Breaking a team impasse #followership

For my regular readers of my blog – this is a longer than usual entry.  Here is why . . . . . . .

I taught my class on leadership and followership (Building Organizational Performance Through Teamwork and Understanding) at the Holland Chamber of Commerce on Thursday (May 19th) and pledged to the participants that I would blog answers to any questions they had that could not be answered in the class.   Here is the questions and my answer – for clarification make a comment and we will continue the discussion . . . .

Question:  I am facilitating a team decision making activity and consensus has been a challenge.  Though my emphasis is on harmony, consensus isn’t always attainable.  What do you recommend to help move beyond the stalemate?  How can I act with boldness without offending or alienating?

Answer:  Getting teams to work together towards a common goal can be a challenge, especially when it seems that personal agendas are taking priority over a team goal.  Also, if you see behaviors that are keeping the team from moving things ahead, you will have to say some things that have the potential to offend or alienate.  So let me make some assumptions here:

  • This team has a leader, but it is not you – your role is the facilitator.
  • The team has a clear goal / outcome they are working towards.
  • The individuals want to be on the team.
  • You have the ability to walk away if the team is not working

A couple of questions:

  • How clear is the team goal?  (what they are supposed to accomplish)
  • What behaviors do you see happening that are distructive?
  • How strong is the Trust within the team?
  • Are you willing / able to tell them what you see?

I assume the team is stuck and they feel it.  First, meet with the leader and plan a team meeting focused on three things:  1)  Restating (and reaching agreement) on the problem the team was brought together to solve  2)  Documenting (on a board where all can see) the solutions that have been presented   3)  Asking:  How everyone is feeling about the team? (what one word would you use to describe your excitement towards this team / process right now?) 

Point 3 will tell you where people are and might give an opening for you to describe what you see.   The discussion then should focus around What can we do to get thing back on track so we reach a decision that we can all support.  It might also give you a window to address some of the behaviors that are not moving things forward, and you might even encourage the team to create a set of guidelines they all agree upon to guide future discussions. 

The key is getting them to see the goal, agree on it, and make a commitment to finding a solution.  This will give you a chance to share what you see and restart the process using some good brainstorming, documenting, and teaming techniques so people begin to understand the value each brings to the table.

If the commitment is not there, I would walk away.