Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

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?

Proceed to other Teamwork and Team Leadership guides

The Himmelfarb Health Sciences Library
Questions? Ask us.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

The George Washington University