Why Doesn’t My Team Get It?
Have you ever asked yourself, “Why don’t they get it?” I can feel my own exasperation and desperation, and I’ve heard it from a number of leaders.
The most likely short answer to this question is “You.” If you’re the positional leader, head of a team, manager, etc., then this is probably the best answer also. If you’re a peer, a member of the team, but you ask that question of your peers, then something outside of you may be the key, but you can still make a difference.
I’ve heard people tell me that communication was a key factor in leadership. But I know many who communicate well and say little, and I’ve known even more who communicate confusion. Clarity is a key factor in our leadership. When we’re clear and consistent, team members can come to understand and appreciate the direction and the objectives. When team members understand and appreciate the team's goals, roles, and methods, they can freely act on behalf of the team and the leader.
We make similar choices to the degree we share the same knowledge, values, and beliefs.
Shared Mental Model
You will find several papers and even a post on this blog about shared mental models. Referring to a shared mental model, “the idea is that team performance improves if team members have a shared understanding of the task that is to be performed and of the involved team work.” I like to say we need to share knowledge, values, and beliefs. Often, the belief we share is that, if we each do our portion of the shared mental model, we can succeed in our goals.
I first heard about shared mental models from an Air Force flight instructor. He said pilots who faced severe challenges in an aircraft and who succeeded often did so because the entire crew had a shared mental model. Each person knew their situation, what needed to be done, and who was supposed to do what.
Communication is Not the Key
But if I understand the knowledge, values, or beliefs my teammates need to succeed, and my teammates fail to understand and appreciate them, maybe I’m the problem. How clearly do you communicate? Do you communicate knowledge with the same commitment that you communicate values or beliefs? Often, we communicate knowledge and maybe values, but drop the ball on beliefs. My belief that someone else should be doing a particular thing may not line up with their belief. They may think someone else should do it.
Other times, ambiguous goals may contribute to the problem. Many business leaders seem to want different, even conflicting things, at different times. Are your values clear? Maybe you lack clarity yourself. Or the executive team lacks unity. Any crack in the top of the org chart becomes a chasm further down the line. A seemingly small disagreement between two VP’s may result in massive frustration for people in the organization and wasted effort or money.
What can you do to lift the fog? Maybe your people “don’t get it.” But if you continue to have team member after team member who fails to understand, or who leaves the company, maybe the problem isn’t “them” at all.