Nitsa had been promoted to manage the team she had previously been part of. But two team members weren’t happy – they’d also applied for the management role.
Nitsa was younger than the two men – Phillip and Li – who had applied for the position. And she had only worked in the team for 18 months before she was promoted. Phillip and Li had been quite vocal in expressing their resentment that a younger, ‘less experienced’ woman had been promoted over them.
The task of trying to win Phillip and Li over was exhausting Nitsa. She came to me for leadership coaching. Here are the steps we helped her take.
Set communication norms
Failing to address disruptive behaviour only makes it worse. Nitsa needed to establish clear boundaries around which behaviours were appropriate on the team. But ‘telling’ the team how they should behave would escalate the conflict. Instead, Nitsa needed to adopt a consultative approach. She organised a half day workshop, in which the team agreed upon a set of communication norms they were willing to adopt.
Meet with each person on your team weekly
Effective managers build rapport and give regular feedback. Both these outcomes are more easily achieved when you meet with individuals regularly. Nitsa scheduled 20 minute catch ups with each member of her team for every Friday morning. During her first meetings with Phillip and Li, she focussed on establishing clear work goals. She then used every subsequent meeting to review progress against those goals, as well as providing feedback and coaching. This quickly established her as the person accountable for team outputs.
Be seen as decisive
Many female leaders as perceived to be ‘indecisive’ by their team members. This is because they use highly consultative language patterns. There’s nothing wrong with consulting – but Nitsa needed to be clear about where the process of consultation started and ended. She started explaining what she did and did not want input into. And she also began explaining how she would use the team’s input when making her final decision. Making these small changes to her communication habits created a sense that she was decisive and goal focussed.