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'How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?' from Your Talent@Work with Shawn Kent Hayashi

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?

Posted: Aug 4, 2015

Maria walked into the team meeting with a chip on her shoulder.

Despite being told by her boss that the "lunch and learn" session was mandatory, she sniped, "Do I really have to be here?" As she was told where to sit, she rolled her eyes and muttered, "I'm too busy for this."

When the presenter--a fellow colleague--began, Maria took out her phone and scrolled through email. Not once did she look at or acknowledge her peer at the podium or the others around the table. 

One colleague, glaring in Maria's direction, shook her head in disgust. Another  tightened his lips into a scowl as the two of them made eye contact. This was not a good start for a learning session designed to help the team cover each other's work. 

The tension in the room--and on this team--was palpable. Clearly, these employees were mired in resentment.

How do you feel about Maria as you read this? Do you think her lack of "team spirit" is the source of the problem?

You may be surprised to know it's not!

Maria has become the lightning rod for everything going wrong with the team. Yet she is highly focused on what she is charged with accomplishing and is often the top sales person in the organization.

Maria's key accountabilities for her role involve bringing in revenue. Period.

Can you spot the problem?

She has never been asked or taught how to be a team member. Leadership in her organization never created clear expectations for job performance as it relates to being a team member.

Since attending "lunch and learn" meetings did not--as far as Maria could see--help her bring in revenue and achieve success in her role, she considered them a waste of time. It never occurred to her that she should contribute her wisdom to the team and collaborate in a way that helps everyone to grow together.

In other words, no one ever told Maria that being a team player was part of her job.

Management never spelled out that Maria's role also involved picking up the slack when a team member was on vacation and working with others to solve customer service problems.

In fact, by tying her performance rating and bonus exclusively to sales metrics, management rewarded Maria's behavior and continued to fuel a problem. 

The Professional Development Group identifies and solves these issues with our High Performing Team Retreats. We pinpoint areas of conflict that undermine morale, engagement and performance, and then equip team leaders to confront, diffuse or eliminate sources of contention. We help team members understand their differences so they can value each other's strengths and cover each other's blind spots without resentment. 

The chip on Maria's shoulder? It's gone now. Once her manager outlined new key accountabilities for her position and clarified expectations for collaboration,  Maria's behavior changed.  She now focuses on being a team player and on selling the company's services.

The team as a whole is also functioning better. With the elimination of a major source of frustration, members have new confidence in their leadership and are now fully focused on improving work flow during a busy vacation season.

If you suspect that your team is not performing at its best, let us help. Call 888-959-1188 ext 88 to learn more about our High Performing Team Retreats.

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