13 Troubles of Terrible Teams and the Antidote

 In Business Success, Employee engagement, Leadership, Leadership Development, Rick Conlow, Teamwork

While there is no “I” in team, it is really not true. Teams fail every day because of selfish and uncooperative people. It happens in the board room, on the manufacturing floor, during engineering projects or IT initiatives, and in the sales arena. Research shows that 60% or more of teams fail. Too many teams are in terrible shape. If you are the leader of one of these troubled teams you are in peril; the odds aren’t good for your success.

Research shows that teams do less well-not better-than the total potential of the individual members of the team. As a result, companies are wasting a tremendous amount of money and time by allowing this to happen. Here are the thirteen troubles.

13 Team Troubles that Produce Failure

  1. Lethargic leadership-Most managers lack the people skills and facilitation skills to create notable teamwork. In fact, too many managers are masquerading as leaders while clamoring up the corporate ladder to really care about learning how to do it. In addition, few teams ever consider shared leadership.
  2. Tacky team members-Participants on teams also don’t know team processes, and expectations. Also, interpersonal issues derail many team outcomes and create a dysfunctional environment. The selection of team members is crucial. Research suggests that a mixed and diverse group is often more successful as a team.
  3. Raging roles-One new manager recently described how one of his team members is sabotaging progress because she wants to lead the team. This is not uncommon. One manager said of his employee engagement team,“I am all for employee involvement as long as they come up with what I want.” Roles need to be rectified and clarified.
  4. Goofy goals-New teams often begin with a lack of clear purpose and goals. They also underestimate the complexity of their issue. I was brought into one team setting with fifteen members because they were making no progress for months. It took me 3 hours to facilitate consensus on what their goal really meant. Performance on the team became positive overnight.
  5. Porous processes-Teams need to focus on the content or task of the group. However, most fail because they minimize the process of the group-how we work together. This is too often given superfluous attention. The dynamics and methods of how a group works needs to be understood and honed for teamwork to materialize.
  6. Planning paralysis-Some teams “deep dive” the data and never get to possible solutions. Meetings go on and on and on. Do you know what I mean here?
  7. Nonexistent norms-Few teams determined their norms and values for cooperating. The lack of consensus and buy-in generates distrust. Norms become the anchor for navigating hard issues, dealing with poor performing team members and resolving differences.
  8. Chaotic Conflict-Contrary to popular opinion conflict is good. It brings creative thought and avoids group think. Constructive confrontation is needed to deal with heated points of view or difficult personalities.
  9. Callous communication-Teams need to over communicate and practice respectful communication. Often team communication mimics the political combatants in the latest election.
  10. Trivial training-Since most people lack team skills they need specific training related to roles, expectations, facilitation methods, communication, problem-solving methods, conflict resolution, and planning approaches. A thirty minute PowerPoint presentation isn’t enough.
  11. Problem personalities-Many teams have prima donnas. If it’s the leader, the team needs to learn how to respond. If it’s a team member the leader needs to act. One team leader I saw in action started meetings by saying, “You are either on the bus, or you are off the bus.”He was the driver, and if you weren’t on the bus (meaning you had divergent views), you’d be thrown under it.
  12. Ridiculous Resources-The mantra in many organizations is: “Take us to the moon, but you have no budget.” Consequently, many teams are set up to fail. The team leader and members need to be bold in asking for what they want. Otherwise, they will over promise and not deliver.
  13. Plastic purpose-A department is not a team. A task force is not a team. A division is not a team. Senior executives aren’t a team. One study showed that only 10% of senior leaders knew one another. All of these are groups of people fulfilling their job functions, not teams. Companies often say, Together Everyone Achieves M This doesn’t happen through platitudes and speeches. High performing teams are created by how people work together not by organizational names.

The Antidote to Team Troubles

The definition of a high performing team is-a collaborative group of people with complementary skills, highly committed to achieve a compelling goal. Teams have the potential to revolutionize organizational performance.

Unfortunately, the problems is effective teamwork takes hard work and expertise in: group process, change management, conflict resolution, team development and training, and leadership facilitation skills. Few companies or leaders want to invest the time, effort or money for this to happen. So they settle for mediocrity or failure. Consequently, this all takes relentless planning, training and coaching.

So, how do you get there?

Most importantly, effective team leadership is the antidote to the troubles of terrible teams. Former Chrysler Chairman, Lee Iacocca adds, “The speed of the boss is the speed of the team.” One multi-billion dollar company I worked with needed to improve their customer experience. They tried for four years to move forward and showed no gains. After understanding their situation and problems, I helped train and coach their leaders in team development. Within four months they gained 4-6 points across their customer surveys. Why? The leaders learned how to engaged their teams for process improvement.

Airline pilots have a checklist they review before they take off. They also attend regular training to sharpen their skills. Flying safely depends on these protocols.

Therefore, as a team leader, consider these five concepts below as a precise checklist for obtaining higher performance. (In addition, see this post: Creating a High Performance Team: 4 Keys for Accelerating Results) If you lack clarity, commitment or competence in any of these areas, significant team troubles will derail your initiative.

  • Determine your team purpose, goals and plans.
  • Establish the resources that will propel you to victory.
  • Consider your team members and the changes they must make to win.
  • Outline needed training for improved collaboration and execution.
  • Plan how to track and measure your success.

Pulling It All Together

Therefore, by strategically thinking about these areas above you can minimize team troubles as described above. By learning group process facilitation skills most leaders can dramatically change their team’s results. Diligent preparation and proactive planning increase the opportunity for success.

Famed basketball coach Phil Jackson aptly said, “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”

Also, do you want to elevate your team leadership skills? If so, check out this complimentary eBook: Creating a High Performance Team.

Finally, check Rick out on LinkedIn for more articles and insights.

 

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