The Falkirk battle scene in the movie Braveheart has William Wallace engaging the English army. At a crucial point in the fight, the Scottish nobles that were supposed to be his allies betrayed him and withdrew from the field, leaving him to be defeated. Knowing who your allies are is important. Knowing you can trust them is vital.
This goes both ways. You need to know your team is behind you but they need to know you have them covered, too. Failing to protect them, you can imagine how quickly they would hunt you down and dispose of you, much like William Wallace did to his enemies.
Keep yourself and your team from being destroyed with these 10 points.
Be aware of conflicts and issues within the team. Not all disagreements are unhealthy, but when it becomes a conflict it needs to be aired and dealt with quickly.
Recognize a challenge from outside. Some people are able to couch their attacks in a manner that hides their intent. It starts out supportively with “Your team does have an aggressive timeline and seems to be over allocated.” Then it turns to “Obviously they can’t estimate properly and are incompetent in other areas as well.”
Address the attack. If a member of your team comes under fire during a meeting it is your job to set the record straight. You don’t have to defend the guilty, but you can keep them from being executed on the spot. Let the attacker and anyone he has told know that the issue is being handled and, if appropriate, how.
Verify the facts before laying blame. Nothing kills credibility with your team faster than assuming they are guilty. A manager I once knew failed to find the truth before assuming his new team was in the wrong. It took him nearly three months to realize his mistake. He never regained the confidence of his team.
Eliminate flashpoints. If you have team members that can’t stand each other, don’t make them work together. One individual I worked with lacked any verbal filter and could be a little abrasive at times. Unfortunately he was heading up a task force that dealt directly with upper management. He said some things to the CIO that should have been left unsaid. Luckily the CIO was extremely patient and handled it well. That person didn’t stay the head of the group long afterward.
Have an open door policy. Give your team the opportunity to talk through problems and address things directly with you before they get explosive. My principal in high school had an open door policy and it probably saved me from being expelled. An idiot named Bubba moved in during my junior year. For no apparent reason he started spreading lies about my girlfriend. He deserved a thrashing, and I told the principal I was going to do it if he didn’t stop. Mr. Stockin was able to talk me down and save my academic career.
Escalate major issues to upper management. If there are problems that have further reaching impacts, senior management needs to know and be involved in resolving them.
Allow time for the situation to cool down. Like a cut, some things take time to heal. If you keep picking the scab the situation is going to scar.
Revisit the situation to ensure the coals aren’t smoldering. After the cooling down phase, loop back around and check with the involved parties to address any lingering problems.
Treat everyone with respect, even the difficult ones. I’ve been asked to be a reference for people I did not enjoy working with. Evidently they were clueless that I couldn’t stand working with them.
- There several historical inaccuracies in the Braveheart movie. Falkirk may never have truly happened.
- I generally hide the identity of my examples, but it felt good to finally take a swing at Bubba.