Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Don’t Overlook the Value of Crisis to Improve Teams – Part 1

Most managers and supervisors spend a portion of every working day solving problems, dealing with upset people and generally trying to make things run smoothly. When a crisis erupts, management response is usually to do everything possible to restore equilibrium.

However, the potential positive value of crises is often overlooked . Whether a crisis stems from internal or external events, it may push a team miles ahead by improving team dynamics.

I’m not talking about the post-crisis debrief in which the team finds holes in systems and works to “learn from the experience.” I’m suggesting that when a team is destabilized, experiences friction or conflict as are result of a crisis, there are opportunities for team learning that could never happen at any other time.

Benefits of crisis are most likely to be felt by teams that are at their heart, dysfunctional. There are teams in which communication is negative and done underground, back-stabbing is common and cliques have become cultural. These teams are frozen in patterns of behavior that managers find impossible to chip through. Minor skirmishes frequently erupt between team members, but never become big enough in scale to truly defrost the whole group. Managers’ instincts are to reinstate calm and get back to business. A major crisis has the benefit of blowing things wide open for a while. In this space is opportunity.

Stay tuned for How to Help Teams Benefit from Crisis - Part 2 of this Blog Post next week.

Paula J. MacLean is the author of several best-selling human resource books that provide practical advice on how to be a good supervisor and manager. Visit her website at

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