Why Most Teams Fail at Change

I’ve worked with a lot of managers and a lot of individual contributors so I know what each wants from the other.

I thought it necessary to share, particularly since what each group wants is often in opposition to the other, particularly when it comes to change.

Leaders prefer their team members to come at them with solutions, not problems, whereas team members prefer their bosses to come at them with problems, not solutions.

To clarify, leaders consider problem-reporters complainers. If you really want their ear and their respect (not to mention a promotion), you can’t just point out the problem; you should take the time to come up with some alternatives: a proposal for making things better. The cool part of all of this is it’s actually kind of fun. You get to architect your ideal future and communicate that to someone who can help make it happen.

Contrary to this, team members much prefer it when their supervisor comes to them with a problem, instead of a proposal. When a leader shows up with a solution, especially when that solution impacts the group directly, that leader is alienating themselves from their team. They are deepening the line in the sand between management and non-management. They are, in a sense, picking a fight, which is tragic since team members often have a ‘frontline view’ of the problem that managers can’t see.

When a leader comes to the group with a solution, the conversation that follows is merely to get the team on board and, perhaps more to the point, to make the manager feel better.

That’s not really a conversation.

The team may go through the motions of change and they may actually like the change, but their relationship to management will have permanently shifted.

Perhaps this is why: the lesson learned is that the power of a solution is dictated not by the brilliance of the idea but by the originator of it.

Due to the agreed-upon power dynamic at play, a subordinate’s solution is just a suggestion, while a manager’s solution is a top-down order.

Both parties need to realize this and, if they truly desire to achieve extraordinary things together, should gather all their strength and flip it on its head.