Bottom line: I'm going to facilitate an exercise with my directs and the rest of a product team to get them to move beyond past transgressions and start building a team. (This is after discussing with my coach, my manager and a few others about some bad behaviors.) Any one done this and have any experiences to share?
I took on this team about 4 months ago from another position in the company. The team is split across 3 locations. I'm in the main office and the other two locations came from previous acquisitions. There are also 2 other locations that we interact with more loosely from other acquisitions.
As far as I can tell, they have never been a team in the years they've struggled together. I've given feedback to my directs about the "meetings after the meeting", pouncing on other people's mistakes, general comments about the people in other locations, bringing up things that happened years ago or vague comments about someone always doing X but they can never give me details, etc. Following the advice of not giving too much negative feedback at the start, I've tried not stress this. But I have given immediate repeated feedback to a few people on instances. (It took me a couple of months to realize the full extent of the issues.)
That seems to be working with my directs. At least a few times they have been more honest about their opinion at a meeting instead of choking it in. However, the Product Management side of this does not report to me and there are some serious issues there. For example, one of them had one of my directs do some work (explicitly without telling the rest of the team) that was outside of their area. Unfortunately, it wasn't great work and customers complained to our Technical Support who called me. I had no idea what they were talking about and we finally tracked down what happened. My direct who was involves swears never to do this again. (The problem is that he used to report to the people who told him to do it. So, we're working on him saying no to them!)
I have a coach who strongly suggested that this can only be effectively handled by getting everyone together. I did ask if it should be someone above us. My boss's boss and the PMs boss all report to the same manager. But my coach and manager said it should be me as challenging the team to start working as a team. It has to be remotely because of finances. I just had my reports here 6 weeks ago but not the others. What I am going to do is lead the team through a series of questions to each person in turn:
1) what can we celebrate from the last year;
2) Specific cases where that person felt they disappointed the team
3) Specific cases where that person felt the team disappointed them
Then we look at each of those lists and identify specific actions the team can take to either repeat the success or stop the disappointment.
The real keys to me is some of the things after this. First, they are never supposed to bring up these events again unless it is to say they've learned something new from it. Secondly, if someone tries to start a "meeting after the meeting", the people are supposed to stop it and get them to call another meeting to address the problem. Thirdly, I'll be looking out for those pregnant pauses or cases where someone is backing away from saying how they feel and challenging the group to look deeper for unresolved conflict.
I'm a little nervous to say the least :) but think I can to this. I've enlisted 2 people in the geographies where I won't be and am flying to be with the Product Management team and my directs there My coach and manager both thing I'm good at sensing conflict and have the respect if not yet trust of everyone.
I am concerned about a few things but have been re-reading my Crucial Conversations and Influencer books again. I am going to schedule this meeting after having a conversation with the head of the Product Management group about doing this. Everyone will know the agenda and can be prepared. I've also picked a few people to work with from each geography to be the ones to volunteer to go first. My Project Manager says she'll go first. She's nervous about the idea of having to say out loud the problems but can do it.
I trust my coach. She's been doing this for many years and has had a lot of interactions with our company. So, she knows a lot of this history.
Has anyone tried to do this? Did it work? I'm preparing how I'll handle people either getting defensive or being nasty. (Hopefully, I'll be able to pull it off when it's real versus practice!) Since I'm going to coach a few people into talking before the fact, I'll have a few things brought up. I'm concerned about everyone clamming up and my not being able to draw them out. (In the past, they seem to do that and then complain afterwards to the people in their geography.)