Jack, the headphone guy, just having him attend meetings and asking open questions will get him talking and sharing.
Julie is obviously a detail person, you want to get her doing things for the team, so she can take pride in helping everyone. Recognition is big for her and if she continues to harp on, you need to pick her up on it and ask her to explain to you what she is talking about in order to get to the bottom of it, to turn those complaints into something more constructive.
You need to get Janice’s thoughts out and into the open. There’s a reason you got the job and she didn’t. You can explain that in the circumstances you are especially grateful for her contribution and that while some would be resentful, clearly she isn’t and as a result you are able to admire her for all she is doing and actually learn from her how things are done. The chances are that your gracious approach will defuse the situation and foster a better ongoing relationship.
Finally, you need to not worry about being new and even inexperienced. You are the manager and you are good. You must project confidence in what you are doing in order to inspire it. So assume you are the best and go out and prove it.
I once heard that members of a team tend to sit in silos. Silos are natural, usually to do with their domain of excellence, each is different by design. You want to know are they grain silos or missile solos?