An ideal project team works cohesively. However this is easier said than done because dissension among team members will always emerge. As a project manager, the worst scenario is facing regular conflicts to do with your decisions. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that most team leaders are promoted to oversee a project up from a position where they were individual contributors.
The Art of Problem Solving
Dealing with a team member who doesn’t agree with your methods can be a frustrating affair. Handling such cases could either ruin or make your project more successful. In fact, disagreements from your team member should not be conceived as a necessarily bad thing.
Indeed, if you deal with the situation effectively you can have productive gains, according to Calvin Sun, an expert in problem solving. One of the greatest American industrialists, Henry Kaiser, said that problems are only opportunities in work cloths. In essence, you have to see this disagreement as an opportunity to clarify the project’s vision.
How not to handle a Disagreement
Well, nothing comes easy and in order to become an effective manager, you have to deal with problems as they come. One of the worst decisions you can make is to try to force decisions on the team members because this will cause even more conflicts. Ignoring a team member’s concerns not only leads to more problems, but also sets a dangerous precedence.
The other team members will be keenly watching and if you don’t handle the situation competently, they will keep their ideas to themselves in future. In short, you will have killed the project inadvertently. Frances A. Kennedy,. and Linda B. Nilson, Ph.D. in their Team Member Handbook say that problem solving is the cornerstone of every successful team. Indeed, they dedicated an entire chapter to this problem.
So how do you deal with the team member who feels your methods are not effective? Here are some practical ideas:
1.Redefine the Goals and Vision for the Project
One of the most important roles of any project manager is to set and communicate the vision of the project. In most cases leaders will have a good vision for the project but they fail to communicate the same to the team.
In such a case there are bound to be disagreements because members don’t actually know where you are taking them. To avoid this you need to remind team members where the project is going to avoid dissension.
2. Redefine Responsibilities
It is important to let everyone know their role in achieving the project’s objectives. There is no project that runs smoothly when different members are colliding over their tasks. It is important to appreciate that everyone is a specialist and needs to be respected. You need to show members that you appreciate their input and at the same time, remind them about their specific roles. Such a decision helps avert future disagreements which can sap team morale and ultimately ruin the project.
3. Acknowledge the Problem
There are two ways of dealing with a problem. You either tackle it or ignore it. As an effective leader you need to appreciate the destructive effect of public spats on a team. You need to analyze the member’s point of view and assess whether there are valid concerns.
This means you should first assess every argument as opposed to giving an outright counter to the disagreement. When you acknowledge the existence of a problem it becomes easier to tackle it.
4. Talk to the Disagreeing Team Member
One of the most important team building tools is personal talks. Instead of ignoring a member’s views you need to call them aside to get a better understanding of their point of view. Your talk with the team member should be aimed at making the member align with the rest of team.
5. Remain Professional
Anger is a big pitfall even for the best managers. If you have a short temper, you will have a herculean task of dealing with disagreements. It is important to remain professional when facing a disagreeing team member in order to get a lasting solution.
If you reprimand them in front of the team, this will just antagonize your team which piles more pressure on you. An effective manager handles problems professionally not only to get the best solutions, but also earn admiration from the rest of the team.
6. Never Personalize Issues
It is important to appreciate that people will always disagree. Indeed, since civilization man has always held an opinion on everything. The worst thing you can do is to get personal instead of getting the other person’s point of view. You should remain objective and avoid taking a hard-line stance in order to resolve the disagreement amicably.
7. Involve the Team
Once you realize there is a disagreement you need to organize a team session for brainstorming. This is the classic case of taking back the decision to them. In such a brainstorming session the team member who feels unsettled will get a chance to explain their dissatisfaction with your methods. Such a meeting must be open in order to get better insight on the team’s feelings about your leadership style.
8. Listen and Encourage Openness
One of the greatest attributes of a manager is effective listening. When you realize that a certain member disagrees with your methods, don’t jump into conclusions. Instead, you must be an effective listener if at all you want to avoid conflict. When addressing the problem, ensure you remind the team to be open and frank. Frank talk is the best way to avoid a toxic office environment.
9. Solve and Forget
Once you have managed to solve the disagreement you need to move on. Indeed, you should take the opportunity to motivate your team to work even harder to achieve the set objectives.
10. Let Go of Team Members Who Can’t Align
Once in a while you will encounter a team member who for whatever reason, and despite all your efforts, won’t align and work well together with the rest of the team. Instead of keeping such a team member you can consider letting them go for the sake of the team. Remember as much as each team member is important no one team member is more important than the team. And that includes you as the team leader.
It is true everyone is allowed to have a different opinion but as a project leader you appreciate the importance of working in harmony. When one member disagrees with your methods you should listen keenly, allow direct communication, encourage new ideas and ultimately come to a consensus.
It is also important to set ground rules early in order to create a strong team as Deborah Ancona, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management says. Nothing feels as good as working with a team where everyone is working in tandem and you can achieve this by making sure every disagreement is amicably resolved.
Image: Adrian Jack Bunsby