Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Elephant in the Room: Negative Perceptions

The first step towards managing team member perceptions is to get them out in the open to where they can be seen. Thanks to one of my readers for making the cartoon at the left available to me. Obviously, the designer in this cartoon feels totally unsupported by management. Is this situation real or only a perception? The reality is that it doesn’t matter because perceptions are an individual’s reality. Ignore their realities and you have no chance of improving the dynamics of your team.

Finding the negative perceptions is not that difficult, you just need to be listening and paying attention to what’s going on around you. Team members will typically complain about others, talk about “them” and in many cases display a competitive nature with other members. Warning signs such as these must be managed to some level of resolution or your team will be riddled with pessimism about openly working with each other.

Many organizations choose to write off the negative perceptions within the team as a fact of doing business. From my perspective this is a choice to maintain the status quo on project execution. No amount of pressure on the team, financial incentives or sacrificial employee terminations will overcome well-ingrained negative perceptions. The negativity must be minimized and it is management’s duty to do so.

How does your organization relate to the cartoon above? Are you thinking that the design team is a bunch of slackers that must be whipped into a higher level of productivity? Or do you see yourself as part of the problem for not facilitating what is needed for the team’s success? If you have been unsuccessful in improving design productivity and predictability to your satisfaction, it may well be time for a radically different approach by looking at mitigating unchecked negativity.

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