Teammates On the Bench- CONTRIBUTEGreat Ideas Going Stale While No One Implements Them?

We’ve all been there. A great meeting of the minds with a flurry of ideas and possibilities ends with hopeful expectation of all that can be done to improve the team’s situation. Then months go by and nothing happens.

You scratch your head. What happened?

You had a problem to solve or project to pursue.

You pulled together an awesome team.

You got them connected to each other and through the Form & Storm.

You developed amazing ideas or designs or plans or draft documents.

You left the day with responsibilities assigned and confidence.

… AND THEN IT STALLS!!!

The team members gripe how this was, yet again, a flavor of the month…how nothing will ever change…how we can’t change… Leaders are tempted to scrap the team approach and dictate command and control style. Managers consider whether these projects are a good use of their people’s time and/or talent.

How did we get here?

When we are ready to contribute, we think this is the easy part (and statistically this is the strong suit for many Team Leader’s or Manager’s personality preferences). So many times we fall short. We think the hard work is done and that it will all naturally follow from the momentum built in connect and create. It’s not.

This blog series we dove into each aspect of eNthusaProve’s Connect, Create, and Contribute model for enabling joy in work. This is the final step, the contribute part. This is where everything comes together to be contributed to customers, or to fall by the wayside.

Need to catch up on the earlier posts in this series?  Here ya go.  Connect.  Create.

Hello Rubber. Meet Road.

When the team is ready to start contributing value to the project, this is when the system revolts (Ahh change! Don’t make me!) and roadblocks come up. This requires care and feeding from you, be you the Manager, Team Leader, or Team Member.

What prevents us, this connected team, from bestowing all that great value we created?

Roadblocks: The signature of Contribute

When you leave that awesome team meeting where lots of great ideas are planned, what happens to you as you go back to the day-to-day routine? Life gets in the way, right?!?! We have found teams get discouraged by tangible roadblocks that get in their way, and intangible roadblocks of the culture, history, or personality traits.

Both types of roadblocks are just as challenging to a teammate contributing their value to a project. They both get in the way to derail work…and this is the finish line! What a shame for the team’s hard work to not get its “time in the sun” at this point!

Tangible Roadblocks

Tangible roadblocks are elements of the organization that are holding back project progress. For example,

  • Procedures
  • Contracts
  • Processes
  • “This is the way we’ve always done it.”
  • Directive from the customer or management

Intangible Roadblocks

Intangible roadblocks are interpersonal (between people) and intrapersonal (how I perceive the situation).

  • “I’ve been burned before” which leads to “I don’t want to contribute something that would be criticized.”
  • Teammates shot me down, so I’ll keep my head down and do what I’m told.
  • “Just tell me what to do” attitude.

None of these roadblocks have to be deal breakers for the value the team is creating. Even rules can be changed. Relationships can be restored. The question is…

How do you move past the roadblocks?

Team Members

  • Tangible: Bring these up at the next team meeting or talk to someone who has influence over the procedure, contract, etc. Find a lever of influence (someone who has control over the procedure) and show the value the change will provide as motivation to change.
  • Intangible:
    • In yourself. If you hold one of these roadblocks and you recognize it, impressive! The intangible roadblocks are often most hidden to ourselves. Reflect on what is making you respond that way and seek out what’s really true. Ask yourself “What do I really want in this situation?” That always works to switch my thinking to a more long-term focus.
    • In a teammate. This is a touchy situation because they are likely blind to the roadblock they hold. Your questions can guide them to realizing for themselves that they are putting themselves “on the bench.” Ask, “Why do you think that is (that you can’t make progress)?” or “What can you do to change that?” Your ability to have this frank conversation is dependent on how well you’ve connected with your teammate.

Team Leaders

  • Circle of Concern Influence ConcernTangible: Determine where the authority to change these roadblocks lies. I find the circles of control discussed by Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits helpful here. Find someone that has the authority to control (make change) to that procedure or process.

When a leader removes a roadblock it is hugely motivating to the team (and if it’s not dealt with it’s a huge deflator). Take this opportunity to give your team jet fuel to keep going.

  • Intangible
    • In yourself: If you hold one of these roadblocks and you recognize it, you are doing great. The intangible roadblocks are often most hidden to ourselves. Reflect on what is making you respond that way and seek out what’s really true. Ask yourself “What do I really want in this situation?” That always works to switch my thinking to a more long-term focus.
    • In a teammate: The hardest part of this is actually getting the issue out on the table to deal with it because they are likely blind to the roadblock they hold. Your questions can guide them to realizing for themselves that they are putting themselves “on the bench.” Ask, “Why do you think that is (that you can’t make progress)?” or “What can you do to change that?” As the Team Leader you can encourage them where you see strength in them. Help them address roadblocks.
    • Get used to projections. Sometimes teammates make the manager out to be the “bad guy” and everything is your fault. This is a projection. The teammate is projecting that you are the reason for his/her fear or anger.

Don’t directly address the projection, stating all the reasons why what they believe is untrue. You’ll likely get defensiveness. Prove it in what you do.

Managers

  • Tangible: Determine where the roadblock lies and knock it out. This will be hugely motivating to your team and build trust for the next roadblock. Be aware the opposite is true, ignoring or placating a roadblock will discourage the team and they won’t come to you next time. You devalue your own leadership, which is hard to build back.
  • Intangible: Sometimes the people on our teams put up roadblocks for themselves. This could be self-protection, indifference, history, or lots of other things.
    • In yourself. Do you believe that your teammate “can’t do it?” Do you believe that it’s “all on them?” It’s hard to see your own roadblocks. Ask yourself “What do I really want in this situation?” I’m guessing it isn’t to have teammates you don’t trust.

Do you have people in your work life (not on your team) that can speak to you frankly about what they see you do? You need at least one or two to keep you honest.

    • Get used to projections. Sometimes teammates make the manager out to be the “bad guy” and everything is your fault. This is a projection. The teammate is projecting that you are the reason for his/her fear or anger.

Don’t directly address the projection, stating all the reasons why what they believe is untrue. You’ll likely get defensiveness. Prove it in what you do.

The Roadblock Buster: Connection.

Contribute is the part of getting work done that relies most on the connection part of a team. The strength of those professional relationships (connect to each other) and belief in the mission (connect to purpose) will determine how well the team will contribute. So many teams try to squeak by without paying attention to these relationships, only to pay the price in implementation.

Have you scrimped on connection only to find the consequences when you get to implementation?

We have a resource course on building the #1 factor for an effective team, psychological safety. Its focus is connection building. It has tools for discussing connection on your team, getting feedback, and responding to it.

Don’t let the tangible or intangible roadblocks keep your team from contributing their creations! We would love the opportunity to help your team build an environment where they can take on the roadblocks that come to get that project from dream to reality!

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