The best managers understand that the worst possible thing they can do with individuals who demonstrate low personal responsibility and accountability levels is put them on a team. That would be akin to shoving a round peg in a square hole. It’s not a fit.
Joe gossips, complains and blames. His manager is completely aware of it. The Department is in need of a team of people to quickly work out a solution to a customer problem that has a lot of moving parts. Joe’s manager does not select him for the team that will tackle the problem. Joe is upset and goes to HR and complains that he is not getting opportunities to grow and develop. HR asks that he take his complaint directly to his manager. Joe insists he has tried that. HR calls a meeting for Joe and the manager to sit and talk together.
Joe: You have left me out of three team opportunities in a row.
Manager: Your lack of performance warrants staying focused on doing what is required in your current job. Three of the last four reports you are expected to turn in have been late. Those that were turned in had errors that someone else had to fix because you were on vacation and we could not wait. You and I went over this when you got back from your vacation.
Joe: What does this have to do with your excluding me from the last three team opportunities? I can’t learn and grow in this job unless I have exposure to these complex, interesting problems that I can help the team with. And besides, I told you why those reports were late. I can’t control other people and if they don’t get me what I need on time. None of those late reports were my fault. And as for the errors, no one is perfect. I’ll bet some of those other people you keep picking for the teams have made plenty of mistakes.
Manager: In order to be an effective team member, I need personal responsibility and accountability for results, individually and collectively. If I put someone who is not meeting required expectations on a team, their lack of performance becomes the team’s problem. A team member cannot arrive at a team meeting saying “I could not control other people so I don’t have what I agreed to do done and I’m sure if you find an error on what I do have here you will fix it for me.”
Real teams have team members that hold each other accountable and can let a team member go if they are under-performing. Keep in mind that under-performers stick out right away on a real team and the team has to be ready to deal with it. I give my teams that authority. They empower themselves to use it. A real team does not tolerate excuses, blame or rescue, fix and save poor work. And, a real team doesn’t run to a manager to ask that an under performer be managed or removed. The team uses the manager as a resource Joe. You would be answering to the team’s selected team leader and your teammates.
HR: To be fair to Joe, can’t you put Joe on a team because it might be a better fit for him to work with others in that environment and consider that his performance is suffering now because working in his small group is not a fit?
Manager: I have assessed Joe’s skills and documented the performance problems as I am required to do. I have considered that the challenge might be he is in the wrong job. My determination is that the performance improvement plan I have him on prepares him to be on a team some time in the future. I have told him that. I know that putting him on a team now would be a disservice to him and the team. We are in this conversation now because Joe did not like my answer and I am no less supportive of Joe meeting expectations that he is capable of meeting in the job he has now.
HR: Joe, is there anything else you want to add or say?
Joe: I think you both have it out for me and don’t understand that I am really talented and that the teams you refuse to put me on are really missing out. Some people have even said so.
Manager: Are any of these people on the teams I have put together?
Joe: Well, no.
Manager: I would invite you to have anyone who needs to come to me about their concerns about themselves to come see me Joe. I always have, and I always will speak directly to them. I appreciate the support HR is demonstrating to make sure we talk directly to each other.
Moral of the story: If you don’t have a high level of personal responsibility and accountability per individual on a team. You don’t have a team. You have a group that needs to be managed.
I see the greatest dysfunction in an organization when a “team” is talked to like they are to be the owners of clarity of role, goal, resources, time line, results, etc. and then treated in a top down, heavily managed way. It’s nuts!
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