Wish you could Fire Your Staff and Start Over?

messy officeHave you ever taken a leadership position in  an organization that was in need of a major turnaround? 

Ever wanted to fire all your team members and start over?

Leaders in this position often have the highest expectations of effecting change—change that will turn a poorly functioning organization into a more successful one.

You took this job because you believe in the mission of the organization and feel compelled to lend your skills and talents to improving the way the organization operates. 

This challenge usually involves tackling issues with staff performance, funding resources and stakeholder support.

My clients have approached this task by doing all the right things:  

    • re-imagining the vision of the organization;
    • creating a strategic action plan to implement the vision; and
    • aligning the vision and action plan with the day to day work of the staff.  

These strategies often result in the non-profit attracting new funding and outside constituencies  (board members, community stakeholders, vendors, and potential funders) become excited about the possibilities that lie ahead.  

BUT without good communication and cooperation structures in place, progress on the plan is hard to come by and at a terrible cost.  Without a high functioning team, there is no sustainable turn-around.

Is this your dilemma? Ask yourself these questions.

  • As the leader do you find yourself heavily enmeshed in day-to-day decision-making?
  • Are you frustrated with the sub-par performance of individuals and feel the staff may be the root of your continued problems?
  • Are you tired of dictating the smallest instructions just to insure critical projects get completed successfully?
  • Are you angry and frustrated that people are not working well independently or as a cohesive group?
  • Do you find yourself wondering how much longer you can keep at this job because of its exacting cost on your spirit?

Stop wondering and realize that the solution begins with you. 

Opening communications is the place to begin to resolve many of the issues that are strangling productivity.  As improved communication patterns stabilize, tightly held unproductive and self-replicating patterns within your team can open – clearing the way to growth and success.

Here’s where to begin:

ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR ROLE.  Like it or not, you are part of the unproductive ongoing patterns of the organization.  You must be or the patterns would not be continuing. (You may disagree, but please keep reading.)

·        EXPLORE OPTIONS.   If a top-down command and control model isn’t working, is there a better way to get desired results?

·        ASK, DON’T TELL.   Ask your team:  What is going on?  Why is this project so difficult? 

o   Ask, if anything was possible, how could you (yes, you the CEO/leader) make the situation better? Ask the poor performers, along with the adequate and well- performing staff.  You don’t have to agree or use what you’re told, but there may be some real knowledge there – worth incorporating.

o   Ask each team member, if anything was possible, how could he or she make the situation better?  Give them space and encouragement to be genuine and creative.

·        LISTEN.  You don’t have to agree, but listen. 

o   Give them time to really share what they see and feel about the organization.  At first you may hear a lot of excuses and even some anger, if they are being honest.  Keep listening. This is like steam coming off a kettle.  There is more underneath.  Don’t get pulled into reacting emotionally.  Ask neutral genuine questions.

o   Give each team member your full attention without thinking about how they are wrong, or how you are going to respond. This is hard.  It may go against every grain in you.  Relax, and just listen.  You have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain.

·        TAKE TIME TO EVALUATE AND INTEGRATE THE INFORMATION YOU RECEIVE. 

o   Resist the urge to respond immediately.  The goal is to look for information in the circumstances in front of you. It may be very helpful to take notes.

o   Ask yourself: What knowledge are you missing?  What knowledge is presenting itself?

·        START SMALL – ONE CONVERSATION AT A TIME.   Believe that within your current situation is the answer to lessening your burden and creating a team with shared responsibility for the organization and its goals. 

My free e-book “10 Essential Steps to Improve Communication at Work” will help you prepare for these conversations. (Go to the top right corner of this page to get it.)  You may be surprised by what comes out of open honest conversation.  Try not to have expectations.  It may not be easy, as you will likely hear things that immediately trigger your defenses.  Relax that impulse.  

Opening and establishing cooperative communication structures is going to take some courage, time and a willingness to let go of ‘being right’.  There is no ‘being right’ in the end, there is only productivity and results and the opposite of that – unncessary suffering, wasting of time and frustration.

As a leader, if you have had enough of the latter, give these ideas a try (and yes, you may have to let some people go, we will touch on that in the next post).  The end result of opening communication may be something much greater than you can imagine.

That’s Skillful Means!

Now your turn:  What strategies have helped you successfully open the flow of communication with team members?

Next post – Once communication is starting to flow with your staff, we’ll look at the larger scope of how communication works across the organization and what structures can support the ongoing healthy flow of information and how you can begin to work together as a team.

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