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Don't Ignore the Tension!



There’s disgruntlement in the team. A new directive or strategy hasn’t been well received and whilst no one has openly voiced concerns, as the team manager, you can ‘feel’ the tension and the disquiet. You can also see it in their faces. I’m sure many of you reading this have experienced this, both as a team member, or as a team leader or manager. Something needs to be done to ensure that the concerns of the team are aired because these concerns could be simply due to misunderstandings or rumour. These need to be handled carefully and the concerns ‘put to bed’ or minimised so that the team is in a position to work productively.


But how often have you been in a situation where the team manager or leader simply ignores the tensions and proceeds with the meeting agenda or tasks? How frustrating and indeed infuriating can this be? This situation, unfortunately, can be a frequent occurrence and this can be caused by a number of factors.


1. The team manager simply does not know how to handle the situation and thinks that by keeping everyone busy and focused on the current plan and task list, that the tensions will die out. The team manager lacks the capability and the strength of character to manage and facilitate the situation so that they can coach the team round from being in ‘tension’ mode to that of ‘performance’ mode.


2. The team manager may also lack the capability to turn what appear to be ‘difficult’ strategies or directives into real positives for the team members. It is very common for company directives to appear unworkable due to the way they are launched and communicated out. If the team is not 100% clear on what the directive is, how it was formulated, and what the specific benefits are to the company, the team and to each individual then the directive may appear to be ‘unfit’ or ‘unworkable.’ This may be simply due to a lack of understanding. It is then the team manager’s role to ‘re-sell’ the directive in such a way that a full understanding is achieved. Once this is achieved then the team can then start to work on how best they will implement the strategy or directive.


3. The team manager may also lack the ability to effectively manage their senior stakeholders in that they will rarely ‘push back’ when directives or strategies are communicated. It will be very much a situation where the team manager simply accepts what is being asked. The worst thing a team manager can do in this situation is to accept what is bring directed and then ‘moan’ along with the team that these directives or strategies are ‘not fit for purpose’. If the team manager won’t ‘stand up’ for themselves and for the team then they are setting themselves and the team up for a potential fall.


4. There may also be the situation that the team manager simply lacks a decent level of emotional intelligence and fails to pick up on the ‘vibes’ that indicate not is all as it should be. These tend to be the ones who want to crack on with tasks and actually seem generally surprised when someone actually mentions that the team or members of the team are unhappy, concerned or disgruntled about something. One wonders actually how these ‘low EQ’ managers actually get into people leadership positions!


Overall, a major source of disquiet in teams is the actual team manager themselves, and this is caused by their general behaviours which can be driven by a lack of competence, confidence as well as potentially there on beliefs on how management should operate. Their inability to confidently and competently handle and manage the situations above can cause the team to disintegrate with the resultant increase in staff turnover and a decrease in performance.


A good, competent team manager will always be aware of the ‘climate’ and ‘atmosphere’ within the team and as such always take steps to immediately address it so that the ‘climate’ and ‘atmosphere’ is continually positive and productive. This takes skill but it also takes trust and without both then the team will never fully function to its full potential.

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