One of the many challenges leaders face is managing and mitigating friction and tension within their teams. Different personalities, different values, different ways of doing things miscommunication, over-communication, under-communication, there are many reasons that tension can arise within a team. It is pretty much expected that if you throw a group of people together in a work environment there is going to be some level of tension that arises, if not as a constant undercurrent then it will certainly will from time to time. Illness, fatigue, frustration, anxiety, and personal matters all influence our ability to meet the expectations of others, and even our own expectations.
Leaders need to be in touch with their team to ensure natural tensions don’t get out of hand. A good leader needs to keep their ear close to the ground to monitor the level of friction within their team and take action to ensure it doesn’t stifle morale and productivity. Friction can create a perception of conflicting values and impede collaboration between individuals or teams, causing progress to slow or grind to a halt. It can be hard to uncover as a leader as individuals may not necessarily freely disclose friction between each other so leaders need to find ways to find out about the tensions within a team so that they can be addressed before becoming too problematic.
Tackling friction through connection
One of the best ways to eliminate friction is to gather the team together to reassess priorities while reconnecting with a higher purpose. Reminding people of the bigger picture enables them to feel part of something greater than themselves and serves as a powerful motivator to reinvigorate their energy and their connection to one another.
A valuable approach to minimising friction within a team is to request each team member to individually voice their priorities; allowing everyone to have their say. Asking your team the question; “what constitutes a healthy workplace, in your opinion?” and then hearing everyone’s response is a great way for people to reconnect and agree on common values. To make it even more powerful, when one person has given their response, ask someone else to re-phrase what they said, to encourage active listening and agreement within the team. It’s a great way to get everyone on the same page. And what’s interesting with this question is the answers usually revolve around two core themes; respect and collaboration. These fundamental factors serve as the bedrock for an optimal work environment.
Inviting feedback on processes and procedures proves valuable in refining operations to facilitate employees’ tasks and enhance their efficiency. Leaders who stay open minded on how things can be done differently allows for businesses to stay agile, keep growing, keep evolving and adapt. Being heard and valued encourages staff to keep giving feedback which, in the process can provide valuable insights into friction within a team. Often if someone has some feedback on existing processes, by making tweaks and changes to how things are done, you are also putting out any fires of friction and tension and smoothing things out for optimum productivity.
Make sure everyone knows the communication protocols
Processes and procedures around communication can be a great way to minimise unnecessary friction. We have so many platforms for communication these days, we need to ensure we have some well-communicated guidelines around what kind of communication warrants particular communication platforms.
Some people tend to pick up the phone and make phone calls. Some send texts, some emails and some send teams messages. Depending on personal experience these methods of communication are favoured over others, but not everyone has the same tendencies. This in itself can cause friction. While someone is completely comfortable with phone calls, others may prefer an email.
By establishing structured communication practices and boundaries, friction can be minimised as everyone becomes aware of expectations. Set up a document which clearly outlines the types of communications and what platform should be used and get your team to stick to it.
Meetings should be set for more complicated subjects where multiple stakeholders need to collaborate, emails should be used for projects and requests where more than a day is required for a turnaround, phone calls and texts should be saved for urgent issues; etc.. Likewise set up processes for following up. Plenty of friction within teams is caused by someone emailing someone, not hearing back straight away and then chasing the person up before that person has had adequate time to respond. Encourage a culture where receipt of emails is acknowledged, deadlines are clearly communicated upfront, and expectations are managed and well communicated. Perhaps setting up weekly or daily WIPs allows for a good platform for your team to gather together and check off progress on jobs in a structured and non-confrontational manner.
Keeping natural friction and tension at manageable levels is essential in maintaining a collaborative and motivated team. I specialise in bringing people together. Could you and your leadership team do with one of my tailored workshops? I’d love to share my experience and fool-proof leadership techniques with you. Don’t hesitate. Get in touch today.