Have you ever worked with a group of people who insist they don’t have time to set rules for meetings or project management reporting? If so, you may have encountered a team that considers itself to be free from rules and structure.
New managers tasked with leading teams without structure often face challenges from the group when trying to introduce rules. Often pushback is received in statements such as, “We’ve met for years without all these rules!” “Why are you putting this structure in place now?” “These rules will stifle creativity!” “Everyone likes working this way.”
What’s Really Going On?
Previous leadership may have feared that if they created rules, the group would resist which would create conflict in the workplace. Given that most people tend to avoid conflict, it’s not uncommon to see unruly teams languish in worksites for many years.
Inexperienced team leaders can miss opportunities to provide feedback to the group during dysfunctional episodes. By failing to address the disruptive behaviours, inexperienced leaders may be suppressing participation from higher functioning members of the group. When leaders don’t protect their high performers, their star employees may begin looking for work elsewhere. When this happens, team leaders can find themselves with nothing more than a concentration of disruptive, hard-to-manage people to work with.
If you are faced with leading a team that has been operating without rules and norms, the first thing you need to do is create a list of the agreed-upon rules and norms. Work with the group to identify these pieces and keep the list short and easy to remember. That way if anyone departs from the agreed-upon norms in future meetings, it will be easy to remind them what they agreed to earlier.
Elaine Allan, BA, MBA
Technology & Business Blogger