I sat down with each of the employees on the team I had been assigned to. One by one, they shared their tales of woe. “We can’t get any support from anyone!” She said, hysterical. “Why won’t these people listen to us?” He screamed, angrily. “I can’t get parts for my customer,” came another retort.
That was my introduction to management. I was hired to supervise a call center and tech support operation. They were the most beat up group of people I had met in business. Three years later, that team won the highest award at Johnson Controls.
Every manager has had to face, at one time or another, a promotion into a broken team.
Each of us as managers is sometimes faced with the challenge of mending a group of people who are exhausted, downtrodden and just plain dejected. Teams fall apart for many reasons: disparaging comments about their effectiveness, ineffective team members, excessive management turnover, unclear mission, and failure. The risky part of these teams is they become self-fulfilling prophecies because poor team chemistry leads to poor team performance which leads to blaming which leads to a death spiral of ineffective performance and on and on.
When we are called into a conference room and told we’ll be moving into “X” team, we sometimes hold our breath, knowing the risks involved with managing a broken team. Things can go wrong. There is no question that rebuilding a reputation takes time and deliberate effort. This article offers several actions you can take to retool and rebuild. Teams don’t often fit a linear change path, but they do respond to deliberate, thoughtful and persistent leadership.