I work on a team that has two team leads. One lead is a bit of a bulldozer and the other avoids confrontation and both are rarely on the same page so the team is constantly getting conflicting messages. I've had to go past both of them to senior leadership a couple of times to resolve issues but the situation isn't getting better. I don't know what to do. Help!
Tired of Infighting
Dear Tired of Infighting,
This is a perfect opportunity for you to practice the art of negotiation. And it really is an art. But don’t be afraid, you can and should do it. I’ve been in these situations where I desperately wanted change and thought, “why can’t someone else take this on?” Trust me, it’s a fruitless question. You can see what’s going on pretty clearly and you’ve taken steps in the past to right the situation by going over their heads to no avail, so it’s time to step into the ring and see if you can work with these individuals to make a change.
My guess is that both of these team leads think they’re doing a good job (or maybe just an ok job) at leading this group. They don’t know that they possess skills in bulldozing and confrontation avoidance, and if they do know, they don’t think anyone notices. Here’s where just a little bit of communication can go a long way. I suggest asking for a meeting with them together. You then tell them that you are concerned with what you see within the team as a confusion over messaging (if you can cite specific examples here, that’s even better). You ask them if they think that perhaps this could be a result of them having such different styles. You go on to say that you really appreciate that Bulldozer is really good at [insert example] and that Confrontation Avoider is really good at [insert example] but that a unified voice would be really helpful to this particular team. And then you ask for their advice. What would they recommend to help this situation? Would they be willing to work with you to come up with some solutions?
It's possible this won’t work, they won’t get it and you’ll be right back where you started. If that happens then it’s time to take it to senior leadership again, or HR, and tell them that there needs to be one team lead with one consistent voice because it simply is not working. And if others on your team feel this way, have them join you in this complaint. The nice thing is, at that point, you can share that you tried to resolve this directly with the two team leads and it was not effective. You’ve done all you can.
The hardest part of these sorts of situations is that they often require an actual conversation with the people involved. That takes energy and preparation that is sometimes hard to muster. But it truly is the best way forward and believe it or not, it can work really well. I’m sending you courage and clarity in hopes it works for you too!
P.S. Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’m curious what the amazing community of educators reading this post has to say. Chime in, folks! What thoughts do you have for Tired of Infighting? Share your thoughts on the Global Leadership League’s LinkedIn page. Please note: This response is provided for informational purposes only. The information contained herein is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice or legal opinions of a licensed professional. Contact a personal attorney or licensed professional to obtain appropriate legal advice or professional counseling with respect to any particular issue or problem.