“So, let’s say the team struggles. You, as the manager, are accountable for the output of the team. You control all the levers. What are you going to do?” I asked.
“Instead of jumping in to fix the problem, which is what I really want to do, I have to get the team to solve the problem,” Miriam replied.
“First, let’s talk about time. As the manager, when will you first know that the team is struggling with a problem?”
“That’s easy,” Miriam chuckled. “I know they are going to struggle before I even assign the project.”
“So, if you know the team will struggle, even before the project starts, when do you, as manager, intervene? How long will you let them twist in the wind? Remember, twisting in the wind costs money and you are accountable for output.”
“Are you suggesting I jump in before the project even starts? I thought I was supposed to let the team struggle with the problem?” Miriam countered.
“When the team encounters its first problem, and begins to struggle, how long does it take the team to start solving the problem?”
“Again, that’s easy. Forever. Faced with a problem, the team will avoid the problem, look to blame someone (else) for the problem, knock off early, work on easier stuff, dump the problem on my desk, complain about the problem, argue about the problem, go into panic mode, go into paralysis, you name it, they have tried it,” she explained.
“Fight, flight, freeze or appease. These are all classic behaviors of a team, faced with a problem, engaged in non-work.”
“So, I am the manager, what do I do?”
“Simple, outlast the panic. Put the struggle on the table and outlast the panic.” -Tom