When Team Leaders Don’t Get Along, It’s Bad News for Everyone

It happens in every organization. Two leaders of two different teams just can’t get along. It’s wreaking havoc among the other teams. Things are just a mess. As the program manager, you’ve been asked to fix the situation. What should you do? Not an easy task to say the least. Sounds like these two have forgotten that without each other, there’s no way the company would reach its goals.

And since team members typically mirror what is done not what is said, you have a real problem on your hands. Your only option is to get these two team leaders together to find a solution.

Conduct Individual Meetings

Meet with each of the team leaders individually prior to the group meeting to find out the key issues. Ask each participant to identify what the other team needs to:

  • Start doing to enable success
  • Stop doing to enable success
  • Keep doing to enable success

Advise them to focus on business issues that can be changed and to avoid finger pointing.

Guide the Group Meeting

At the beginning of the meeting review the company goals, the goal of the session and set some ground rules such as:

  • One person talks at a time
  • Attack the problem, not the person
  • Listen to understand, not to reply
  • Keep your eye on the goal

Depending on how much history these folks have, you may have to be a strict mediator. Don’t let them speak from their positions; make them voice their issues from their concerns. (A position would be “you provide awful service.” A concern would be “we receive requests so late in the day that it requires my staff to work overtime to complete.”)

Work through the issues, set up an action plan for resolution and get the problem fixed.

It may take a bit to implement the plan, but if you keep them on track the situation will improve. What other suggestions do you have?

Denise O'Berry

Denise O’Berry — aka the Team Doc — has been working with teams and team leadership in the public, non profit and private sectors for over twenty years. She gets a lot of joy from working with teams and their leadership to help them improve and work through team issues. Not only does her advice come from the heart, it comes from years of experience working as a team member, team leader, manager and owner of her own company. She has truly walked in your shoes and offers help so you can be a better team leader. You can find more advice from Denise at her website Ask Team Doc and don't forget to follow her on Twitter @deniseoberry.

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