When people get stuck it’s more often than not your fault. There, I said it. As a manager of a team though it’s often difficult to notice when someone is stuck as you are too close to the issue. Especially, when working on long-running projects, getting stuck doesn’t happen overnight. But how and why do people get stuck? There are many reasons: they are unsure on what to work on, they are not confident that they have the skills or uncertain of their role overall. Also more broad and general issues with company culture, strategy or processes could be the culprit. Or they could, personally, go through tough times.
The consequences of getting stuck
The immediate effects of teams getting stuck, like projects missing deadlines are pretty obvious. But longer term, this can lead to more troublesome issues. Team members might think they need to step in for others so one person doesn’t slow the whole team down. This might lead to resentment. And if this goes on too long, morale might become really low. This in turn can lead to an exhausted team.
How you can help them get unstuck
It’s important to know that even the greatest teams and companies do get stuck at some point. If you learn that someone is stuck, be sure to not play the blame game. Instead invite them for a short Zoom/Skype call. Be really clear that any question is welcome. Clarify who is responsible for what, so they don’t assume too much is asked of them. Next ask them how they would approach the task at hand. Let them talk through their steps from start to finish. This is where you can learn much about how they approach problem solving. Help them to split a task in multiple smaller tasks (or project when it’s a big project) if needed.
More broadly you can reaffirm what your team or company’s guiding purpose is. What ambitions do you. Make it a recurring habit to share this with your team.
Getting people to speak up can be difficult, as they fear of being seen as incompetent or for being annoying asking too many questions. It’s 100% up to you to create a culture where everybody feels safe to speak up, ask questions and is not afraid of getting stuck.
This article is part of “Managing Remote”. A series of short articles with ideas, insights and best practices to become the best possible manager in 2021.
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