6 Turnaround Tactics for a Failing Team
A failing team creates discomfort for everyone. Team failures, which sit at about 60%, demoralize employees, reduce productivity, cost companies billions of dollars, and inhibit innovation. If you are the leader, besides the personal frustrations and disappointment a failing team causes, it is also a potential career buster.
Here are other roadblocks to get out in the open. Failing teams reinforce three inter-related issues:
- Only 15% of employees are engaged, based on employee engagement studies. In other words, they do not like what is happening at work and are not really ‘plugged in’ or giving it their best.
- Over 80% of managers fail according to leadership derailment studies. Besides a lack of people skills, a key reason for the failure is the inability to lead teams.
- Less than 25% of employees have attended a company sponsored training program in the last five years. Companies do not prepare employees to work well as a team.
The stakes are big, whether you move the needle or you do not. When you achieve a breakthrough with a difficult team you become invaluable to your company. You become a proven performer. As a result, you inspire the team members and establish a credible relationship with them, and others connected to the team.
When I use the word ‘team’, I refer to either a department or work group. The following six proven turnaround tactics come from my consulting practice. I have learned that success is possible in nearly every case. Why? Most people want to do a good job. Most people think they are performing better than they are, and most can perform significantly better than they are. However, too often they lack the knowledge, tools, and expertise to deliver effective teamwork.
Jump the Gun
Do not wait for your boss to tell you to do something differently to improve. If you do, you add to your woes. You must act. Many teams get in a routine and keep banging their head against the wall.
One large retail company tried for four years to improve their customer experience to no avail. A few people were fired as a result. Yet, they kept doing the same things. With a change of pace and new strategies that I brought, they made significant gains in four months. (With the same product, policies, and people)
Peer into the Looking Glass
If you have not done so, take an unemotional look and analyze the team, including yourself. Ask, what is holding the team back? What are the team’s strengths and weaknesses? Review the contributions of each person. Consider, who might have to go? The reasons for team difficulties are well–documented. See my post: 13 Troubles of Terrible Teams and the Antidote. Use this as a checklist to find your issues. Also, take a personal inventory; what do you have to do better or differently as the leader? Create a 1–2-page summary of your findings. The antidote to terrible teams is better leadership.
Create a Mars Plan– but NOW!
Can you imagine the years of detailed of planning, the time commitment, and the team effort that is going into the Mars Mission? Think as if you are the leader of that mission, be that focused but do it now. You cannot wait. Get your team involved in planning to rejuvenate your efforts. Do not share with them all that you came up with in the above, not right away. Get some of their input and ideas first. Then share your thoughts as part of the discussion.
Then, explain the challenge, goals and what must change. If you have a large team break them into smaller groups for discussion purpose. Basically, facilitate a dialogue related to:
- Current Progress: Goals, Performance.
- Strengths and weaknesses.
- Problems-–task and process related.
- Problems-–people related.
- Problems-–resource related.
- New ideas.
- Prioritizing changes with action steps.
- Measuring success.
- Responsibilities and commitment.
Keep in mind that it takes skill to manage team dynamics. Most importantly you must facilitate with openness, sensitivity, involvement, and purpose. If you are the leader you will need to know how to do this or need to engage a trained facilitator to help you. Finalize your initiative in a 1–2-page game plan.
Professionalize Your Team
A common problem on teams is that nobody knows how to work together as a team. To clarify, employees need to learn planning tools, handling conflict, group process, listening skills, consensus seeking, constructive communication, demonstrating reliability, collaborating skills, problem-solving approaches, and respect for others. Whether you have resources for this or not is not an excuse. You can find complimentary or reasonably priced information and materials online in a heartbeat.
Certainly, all team needs group dynamics training or they will stumble unneccesarily. (See this–SPICA: Team Management Skills.) For example, one organization I worked with had no training and were last in their market. With training for multiple process improvement action teams, they won the JD Power Award. Most noteworthy, many IT team projects fall short of their goals because they dig right into the technical stuff and forget about how they need to work together.
Do What Most Other Managers Do Not Do!
The first four steps are crucial. They lay a foundation for progress. Yet, without coaching, (Few managers coach well) each team member, or the subgroups will under-perform and fall short of expectations. If employees could operate as a well–oiled machine without training and coaching, you would not be in the mess you are in. By the way, cross functional team members need coaching even if you are not their direct supervisor.
However, if you do not know how to coach well, learn. Begin, today. See my post: 8 Steps to High Performance Coaching and watch this High Performance Coaching video as starters. Your career success may depend on it.
Innovate and Accentuate
You must innovate by proactively communicating with your boss or other managers across your organization. Subsequently, this builds bridges and positive working relationships. No team works in a vacuum. Therefore, you need support from others to win. This is often defined in terms of resources: budget, time, and expertise.
Furthermore, accentuate, by reinforcing your planning, training, and coaching. One-time events on any of these steps are almost useless. You must do them consistently. For example, you may schedule training at the formation of the team and then at regular intervals. Regular coaching involves one-on-one sessions in a weekly to monthly timeframe. In addition, depending on the complexity of the team’s goals, plans should be tracked daily and reviewed weekly to monthly. These kinds of actions can swiftly turnaround a failing team.
Pulling It All Together
Great team leaders creatively renew the energy and focus of this team, this takes reiteration. This may be changing the meeting place, assigning new task leaders, bringing in a special speaker, creating a contest, giving unexpected recognition, or going out to socialize.
Creating a high-performance team takes work. However, helping a failing team takes even more work. If you are consistent and effective as a leader, it is doable and enjoyable. In summary, any leader needs to learn that to achieve your dream, you need a team.
Also, do want to prevent living through a failing team? Go here for the complimentary dynamic eBook: Create a High Performance Team.
In addition, go here for our RealTime Learning & Training leadership and personal development website. Over 140 micro-learning and career development resources at your fingertips!
Finally, do you want to accelerate your leadership success? Go here for Rick’s Superstar Leadership eBook.