The following is adapted from a recent episode of the Team of Superheroes Podcast.
“Our team has a productivity problem.”
“We have leadership issues.”
“Some of our team members have problems with accountability.”
These are just some of the issues I hear from managers who hire me to come and conduct my Team of Superheroes workshops within their companies.
More often than not, however, it turns out their “productivity and leadership” problems are actually communications challenges.
Communication by Assumption
Case in point: A human resources executive kept telling me that his team was unproductive because the manager emailed them throughout the day with tasks – and each member of the team spent their time responding to those emails. This executive claimed these frequent emails kept the team members from accomplishing their key outcomes.
“How do you know your manager wants you to executive on these things right away?” I asked.
“Well, I just do,” he replied.
“Have you asked her?” I asked.
“No, but I just know,” he asserted.
“So, you’ve had a conversation about this?” I asked. “And your boss knows about these productivity issues?”
“Well, no,” he admitted.
“Is it possible your boss uses email as a note-taking advice, jotting down her thoughts and getting them out to various team members so she doesn’t forget about them?” I asked.
“Well, we’ve never actually discussed it.”
As it turns out, that was exactly the problem. The members of the team assumed their manager wanted each of her emails acted upon right away, when in fact that was not the case. After a simple discussion, the manager realized she should include timeline requests in her emails, and the team members realized they shouldn’t be afraid to actually speak with their manager.
They had done what so many of us do: Resort to “communication by assumption.”
Instead of asking for deadlines, the team members just made assumptions.
And instead of asking why the team members weren’t being productive, the manager made assumptions, as well.
In the end, simple communication solved the productive challenges.
Communications blockages within teams function just like blockages in our arteries. And just like those blockages, they can be handled through an “angioplasty” of open communication.
To often, team members are not aware of one another’s strengths, goals, and expected outcomes.
Recently, I spoke with a team manager who had received a less-than-stellar review from her manager. During the course of our discussion, it became apparent that she and her manager were not on the same page in terms of expected outcomes.
“Are your expectations for what you’re supposed to accomplish each day in line with your manager’s expectations for what you need to accomplish each day?” I asked.
“Wow, I’ve actually never thought of that,” she replied.
This spurred an actual conversation with her manager that allowed them to align their expectations for her workday.
If you think you have productivity or “leadership” problems within your team, it might behoove you to check for communications blockages. It’s amazing what can occur when you open up the arteries and allow things to flow.