Manage Team Performance Through an Open Dialog

Many challenges in business, team and employee performance result from inadequate communication. Leaders often make incorrect assumptions about the members of their teams. Those assumptions lead the team to believe the leader is not interested in listening to their ideas for improvements. Sometimes communication breaks down when attempting to avoid conflict or not wanting to put personal relationships at risk. All of these will damage team performance and ultimately the performance of the business.

Assumptions are the silent killer of team performance because they are not the result of deliberate negative action. However, taking no action is often the worst course of action. Ask yourself if your team members tend to make decisions that align with your vision, mission, values and objectives. If the team frequently makes decisions that require you to correct them, or if they defer making the decision and escalate it to you, then you most likely have a problem with assumptions.

Avoiding conflict is a natural tendency when you want to keep the workplace in a harmonious and cooperative mood. Direct confrontation can spark emotional responses and breed resentment. However, unresolved issues will fester into something far more damaging than resentment. Unresolved issues accumulate over time, compounding negative perceptions that team members have about the work environment and you as their leader. Nowhere is this truer than in personal relationships built on long standing friendships or family connections. Avoiding the issue may seem an easier path forward than confrontation and risking damage to the relationship. Worse, your family reaches far beyond the walls of your business. Avoiding conflict or risking a friendship, is a little like winning the battle but losing the war.

You must address issues that negatively affect the performance of the business as soon as possible. This will be uncomfortable for both parties. Avoid assigning blame or making it personal in any way. Stay focused on the business problem and the solutions to correct it. Remain focused on the vision, mission, values and objectives and treat these conversations at teachable moments for all parties involved. People will quickly get over the embarrassment or other emotional responses and thank you for treating them with professional dignity.

Perhaps the most important and effective communication is non-verbal. That is, if you make decisions, behave and act in a manner consistent with the vision, mission, values and objectives of the company, you will demonstrate your commitment to the success of the business and the behavior that is desired of the team. Finally, make open dialog with your team a habit. This is not large meetings or emails with you telling them what to do or painting an unrealistically rosy picture of the future. It is a direct roll-up-your-sleeves chat with individuals and small groups where they work. You will quickly build a strong, loyal team that will boost your business performance and help you to ride through the bumps as market challenges inevitably arise.

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