Leading Teams - Questions & Answers

This page contains questions asked on the topic of Leading Teams both during the webinar and via the Have a Question feature. 

Questions & Answers

Q: Do you have any sources for the psychological safety part of the program? Books, articles, online classes?

A: Please refer to our "Want to Dig Deeper?" section of Module 4: Leading Teams.


Q: You talked about the leader as a hub vs. team working together. As a new leader to my team, I am hearing a lot of concerns from team members about other team members. Can you give me some examples of how to get team members working together effectively and move from the hub to the other model?

A: First of all, the hub pattern that you seem to be experiencing may be a residual from the previous leader's style. As a new leader people will try to influence you that things are a certain way or people are a certain way. Because this newness makes everyone uncertain, putting energy into clarifying roles and responsibilities as well as discussing your expectations for norms and behaviors will help to build that trust and psychological safety.

Without knowing more about what you are hearing from the individuals on your team, it's difficult to suggest specific strategies for shifting the norms. However, here are some general themes you could start clarifying/assessing with your team:

1. Is there a lack of clarity in roles and responsibilities?
2. Is there a lack of basic trust and safety?
3. Are team members competing for resources, competing interests, or do not have shared outcomes/purpose?

Also, check out the Quick Guides available in the Leading Teams module by scrolling down or accessing them from the downloads menu on the right via this link: http://supervising.umn.edu/module-4-leading-teams/managing-team-dynamics

In addition, here's a previously answered Q&A from our Feedback and Coaching module that should help too:


When coming into a new leadership role, it's common to focus on making our mark and prove that we're competent. However, the best thing you can do is actively listen to everyone on the new team and determine what it is people have to offer. This means making sure people are heard which will help you gather their input and buy-in with you as the new supervisor. This will challenge your assumptions about how things are working and allow you to assess the environment of the new team. Keep in mind that introverts may not openly share ideas with you so seek opportunities to draw out ideas and experience from people who are quiet - like in a one-on-one check in. Also seek out people with more experience and bring them the challenges and problems and ask for their advice.


Q: Is the RACI model still a good one to use to clarify roles and responsibilities? Is there anything new (or old) that you prefer? I've used RACI and found it useful, but also felt it got too detailed and the process took longer than I would like. Thanks!

A: An alternative to RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) is to use RATSI (Responsible, Authority, Task, Support, Informed) to clarify roles and responsibilities. With RACI, the difference between Responsible and Accountable can be misinterpreted. In RATSI, the "A" stands for "Authority" over the work and defines who the decision maker is. However, using RACI or RATSI for roles and responsibilities can be a lot like using SMART goals in performance management. It's a common practice but can take a lot of time and energy to create. And as a result, they can be more work to put together than what it's worth. In the "Leading Teams" module, we focused on five simple questions to determine each person's role. Is their role to:

  • make recommendations?
  • provide input?
  • exercise veto power if they object (i.e. is their agreement required to proceed)?
  • make the final decision?
  • carry out the decision (i.e. perform the work)?


Q: Can you elaborate more on the web communication and how to build/implement?

A: As a leader this creates all sorts of challenges when you have everybody in the team coming to you, trying to lobby you, rather than working with each other. While it can be hard to change this pattern, try saying "I appreciate what you’re saying but I’m not going to make this decision with you, this needs to be a team discussion." People may still try to push you to make a decision or take sides on an issue. Sometimes the other piece of it is helping your team with conflict management skills. We encourage you to really be mindful of that as it can really trap you as a supervisor in a really frustrating place. You’re trying to fix everybody’s problem, when you really want to have them communicate with each other.


Q: Can you please provide an example of how to address disrespectful communication during a meeting?

A: It depends who it is and how it comes out, but regardless, you would want to address it right away. For example, let's say someone in a meeting is providing an opinion on something, and someone else jumps in and says "That's a bad idea. We tried that 10 years ago and it didn't work (being very dismissive)." What you might do is jump-in and say "let's not just discount this right away." Tell the person who raised it to say more about that. Ask "what are you thinking?" and try to create more of a dialogue around the issue. The key would be to not let that one person shut the other person down, even if they end up being more persuasive. If it's over-the-top behavior, like being particularly rude or aggressive, or name calling, and it's clear the meeting isn't going to be productive, you could end the meeting and say that it's because it isn't productive. Then have a private conversation with the person who had the inappropriate behavior and that it's not acceptable.


Q: How can staff pass along [the information in these webinars and course modules] and encourage this behavior among leadership?

A: We have 6000 supervisors across all five campuses and every single one of them receives an invitation to participate in the Supervisory Development Course and webinars. It's a good idea to start conversations by talking amongst your peers and leaders and ask if they have been participating in the course modules and webinars because you have ideas for things you want to put into practice. Another angle is to coach your boss or someone above you in your organization to think about their pain points. What are things they are frustrated with? Things that they wish were going better? Think about which of the skills that are included in this course and webinars that would help them address these issues. Often times, the way to influence is to find out what keeps them up at night and start there. As a result, there’s more receptivity to suggest a solution.


Q: How do you best designate someone in an advisory group as a key decision maker above voices that see themselves as a decision maker?

A: The best way is to designate someone up-front is by setting clear expectations with everyone involved that one person or group will be the key decision maker(s). It can be helpful to have a conversation about the different roles on the team to be sure everyone has the same understanding about who provides input, makes decisions, etc. Once work is underway, if people aren't clear on their respective roles in decision-making, it gets trickier because people make assumptions that may be wrong. Revisiting the conversation about who provides input and makes recommendations and who ultimately makes the final decision and telling them why will help you continue to clarify team roles.


Q: Is it easier to get to the root [of work stressors] in larger staff meetings or in 1:1?

A: Because many people are more comfortable speaking candidly in small groups or in 1:1 conversations, it's often best to start there. In larger staff meetings, it's common for a few outspoken individuals to dominate the discussion. One technique that can work well in larger groups is to divide into small groups of 3-4 people for discussion, and then have each group report out to the full group.


Q: Curious about the "model rest and self-care" comment. Intellectually I understand this. But I also feel guilty if I take off work early or work from home, even if I recognize that need in myself. Any suggestions on managing guilt?

A: This isn't an easy one, but there are two reasons that might help. First, taking care of yourself - such as taking breaks, getting rest, and prioritizing your own wellbeing will increase your productivity at work. So, you'll be a more productive employee and get more done. Second, if you model self-care, the people around you will be more likely to feel permission to take care of themselves.


Q: Can you be too supportive? How to deal with an employee who always has out of work issues? [Our] Team is experiencing compassion fatigue!

A: Yes, there such a thing as being too supportive and it can interfere with your ability to get your own work done if you're constantly being pulled into someone else's issues outside of work. Being supportive is okay as long as the person is able to eventually arrive at their own solutions. If they're not willing to take responsibility for their situation and constantly rely on you for support, that can potentially lead to your own burnout. You're of much more help if you can steer someone in the direction of getting additional support. You might suggest the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which provides confidential professional consultation and referral services to address any personal or work concern that may be affecting wellbeing. EAP is available to all benefits-eligible employees on all system campuses, including a spouse and dependent children. You may even consult with EAP for your own use in how to deal with work concerns.


Q: How do you handle an employee that feels THEY should be the supervisor and speaks out TOO much?

A: Make sure to provide this person with feedback and coaching to make them aware that they are overstepping boundaries and offer them the type of behavior that you would like to see instead. This is a good example of providing role clarity and clear expectations on decision-making responsibilities.


Q: How do you manage others above you from directing my direct reports without informing me, thus creating confusion from my direct reports of who to get their direction from

A: The best thing to do is to have a conversation with your colleague about how this dynamic is undermining your ability to be an effective supervisor. Help them understand that when they provide work direction without informing you, it creates role ambiguity and confusion for your direct report. Then, have a conversation with your direct report to make sure they if they receive work direction from others to bring their questions or concerns to you first.