One of my co-workers, who has just become a team leader, is having difficulty arranging meetings with the team due to his fear of communicating with one of the developers. He is afraid to say something wrong and get an adverse reaction, which can lead to a conflict or even a developer leaving the team. Let’s look at this situation, identify the problems it causes, and think about how to solve them.
Understanding the reasons
One of the basic and, coincidentally, the most challenging aspects of managing a team is the ability to communicate with different people, each of whom may have their own views on development, their own expectations from colleagues, and in general perceive the world differently. Although this is an entirely normal situation for newcomers to management, it is often difficult to cross the line of insecurity and fear of being rejected. In this post, I want to share my experience and tips on how to deal with this problem and improve the quality of meetings with the team.
First of all, you need to understand the source of your fears about talking with an employee. Perhaps you feel that you do not have sufficient competence or weight to conduct a dialogue with him. Or maybe you heard or saw how he reacts to criticism or suggestions for improving the work and it seems that your words will certainly be taken with hostility. Perhaps you just do not know how to approach him and start a conversation, and this imaginary awkwardness fetters you.
In any case, it is important to realize that your fear does not help you and your team. If you avoid meetings with the team or keep them formal and superficial, you lose the opportunity to get feedback, identify problems, motivate, and develop your subordinates. Moreover, it is the lack of meetings that increases the risk of losing the trust and respect of the team, which may feel that you are not interested in their opinion and success.
What to do? Here are a few steps that can help you overcome your fear and communicate effectively with your team:
Prepare for the meeting. The key to a good meeting is preparation. It works with any meeting, even with a date ;) So, to simplify a difficult situation as much as possible, you need to think about what you want to talk about and what conclusion to make.
Choose a suitable time and place for the meeting. There is no need to hold a meeting at a time when the boss needs you to respond urgently or the developer you are going to talk to is busy fixing a bug in the prod. Offer the developer a convenient time and place to meet, such as a quiet office or coffee shop. I like to have meetings at the beginning or end of the week when everyone is already relaxing before the weekend.
Start the meeting on a positive note. Ask your colleague about his mood, Greet the developer, thank him for his work, and share your successes or plans. Show your interest and involvement in the project and the team.
Listen carefully. As D. Carnegie wrote in his book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” - the ability to listen is the most important skill in a conversation. Let your employee express their emotions, tell their opinion about work and colleagues, and ask questions. Do not interrupt him, do not immediately criticize him, and do not ignore his words. Try to understand his point of view, motives, and problems. Confirm that you hear and understand him using words and gestures. Ask clarifying or open-ended questions to delve deeper into a topic.
Express your opinion honestly and tactfully. Tell the developer what you think of their work, behavior, or ideas. Use facts, not judgment, no one likes to have their work criticized. Give specific examples from your experience, even if they were unsuccessful, this will show you as a person, and not boss. Admit your mistakes or shortcomings, if any. Give the developer a chance to respond to your criticisms or suggestions without insisting on their opinion.
Seek compromise and cooperation. Don’t try to win an argument or prove yourself right. Recognize the advantages and disadvantages of different approaches and solutions. Your task as a leader is to develop the team. The ability to make mistakes and learn from your mistakes is one of the most important aspects of learning, but you must warn the team against critical mistakes that will affect the business. Ask the developer what they can do to improve the situation or solve the problem. Offer your help or support if needed, but don’t push.
End the meeting on a positive note. Summarize the results of the meeting, and once again list what you talked about and agreed on. Thank the developers for their contribution, it really means a lot to you. Express your respect and trust in him. Invite him to the next meeting or feedback.
I hope these tips will help you overcome your fear and communicate effectively with your team. Remember that the developer is not your enemy, but your colleague and partner, who is also interested in the success of the project and the team. If you treat him with respect and trust, he will most likely return the same to you.