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  • Writer's pictureMichael Soderling

A lack of commitment in the management team

This unexpected response came in reply to the survey the team members completed prior to our workshop.


The response becomes even more unexpected when we consider the fact that all executives emphasized the competence, experience, and drive of their colleagues, and given the fact that the team leads a successful company with a turnover in excess of 1.5 billion SEK.


How should we deal with this paradox? A good starting point is not to literally interpret the alleged lack of commitment but rather to ponder on what it stands for. The survey gives us clues as replies indicated a need to establish common goals and KPIs. Also, replies pointed to a lack of collaboration in producing the business plan. Against this backdrop, we can now examine the process and outcome of this workshop aimed at developing the management team.


The survey findings I have mentioned this far align with what happened early in the workshop: In chronological order, in front of the team, I interviewed each individual about their onboarding experience as a member of the management team. A large portion of the answers contained, however, what it was like to come on board as a manager in the company. Did the participants intentionally sabotage the purpose of the session? Absolutely not. Rather, we should understand this as an indication that in this group, there was a poor distinction between the role of a manager and the role of a management team member.


The picture became even clearer when we later on in the workshop discussed the definition of a team. Members agreed that they did not meet one of the basic criteria which is that a team should have a clear and accepted common purpose. Regular readers of this blog see where this is heading. The questions about purpose and the two roles are intimately connected.  If you are open to a sports metaphor, I’d say that until those questions are clarified, we don't have a football team but rather a group of individual players.


Let's move on to consider group dynamics. Three members, including the CEO, provided examples of a somewhat unpleasant experience: A pattern of encountering near dead silence when presenting initiatives to colleagues. In addition to these testimonials from the group's history, I observed the phenomenon manifesting itself in real-time interactions between members during the workshop. To top it off, I personally experienced how things I said or questions I asked evaporated into thin air. As you no doubt can see, the data points converge and bring us full circle back to the paradox mentioned above. Consider how you would react if there were a pattern where your contributions to the team are not being recognized. My guess is that you would eventually feel quite frustrated.


As the frustration reaches a certain level, you may very well begin mind-reading, perhaps that there is a lack of commitment in the team. If initiatives fall flat, the desire to transform into a team is thwarted. Alternately, the lack of response serves as proof of the notion that it is impossible for the group to become a team with a common purpose. It does then make to sense focus on (or withdraw to, if you will) your managerial role. Of course, such a choice isn't a deliberate process. It's an unconscious defense mechanism that serves to avoid the discomfort in the sound of silence.


As the nature of the paradox was revealed to the group, it wasn't that difficult to agree on a reasonable purpose and clarify the distinction between the two roles. With an agreed purpose, a number of related and important issues emerged for a discussion in which we killed two birds with one stone. Facilitating agreement on those issues, I assumed the role of focused observer of the communication and group dynamics. In the discussion, which spanned four intense hours, the team received regular feedback from me: Please make eye contact with everyone when you speak. Don't leave the previous speaker hanging. Acknowledge colleagues’ contributions. Encourage one another. Strive for a climate where you build on one another’s input.


My assessment is that the group's openness and functioning increased significantly in that session. Also, the feeling of well-being noticeably improved which I base on a delightful contrast to the lack of response. During the four hours, more and more hearty laughs were heard.

Furthermore, I base it on what was said in the evaluation of the workshop. One member conveyed that she felt a load had lifted.  Another member said that the doubt she had felt, namely, whether the team really had the desire for development, had now vanished.


The next time you consider others' lack of commitment, rather ponder on what might be restraining their commitment. Besides being the right approach to take, such a mindset will help you ask questions seasoned with curiosity as opposed to seasoned with subtle criticism. In turn, this will help the other person to be exploring rather than defensive. Worth a try?


The clients who reach out to me are managing directors, management teams, and executives who want to realise the potential in their organisations and accomplish extraordinary results. They reach out to me because of my ability to transform individuals, teams, and organisations.

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