Ultimately, it's the manager's job to make sure members of his or her outsourcing team remain focused and motivated to work. The team must work together like coordinated gears, perfectly timed and precise in movement. When members display certain undesirable behaviors, the whole team breaks down. To avoid this breakdown that leads to disastrous results, managers must manage the behaviors of their team members. Here are a few things you can do to achieve a positive end-result.
#1 Find out what's happening with each team member's personal and professional life.
Most of the time, outsourcing teams don't work because members lack the skills and training to do the work. If your HR department did their jobs right, then an employee might be facing some challenges in their personal life or problems at work that are not connected with the project your team has been working on.
Ask your outsourcing staff if there's anything going on in their life that's interfering with their work. Ask them probing questions, such as "Are you struggling with the tasks assigned to you?" or "Which part of their work are they stuck on?" Perhaps, you should schedule one-on-one meetings with members of your staff and find out the challenges they may be facing in their personal and professional lives.
If possible, start a coaching program for employees that need mentoring and counseling at the same time. Focus on the problems your outsourcing staff have been dealing with, and suggest working together to find solutions for them. Show confidence that your employees can overcome these challenges. With your help, you and your staff can come up with an actionable plan to solve these problems.
#2 Adopt the core values and assumptions of the Mutual Learning mindset.
Roger Schwarz, recognized expert in team leadership and effectiveness, teaches the Mutual Learning approach to managing smarter teams. When team members adopt this mindset, they adhere to the following core values:
- share all relevant information, including your thoughts, feelings, and strategies
- be genuinely interested in each others' views
- strive to learn from one another 's different life experiences and perspectives
- act in ways that maximize each other's abilities
- make decisions based on relevant information
- take responsibility for one's actions and their short- and long-term consequences
- understand each other's concerns and connect and respond to them
- suspend judgment temporarily so that you can appreciate other people's situations
Basically, the whole team operates under the following assumptions:
- I have some information; so do other people.
- Each of us may see things that others don't.
- I may be contributing to the problem.
- Differences are opportunities for learning.
- People may disagree with me and have pure motives.
Schwarz based the Mutual Learning approach on the work of Chris Argyris and Don Schön as well as on work done by Bob Putnam, Diana Smith and Phil
McArthur at Action Design. McArthur was the one who originally used the term Mutual Learning in the context of group dynamics. The above-mentioned link has examples for each smart behavior that team members are encouraged to adopt.
#3 Establish ground rules and develop a team agreement on how members will resolve conflicts.
Be sure to set up some ground rules for the team. Use clear language to avoid misunderstandings about the rules, and following them with no exceptions will prevent conflicts between team members. Also, create a social contract or team agreement that prescribe good conflict resolution behaviors.
These should incorporate processes or behaviors that the group will allow or prohibit. Ground rules can be useful because as conflict arises, the leader can refer the team back to them for guidance. These tend to be good objective guidelines that remove the leader from the role of enforcer.
The link above leads to an expertly written paper on conflict resolution. It provides an insightful explanation on this problem among teams. The article also lists different preventive and reactive strategies for managers and team members.
#4 Build enthusiasm for one's work to boost the team's morale and motivate the members.
Positivism is good, but blind optimism is not. It's better to give your team reasons to be enthusiastic about going to work every morning rather than push them to put on happy faces when they actually don't feel like it. Emotional labor can cause dissonance among outsourcing workers, and your team may have difficulties coping with the emotional dissonance they're experiencing.
Create a positive atmosphere for your team at work. Humor is an important ingredient to building great relationships in the workplace. Find time to appreciate one another's work and the things that your team members do for each other outside of work.
Needless to say, belief in each other's abilities and trust in one another are among the top qualities of a high performing team. These qualities also contribute to creating a lively work environment wherein your outsourcing staff can be themselves. Their ideas will not be shot down without being discussed first. They won't be derided for the way they think or feel. When your team feel safe to come out of their shells, they'll be happier and more motivated to work with you as their leader.