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Team Leadership: Intervening to Enhance Team Functioning

1. Overview

  • There are systematic steps in the intervention process
  • First, the leader must determine whether or not to intervene
  • Next the leader should share observations of the team in action, figure out ineffective behavior, and intervene to increase team function
  • To avoid misunderstandings, leaders should carefully choose words that convey the meaning they intend
  • Knowing the right questions to ask, will improve the leader’s ability to support behavioral changes

2. Intervention Steps for Ineffective Teams

3. Step 3 Decide Whether, How, and Why to Intervene

  • Ask the following questions:
    • Have I observed the behavior enough to make reliable diagnosis?
    • To what extent is the behavior hindering the group’s effectiveness?
    • What are the consequences of not intervening?
    • Can I intervene later and avoid negative consequences?
    • Have I contracted with the group to make this type of intervention?
    • Do I have the skills to intervene? If not, do I need an external party to help?

4. Step 4 Share Your Observation

  • Explain the intervention before beginning
    • Ex. “I want to check if the conversation is on track.”
  • Share the observation not the inference
    • Ex. Your face turned red and you pushed away from the table” vs. “You are angry”
  • Expect a team member to have a different perspective or disagree with you
    • Ex. Ask them, “Have I misstated anything?” or “Tell me what I missed.”
  • Ask team member to repeat what they said
    • Ex. “I want to follow up on what you just said, but I want to make sure I didn’t miss something.”

5. Step 5 Share Your Inference

  • Use the lowest level of inference required
    • Ex. “I’m inferring you don’t want to support “X” because you don’t trust “Y” will help you.  Is my inference correct?  vs. “You are not a very trusting person.”
  • Explain how the behavior is problematic
    • Ex. “I’m inferring you are thinking “A” causes “B,” is that correct?  I’m asking because if this proves to be a faulty assumption, the solution will not work.”
  • Be prepared for the team member to disagree
    • Ex. “Is my inference off in any way?  What meaning did you make?”

6. Step 6 Help Group Decide Whether and How to Change Behavior

  • Ask team members to check inferences or share interests rather than positions
    • Ex. “Would you be willing to test/share…?”
  • Avoid viewing reluctance as resistance; show compassion rather than judgment
    • Ex. Ask, “Is there a reason why you’re not ready to move forward?” or “Do you have unmet needs?” 

7. Leader's Language Choices

8. Examples of Effective Intervention Questions

  • I want to check something out.  I think you said…is that right?
  • Can you supply more information so that we can get a better picture of the situation?
  • Would you be willing to say what you mean by “XYZ” and give some examples…?
  • Can you share with the team how you arrived at your conclusion?
  • Would you be willing to ask others what problems, if any, they see with your plan?
  • Would you be willing to jointly design a way to test whether the solution meets the criteria?
  • I am inferring that at least three of you have some concern about…Is that what you were thinking or is there something else?
  • I sense that you feel pressured to support the proposal now or you changed your mind.  What led to the change?

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