Away Day to get a team back on track
This team had been shelving tensions between them for sometime. Gradually they had become far less productive, rather staid when they were normally innovative, and would suddenly break into small quarrels for no good reason.
We did an Away Day to get them past their blocks and back on track. We used some light-hearted, imaginative ways of identifying what the issues were all about. It emerged that different views about ways of working, how decisions were made and how work was allocated, hadn’t been discussed but had built up tension and resentment over some years.
The light-hearted activities we used initially meant the team had fun together (which they'd lost sight of) and, importantly, enabled them to raise difficult issues in a safe way. They were then able to discuss these, understand how they had arisen, as well as identifying what the current issues were for team members. The facilitator helped the team to have the difficult conversation they needed and also to face what had changed in their context and therefore how they needed to work together now. The Away Day ended with practical agreements about what changes were needed and how these would be implemented in the best way to achieve success.
As a result the team:
- re-engaged and re-found their positive, productive, innovative and rewarding experience of working together
- developed their capacity to express themselves constructively with each other, rather than building up tensions and issues
- made tangible improvements to their productivity and the way they worked together.
Conflict resolution with a team in crisis
This was a brief crisis intervention with a small team completely at loggerheads with each other. Members of the team had complained about their leader and tried to have her sacked. It hadn’t happened, but the relationship between the leader and members was at rock bottom. It transpired that members were thinking of taking legal action against the organisation.
Gabriella was asked to work with the team; she proposed that she ran four sessions (1.5 hours each) just with the team and also a session with the team and the SLT and finally a session with just the SLT, so that any wider organisational issues could be addressed. Her concern was that wider difficulties were somehow lodged in the team in crisis, and that the intervention could only make a real and sustainable difference if those wider organisational issues were also dealt with.
The team could hardly bear to sit in the same room as each other. At the second session they mentioned a regular meeting that was totally unproductive, witnessed by stakeholders and felt like hell. Gabriella asked them if they de-briefed after it. One of them replied: “I’d rather stick pins in my eyes.” This was a graphic illustration of just how awful they found working together.
It became clear that the team had been caught in an organisational dynamic where the rest of the organisation was unconsciously enjoying having one ‘bad’ team, allowing everyone else to feel competent and superior.
The work with Gabriella allowed members of the team to see each other properly, instead of as just negative, spiteful and incompetent. They let go of these unrealistic pictures of each other and realised that though they’d never be friends, they could work well together. They started to work effectively, to respect each other and begin to build trust again. Things that had been impossible before, including ordinary things like de-briefing or discussing problems, became possible once more.
The work with the team and the SLT together ensured that the team would now be properly supported in the organisation and stop being labelled as the problem team, which not only made things worse, but also masked difficulties in other parts of the organisation. The work with the SLT ensured that those wider organisational difficulties could now be dealt with. That in turn meant that it was possible for the organisation to develop as well as the team. The overall intervention averted legal proceedings.