Being a team leader leaves plenty of room for empowering yourself. Often times, you are expected to act independently, make decisions and resolve issues with little or no guidance. In this blog post, you are going to learn how to empower yourself through assertiveness, consensus building, conflict resolution and decision making.
Being assertive does not mean you have to be pushy. Dictionary.com defines assertive as being confidently aggressive or self-assured or positive. When you are a team leader, you will encounter times when you have to be assertive. This means pushing back, and being clear on what you need to get done.
Here are some five tips we call the Five B’s to becoming or demonstrating more assertiveness in your team:
- Be involved in the conversation. When you make a decision or state an opinion, include yourself in the statement. For example you might say, “I disagree or I have a different point of view.” You might say, “I like the idea or I think this is great.” In any case, place yourself in the conversation.
- Be brief. Being to the point demonstrates confidence in what you are saying. When you say too much, team members will tend to lose focus and question you. This is true also for written communication like email. Giving too many details weakens your message. Avoid this if you can.
- Be positive with your body language. Negative body language sends a message of low confidence. Make good eye contact and be willing to engage in dialogue even if it is a difficult discussion.
- Be direct. If you beat around the bush or try to find other ways to say things, this will affect your assertiveness. Do not be afraid of being direct. Be tactful in how you say it, but mumbling and grasping for the right words constantly shows lack of confidence.
- Be calm in conflict. Don’t lose your cool. Conflict is a normal part of our work life. Knowing this will help you react to it with calmness. If we are easily rocked by conflict you will lose your assertiveness because you will want to avoid conflict at all costs.
Being assertive takes time to develop. Practice a little at a time. You want to avoid becoming a Sherman tank and run everyone over. This is the extreme, and it could affect your ability to gain consensus.
Conflict is normal. Most of us are passionate about our beliefs. We want so much to achieve our goals that sometimes we run right into conflict over it. The first thing in conflict resolution is to know that it will happen. Avoiding conflict is also unhealthy as it leads to harboring emotion and passive aggressiveness. It is better to engage in conflict and then move on to resolving the issue or gaining consensus.
There are two stages to conflict resolution. First, we need to contain the damage. Second, we have to move to a resolution. The biggest enemy to conflict resolution is time. Do not let time pass. Give some time to let the emotions settle, and then engage that team member as soon as you can. Call them, send an email, or walk over to their area. Be the bigger of the two. Make the first move. Say to yourself, “That if I do not move, no one will.” When you do find them, ask them if now is a good time to talk is. They may still be upset. If they are upset, set a time later that day to meet with them. If they are okay with you being there, then follow the steps to mending the relationship.
- Conflict identified: state the issue or activities that made the encounter become heated. You might say, “I think we may have lost track of the purpose of the meeting” or “I believe we have strong viewpoints on the subject and it showed.”
- Address the other party’s concern: you might say, “I know you are not in favor of (insert issue). I respect that.”
- Listen to them: use your best listening skills and let them vent about the situation.
- Mend relationships: tell the team member that your relationship with them is important and you value them. Apologize or at least leave on good terms.
During this time, you may want to avoid trying to resolve the issue that caused the conflict right away. Leave that for a different time. For now, your goal is to patch the relationship. Later, you will try to build consensus in order to move forward beyond the conflict.
If you experience a group conflict, perform the same technique. Get them back in the meeting room and have them vent and get things out respectfully. Take notes and adjourn the meeting for a later time to build consensus at the group leave.
Dictionary.com defines consensus as a general agreement or concord. Sometimes we view consensus as total agreement. This is not the goal of building consensus. It takes negotiating and problem solving. You may run into problems with your peers or project team in getting everyone on board with an idea or you may be resolving a conflict. In any case, building a consensus is a skill worth developing.
Below are PEACE techniques for building consensus:
- Problem defined: it is difficult to build consensus when you do not know what you are trying to overcome or achieve. Define the problem as a goal to achieve. Have the team give you the goals. Encourage those who are not participating to do so. Remember, you have to get a general agreement form all.
- Everyone vents thoughts respectfully: you will find that team members will want to say things against opposing ideas. Encourage them to frame their venting positively and allow them to do it.
- Alternative solutions explored: have the team come up with various solutions to the problem. Then reduce the alternatives to a short list.
- Choice is made: before this is done, make sure everyone agrees that the alternative selected is the best for the team and they will support it. Make the choice.
- Everyone agrees to support the solution: get everyone’s approval verbal and publicly in the meeting room before you adjourn.
Building consensus takes time and could happen over several team meetings, depending on the complexity of the issue. Nonetheless, bringing the team back to the table to reach a consensus should never stop.
If your role in the team is too involved, you may want to get someone who is not a part of the team to help facilitate the consensus building. Avoid getting the vice president or some other high ranking employee. This will shut the process down. They have to feel comfortable venting without any restrictions.
Many times we are faced with situations that require us to choose among other options. Most of us want to make the right decision. However, we do not want to spend time doing so. Paralysis by analysis could become a problem, making us inefficient and hesitant in making a decision.
As team leader, you may face times when you have to make a decision on behalf of your manager. Below are some basic elements to making a decision:
- You must have two or more options exist in order to make a decision
- Brainstorming all possible alternatives for each option
- Weighing the pros and cons of each alternative and its outcome
- Narrow down the alternatives to a short list
- Evaluate the remaining alternatives for risk, stakeholder impact and your comfort level
- Decide on an alternative
- Monitor outcome of selected alternative
- Always have a backup plan ready in case first alternative does not work out.
If you are looking to make the perfect decision every time, you may be setting yourself up for a frustrating time. We cannot always predict everything that is going to take place once a decision is made. Careful planning and weighing of options is the best method to reaching a solution. Gut instinct could lead you into trouble. Do not make those kinds of decisions for your manager. It could cost them dearly. Finally, always document your process. This way you have something to refer to when asked why you chose that option.