Is your team experiencing something like this? The leader presents a new strategy, goal or project. A few team members ask questions and perhaps there are a few whispered comments. The leader shows a lot of enthusiasm and once one person expresses support, the leader moves on to another agenda item or to the next step in the process. But many team members are skeptical and apt to withhold their true support.
So what’s the problem? A coach or HR consultant might identify two issues. The leader has skipped past getting alignment (the second step of the Work of Leaders). And the team has avoided engaging in any potential conflict debate (the second step of The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team.) So what’s one exercise that might help with each issue before taking the leader and/or team through training and coaching? What exercise might be used to convince the leader that training is necessary?
One solution suggested by Scott D. Anthony and Bernard C. Kümmerli in A Simple Way to Get Your Leadership Team Aligned on Strategy is anonymous, real-time digital polling. The goal here is to expose any misalignment (conflict, in other words) and then engage in a productive discussion.
The poll can be a simple one showing whether participants are truly in agreement or still have questions and concerns. Or it can be more nuanced, asking people how much of their resources they are willing to commit at this time.
Creating the poll can encourage the team leader to think about how to clarify their message. The poll question shouldn’t be “Do you agree with me? Yes or no?” It should be more along the lines of “Are you ready to transition our products from commercial to in-home use?” Or “How much of our marketing budget do you think should go towards influencer marketing?” Questions should require some thought from the team members about how they want to answer. No “whatever” responses allowed. Because some participants may require time to process what the leader said and formulate a response, you may want to give participants a day to respond.
Once received, share the data ahead of your next session. At the session, ask a few participants to share their responses and reasoning. If participants seem reluctant to show any concerns or initiate debate, you may have to begin the debate by discussing any responses that showed concern with the plan. The goal is to begin a deeper discussion and get from “agree, but do nothing” to “disagree, but commit” or to “refine and replace.” Even if the team isn’t completely aligned they should now be better informed and the leader should understand the level of support or resistance they face.
You can gauge how psychologically safe people feel by how many were willing to share their thoughts. You will be able to gauge better if the leader needs to focus on exploring the vision, on aligning the team with the vision, or on repairing the dysfunction of the team.
There are several polling apps and many are free. Poll Everywhere and Pigeonhole Live are two examples.