Teams by nature can be very vulnerable to different members’ styles of communication. And one of the surest ways for a team to become dysfunctional is for a leader to be unaware of their members’ communication interactions. Recently, there was an article written in Harvard Business Review by Amy Jen Su and Muriel Wilkins that discussed passive-aggressive behavior amongst co-workers. They discussed the frustration of a peer agreeing to an idea at a meeting and then ignoring their commitment. I have witnessed this type of “swing behavior” as I am sure you all have at one point. But is there anything a leader can do to either prevent or alleviate this disruptive communication style and behavior?
One of the most important responsibilities of a leader is to be able to lead a functional team. Remember, without followers there are no leaders. To do this successfully, leadership requires strong communication skills as well as setting a great example. Here are some helpful tips to exercise while your team jibs and jabs:
1. Be a clear, assertive communicator: When meeting with your team make sure you state your expectations clearly and honestly. You might want to ask them to restate the team goals so that you can see that everyone has the same understanding of what is the direction you are all moving.
2. Be an active listener: It is so important to understand what is really the hidden message behind some of the sparring on the team. To get that message accurately, leaders need to listen without interrupting and then ask questions to get to the bottom of the issues.
3. Address the problem, not the person: When the passive-aggressive team member starts to switch around what they agreed to, speak to the issue, not the personality of the individual. Instead of calling the team member “unpredictable” or “a loser”, focus on what task they cannot follow through. According to Su and Wilkins in their article, “don’t waste one once of your energy trying to figure out why they act this way with you”. Focus on the issue at hand that needs changing.
4. Model the right way: In all your interactions, make sure you lead with integrity and transparency. By accepting choices that your team decided upon, even though they were not your first choices, is a sign of a professional. Being able to compromise and execute the team’s decision is your way of showing the importance of teamwork and the value of each member.
So leaders these are some strategies that may help you lead more effectively when the team challenges you. Do you have other techniques that you could share?