“… and that means you do everything I say …”

My favourite quote from Charlie Croker (Michael Caine) in the original “Italian Job” – and it illustrates perfectly the dilemma faced by every manager and leader.  (Crooked or legit).

Creating Teamwork: the job of a Manager, a Coach, or a Leader?

A key part of every manager’s job entails telling people what to do: giving out workflows, setting deadlines for work to be completed, inviting team members to meetings – the list of instructions is endless.

Simply giving orders is only half the battle – or maybe less than half.  And not even the most important half …

The route to creating brilliant teams starts with building trust with every member of the team – not only the ones you ‘naturally’ get on with.

So how do you do that?  How do you build trust?  How do you motivate them?  Is it even your job to motivate them, or could you be asking the wrong question?  We believe people already know what motivates them: it’s part of a manager’s job to make sure the team – and the whole organisation – are nurturing those values.  Easier said than done.

Berne Levels of Comm pic

Eric Berne, the Canadian psychiatrist, devised several models to illuminate human behaviours, and especially how we communicate.  Looking at his ‘Levels of Communication’ framework (see the illustration on the right), we can easily see that many managers get stuck at the bottom two levels: what Berne called ‘Ritual and Cliché’ (“Hi, how’s it going? Everything all right?  Smashing.  Good result for United last night?  Excellent.  See you next week …” etc.) and ‘Facts and Information’ (Self-explanatory).

There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with communicating at those levels; however, if your relationship with certain team members never moves above those levels, you might feel yourself constricted around those people: no real rapport, no trust.

To build that rapport and trust, you may have to take a risk.  A simple method to kick-start this rapport-building process: Ask, Don’t Tell.  Ask them open questions.  You might be amazed at what comes back.

And that’s the key to becoming not just their manager, but their coach and leader.  The key challenge for many managers is to separate their line management role from their coaching role.  They are very different undertakings, and it can be surprisingly difficult to switch from ‘Telling’ to ‘Asking’.

Creating Teamwork: Keep the Questions Open

And even when you do get into asking questions, it’s easy to succumb to the temptation of asking closed questions, which will lead you back pretty soon to indirectly telling them what to do.  “Don’t you think it might be a good idea if you were to … “or “Have you tried doing such-and-such?”  These are not open questions – they’re leading questions!

Our experience of coaching shows us that the Ask-Don’t-Tell route is the key to encouraging team members to rely on their own intelligence and creativity to resolve issues – and to make things work better – rather than always having to refer back to you.

And the greater rapport will mean more trust between you.  And for your team members, it can also mean greater loyalty, job satisfaction, autonomy, mastery, and a sense of belonging.  And happy people tend to be more productive, and more likely to stay with your organisation.

What’s not to like?