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I feel like the team members that I work with seems to be just nodding automatically to what I say. Yes, I'm assigned as the project leader, but I don't expect that all my suggestion to be followed without input.

If I say a suggestion, they will automatically agree on it, like there's no problem with it. What I expect is at least there's an input and we can try to find better solution if there's any. I believe that should be the case since there is someone much more experienced than me. Why do they have no input? All they are saying is "OK".

I also feel like whenever we have a meeting, I'm the only one who is invested in this project. Every time when it is their turn to report their progress, they only report with only 2 to 3 sentences. Of course its OK if its complete already. However, it is not. Afterwards I will have to ask them myself about all the important aspects. What I'm fearing is, if it continues this way, there's a risk that I might miss something and at the end it will costs us a big error.

This isn't my first time leading a project, but it seems to always be like this. Is something wrong with me? Should I just be OK about this? What can I do to improve the situation?

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  • 13
    What country are you and your team from?
    – Pete W
    Sep 23 at 1:19
  • 4
    don't suggest anything if you want to check then give them an idea of the project and ask for their suggestions. for the other things like reports and projects take one team meeting once a week.
    – xml_dope
    Sep 23 at 7:13
  • 4
    Did you ask them to provide input? Usually the team will go with whatever the team lead may say and if you say do it this way they'll ultimately follow rather than argue every point you try to make. Maybe ask them what should be done instead of just telling them what to do and expect someone to have a counter-input ready.
    – Dan
    Sep 23 at 13:18
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    Some people have ignored me or told me 'no' enough times that I know that offering my opinion to them is pointless. How long has your team been together, and are you sure that you haven't (intentionally or not) taught your team that you don't value their input? Sep 23 at 16:00
  • It's a matter of learning how to lead a team. I'd recommend "The Coaching Habit" by Michael Bungay for new ideas about how to work with it in this context. Sep 24 at 15:21
40

Actively solicit input before adding yours. Your team is also engaging in "Reverse delegation"

That link should help you.

Bring accountability back to the team. If you need to play 20 questions, push back and ask why they didn't include that in their updates.

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    "Before" is critical here. If you let slip your own opinion before they've expressed one, many folks will just stay quiet or simply mimic your own view. Sep 23 at 14:37
  • 3
    "OK team, we've got problem X and constraints Y. Solutions?" Followed by "That could work" or "But that might introduce another problem. How do we deal with the new problem? Or am I incorrect in assuming it will even be a problem?"
    – moonman239
    Sep 23 at 15:11
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    One solution used in some hierarchical situations is even more strictly to get input in sequence from junior to senior. Sep 23 at 20:36
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In some places this is totally normal.

Project leaders are supposed to do most of the work in terms of planning because they're the ones who will be taking responsibility if things go wrong. This is how I've always worked on both sides.

If I see something glaringly wrong I'll let the project lead know, if not, then it's not my problem. I just need to get my tasks done. I don't want to be planning the whole project and worrying about how everything fits together because I'm not being paid to.

When I lead projects I don't really expect much from the team in terms of planning unless I specifically ask someone to clarify something in their field of expertise. Or task someone to solve a problem.

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    Well said. If I work on a project and the project manager suggests something, I assume they know what they're talking about and researched it (and thus they know/think that it's the best fit for the project).
    – Dnomyar96
    Sep 23 at 5:46
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You have to delegate.

When a enhancement comes in, pick a guy who has fair knowledge of it and delegate. Ask him to come up with approaches. You just be "Devils Advocate".

I manage 5 teams. Looking at problem I know the data-model. But I ask my team to come-up with thoughts. We debate. I often see increased sense of satisfaction.

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    I've seen this work well. The person delegated to leads the discussion, summarises pros and cons of each approach. Team members are happier to offer opinions because it's not the team-leader presenting something which everyone assumes is already "right" Sep 23 at 6:50
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First of all, most of the time there's no input because your proposal is just fine. That takes a bit of getting used to, because before you were a lead you had to convince your lead to do it your way. It's okay and normal for there to be no input much of the time.

Second, people often need digesting time before providing input. You've been thinking about it in detail. They haven't. Give it some time, and leave room to adjust.

For example, I recently proposed a set of stub classes for the project we are working on. I knew it was good to get us started, but it would need refinement. No one had any input at the time, but throughout the week as people started implementing the stubs, most everyone on the team ended up proposing really good enhancements. They just needed some time to think about the problem and see how it shook out in practice.

It can also be helpful to be more specific in soliciting feedback. Instead of just saying, "Is there any feedback?" say something like, "Joe, is this going to integrate well with what you are working on?" Again, it's fairly normal for people to not think of "important aspects" as you call them. They have a different view of the system than you do. As they gain experience, they will be more proactive.

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I don't know where this is taking place or the cultural background of your team members. However, cultural expectations could very well explain why your colleagues are meek and reluctant to participate.

My observations are not meant to stereotype and individual differences should be expected. In general, workplace culture in the west are more open, individualistic , and less hierarchical. Individual ideas and creativity are expected and valued. The distance between management and non management is not as great, and often management solicits input from team members. I spent two semesters studying in the Netherlands and along the many years I worked in the USA, I would say is a good representation of western work culture. I found the Dutch to be egalitarian, and very direct in how they communicated.

I have only worked in non western countries for a limited amount of time, but workplace culture is much different. First of all, folks tended to be much more collectivist, and individual desires are often played down. There seems to be a very formal and rigid hierarchy where information often flows from top down. Management is expected to know all details and team members expected to be loyal, with questions sometimes perceived as inappropriate.

If your team members are from a non western background, especially if they have been in your country / culture for a short time, they may not have yet grown used to the local culture, such that their previous culture is biasing their current behavior

As to what you can do, allow some to pass and for local culture to be absorbed. These new team members may open up as they get used to the local culture. It would also be helpful if you introduce to them the expectations of the local culture and your team clearly. Monitor their progress and don't be afraid to make yourself open. To break down the expectation of hierarchy and deference to superiors, show you are open to hearing their input, whether that be 1:1 meetings, written feedback etc.

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Well, to be perfectly honest with you, Cheapo, I think that you're probably facing one of two things: (1) "Do what the boss-man says," or (2) "Someone else will tell us what to do." It's entirely common to expect that people expect a fairly-authoritarian approach from "the boss."

Therefore, I suggest that you now try to engage the team in the process of thinking about and considering your next "suggestion."

Instead of asking them, yourself, about "the important aspects," challenge them to begin to think as you do. What aspects do they consider to be important ... and, "have they ever been asked this question before?" (Be prepared: the answer might be "no.")

What you'd like to begin to introduce to them is that "you don't have all the answers, and that it's not your job to have them." Really, it's theirs (too). But this idea might come as a bit of a surprise.

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