What's your problem?

MY TEAM ARE RESISTING ROLE-CHANGEs. I manage a small team of four people. They were all new recruits 18 months ago, and over that period we've discovered where each person's strengths and weaknesses lie. I'm now trying to re-allocate certain roles among them, according to who is best at each task.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

 They agreed to this at first and seemed enthusiastic, but they are now pulling in separate directions and becoming irritable and unmotivated. I'm trying to handle it as sensitively as possible, but wonder whether I should drop the attempt to change things?

A: You say that you, singular, manage the team; but that we, plural, have 'discovered where each person's strengths and weaknesses lie'. Is there really a consensus among the five of you?

If so, you should take advantage of this remarkable fact and invite your team to take part in an experiment in self-management. Suggest they take a day out; pay for them to use a comfortable hotel or conference centre; and give them a one-sentence brief. In three weeks' time, you want to see a written plan for the re-allocation of their roles within the team that recognises and accommodates each member's strengths and weaknesses. Promise them that, if it enjoys their unanimous support, you'll put their plan into practice.

This suggestion is not nearly as high-risk as it sounds. Because it's their own plan, they'll want to make it work. And if they fail to reach agreement, you'll find them a lot less truculent when you're forced to re-impose control.

Please address your problems to Jeremy Bullmore at: Management Today, 174 Hammersmith Road, London W6 7JP. Or e-mail: management.today@haynet.com Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into

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