If you are put in a position where your success depends on others’ activities and they aren’t being held accountable by senior leadership, you could become a scapegoat.

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Q: I work in an organization that has leads (that’s my role) and supporting teams to ensure that client needs are met.

My problem is that my supporting teams do the easy part and then just bounce all the main work back to me. I’m not sure if they are unable to do the work or just unwilling. It’s really affecting my productivity and volume of work.

How should I handle this? —Tomas, 48, client services lead

A: You have laid out the two possibilities: they don’t want to or they don’t know how. Each has a different solution, so start by understanding the issues more fully.

Figure out what you need to know to understand the core issues. How will you discern if there is a training gap, for example? Make a list of the people who can help you, such as your boss and the managers of the supporting teams.

Explore whether this is a widespread issue. Talk to other leads to see if they are having the same experience. If they are not, you should take a look at your own interactions.

For example, perhaps your requests are unclear, making it difficult for the teams to meet your needs. Or perhaps you are not asking them for an appropriate type of support.

Then set up one-on-one meetings with the team managers. Bring specific examples of requests you have made that haven’t been met to your satisfaction so that you have concrete situations to work with.

If you have them, bring examples of successful collaborations, too. The contrast may be very helpful for building understanding and finding solutions.

Consider yourself fortunate if you find that there’s a need for more team training. While it can take a lot of effort to prepare content and train team members, it’s far easier than addressing a morale or attitude issue.

Calibrate the training to the need. If the gaps prove to be widespread, develop a larger program.

However, use a more “laser” approach if there are just some key people who need support in order to get the system working as intended.

Don’t rely on a one-and-done approach to training. Develop a plan for coaching and mentoring, especially if you’re training on technical skills and not just process.

Avoid the trap of redoing people’s work without giving feedback, as that’s an endless and unproductive loop. Instead, provide feedback and let them go back and work through solutions.

What if it is reluctance to engage as expected in their roles? Determine the source of the disengagement. If it’s the staff person, go to their manager.

If it’s the team lead, talk to them and then escalate as needed. If it goes above that, then you may have a more senior leadership issue.

This raises a serious risk for you. If you are put in a position where your success depends on others’ activities and they aren’t being held accountable by senior leadership, you could become a scapegoat. This is particularly true if your performance has a direct and measurable impact on company performance.

In this circumstance, you need to be vocal and persistent (while politically savvy) and document the steps you’re taking.

Then if the system doesn’t support you, you will have protected yourself.

Submit questions to Liz Reyer at liz@deliverchange.com.