By Jami Goldberg, Cone Health System, & Amy Martinez, Cone Health System

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but when it comes to the art of conducting an intervention, curiosity can save a team.

Too often leaders think the magic bullet for solving issues of under-performing teams is “team building.”

Performance consultants are frequently asked to save struggling teams by facilitating team-building activities. But what if that is just a Band-Aid? What if that is the wrong prescription for the diagnosis? How do you drill down to the root causes of the problem? How do you make sure that you get the right information to perform the right interventions?

Question Everything
To perform an effective intervention, it is important to examine various areas of a department or team and to ask probing questions. After struggling with the right approach to complicated interventions that frequently present as other issues, we have created a systematic approach based on several components, a few of which are as follows:

Frequently the senior executives who called you in to fix this under-performing team may not know all the relevant details from the past history of the team or think they are important. Asking the right questions about legacy behaviors can uncover crucial information for making the right diagnosis.

In short, make it a goal to find out know about the recent and distant history of the team or department.

What are the barriers, both active and passive, that might be standing in the way of this team or department solving the current problems? Sometimes these problems might be things leaders at various levels might be doing, or they could be environmental barriers.

Is communication or lack of conflict resolution an ongoing barrier with the group in question? It is crucial not to simply offer up communication exercises or activities but to devote some time to the issue to drill down about the specifics of the issues.

What questions do you need to ask to make sure you are in alignment with the team and the senior leadership about what success would look like? How can you agree on the way success will be evaluated?

Once you and your client have arrived at a list of recommendations for action, the questioning is not over. It is essential to question the recommendations on many levels. Do the recommendations make cultural sense? Business sense? Political sense? If the answer is not a whole-hearted yes, then the recommendations may need to be reexamined before anything is put into action.

Ongoing Questioning
Once the initial intervention is complete, the questioning still is not over. Asking the right questions as the intervention begins continues to be important in shaping the appropriate outcome.

We encourage all performance consultants to sit down with your team and your clients to ask the right questions to ensure that you are focused on the necessary components that go into a successful intervention.

About the Authors

Jami GoldbergJami R. Goldberg is a 15-year veteran of organizational effectiveness and is currently the director of Organizational Development for Cone Health. He also serves as a faculty member for UNC Greensboro in Communications.




Amy MartinezAmy Martinez has worked in organizational effectiveness for over 13 years and is currently the director of Organizational Development for Cone Health Medical Group. She was formerly senior faculty at the Center for Creative Leadership as well as an internal performance consultant for Starbucks, Wake Forest Baptist Health, and Corbis.