Empowerment Leadership Model for Small Groups, Teams, & Families
Course 5, Lesson 21
Developing Teams That Solve Problems
Rather than Complain and Lose Morale
Copyright 2001 Dick Wulf
Teams that do not fully realize it is their responsibility to work toward the team purpose will look to the team leader to solve team problems. Unfortunately, team leaders often think it is their responsibility to be the problem-solver. But if team leaders solve the problems teams face, teams will develop a dependency on leadership that robs them of their confidence to solve problems.
When a team leader steps in and solves a problem that the team could solve with a little help from the team leader, that leader communicates nonverbally that it is not the job of the team to solve problems. Furthermore, it communicates that the leader does not think that the team and its members have the skill to solve problems.
Two reactions can occur when a team leader does not encourage and allow the team to come up with its own solutions. First, team members can become angry at being insulted. This will usually be an unconscious reaction. But anger at "management" will grow by leaps and bounds. The feeling that organizational leadership just imposes things on the team will become exaggerated. The world is full of people who do not believe in themselves but have trouble with authority because their parents did not believe in them and took over for them when things became a little difficult. Consider the father who, when seeing his cub scout son is struggling with the building of his pinewood derby car, takes over completely the construction of the car and the testing of its performance. That father gives no vote of confidence to his son. If his son gets angry that the father did not let him finish the car, distrust and anger at authority might set in.
On the other hand, if the cub scout thinks his dad does not think he is capable of doing a good job on the pinewood derby car, something worse than anger will follow. That boy will develop a lack of confidence in himself and his performance across the board is likely to go down, often for the rest of his life. He will avoid assertive action for fear that he is inadequate to do a good job. Later in life, this boy as a man will act incapable and helpless in the face of even simple problems faced in his employment and private life.
So, the team leader who solves the team’s problems is likely to create negative performance, either in the form of resentment of authority, complaining and poor morale, or passive, dependent behavior by competent team members who have no confidence.
Instead, the professional team leader almost always gives problems to the team to solve. At first, the team will take longer to solve the problem than if the team leader just solved the problem himself or herself. But in time the team will solve and prevent many problems quickly because of the skills and confidence produced by handling “their own stuff”. Professional team leaders realize that they are building teams, not getting work done on other tasks. They believe that the teams they lead can and will do a far superior job of solving problems than they could do themselves – once their teams learn from opportunities given them.
Next: Developing Teams That Recognize Strengths and Weaknesses
with Members Helping One Another Rather than Expecting Everyone
to Be Good at Everything the Job Requires
Copyright 2012 Dick Wulf, Colorado, USA