How to know if your team is in serious trouble and how to fix it
Do you have a growing sense that your team may be ‘off track’ and losing its way? You know things aren’t ‘quite right’ but you can’t quite put your finger on the problem?
Stop worrying! This article will help you discover what’s going on, solve the underlying problem and improve team performance.
Left unaddressed, team problems become self-fulfilling prophecies where the team fails and the fallout is much bigger than ‘failure to deliver’. Like lemmings on a suicide mission, a faulty team unravels as small incidents become entrenched problems. Reputations become irreparably damaged and motivation plummets, leaving lasting professional and emotional scars.
Here are the most common Team Trouble Indicators (TTIs), their causes and simple ways to solve them:
TTI #1: ENTRENCHED SILOS
Everyone’s doing their own thing and collaboration is limited
Each team member has their own interpretation of the goal and is working independently to achieve it, with limited success. This one is common when a team is in the initial ‘forming’ stage.
- Lack of a clear and shared vision.
- Making assumptions that all team members are ‘on board’, without consciously checking in on each individual’s beliefs.
- Failing to understand and agree a) the purpose, goals and objectives, b) roles and responsibilities and c) how to harness each other’s strengths.
TIP #1: CALL TIME-OUT
Make time for a team ‘kick-off’ event at the start of the project. If your team has been together for a while, create ‘time-out’ from the team’s daily activities to take stock, re-group, re-focus and re-engage.
Clarify the desired outcome, communicate the vision and explain why they have been selected to be part of the team. Ask each member of the team to play back to you their understanding of the vision, goals and their responsibilities.
Undertake Team Chartering, Profiling (eg DiSC, Myer-Briggs or Social Styles) and other informal, unstructured activities to help team members get to know each other better.
TTI #2: ESCALATING CONFLICT
You can cut the air with a knife…
Most people go to extraordinary lengths to avoid conflict, often resulting in subversive and unproductive behaviours. Common in the ‘storming’ stage of team development, this undermines team unity and credibility. Left unchecked, unmanaged conflict leads to unproductive alliances and divisive factions within the team.
- Failure to recognise and harness conflict to create a healthy, constructive team dynamic
- Open or subversive hostility caused by mismatched values and beliefs
- Team members’ believe that “the only way to do it properly is my way”
TIP #2: ACKNOWLEDGE THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
Set up a meeting with ground rules to make it safe to talk about ‘the elephant in the room’ (the real, previously undiscussed problem). Encourage team members to open up and talk about how the conflict is impacting on them and imagine what will happen if it continues.
Get to the heart of the ‘real’ issues. Allow members to express frustrations and unearth the problems and beliefs that led to the issue/s.
Once the venting is ‘done’ (don’t let it drag on too long), ask the team to generate more constructive response options (eg respectful challenge instead of criticism or passive aggression) to restore trust and confidence.
Develop a set of guiding principles and agreed behaviours. These should focus on what we want (rather than what we don’t) and will commit to, aligned with individual and organisational values.
TTI #3: EXCUSES LEAD TO FAILURE
We’ve been flat out… too busy…. too much to do… too little time
One milestone missed does not necessarily mean your team is in trouble. There could be perfectly good reasons for this. However, once the team has failed to deliver on two or more occasions, a pattern could be emerging. Often accompanied by excuses (101 reasons why we couldn’t get it done on time), blame and avoidance (I did MY bit on time), immediate intervention is required.
- Lack of commitment to the original timeline, fueled by a secret belief that it was always unrealistic and unachievable
- Lack of confidence in fellow team members’ abilities
- Conflicting priorities – team members are overloaded, are unclear or disagree on what matters most
- Inability to effectively manage others’ expectations and engage each other to remove the blockers
Often experienced during the ‘norming’ stage of team development (when they’ve been together for a while), a critical success factor changes and the team fails to consciously adapt to the change.
TIP #3: PROVIDE PROBLEM SOLVING TECHNIQUES AND BUILD ESSENTIAL SKILLS
Move into solution mode and help the team identify constructive alternatives, ensuring they take personal and shared accountability for the way forward.
Teach your team effective Problem Solving techniques, showing them how to ‘play the ball, not the man’. Objective problem solving reduces the intensity of conflict-generated negative emotions and redirects the focus to creating solutions.
Introduce and build advanced negotiation and influencing skills to ensure they engage others in a timely, constructive and effective way. These essential skills improve team performance by strengthening trust and fostering healthy relationships.
In his book Overcoming The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, author Patrick Lencioni summarises the solutions as:
1. Building Trust
2. Mastering Conflict
3. Achieving Commitment
4. Embracing Accountability
5. Focusing on Results
If you can give your team a 10/10 score on each of these factors, congratulations, your have a high performing team and are undoubtedly seeing great results!
However, beware… teams are dynamic. Changes to membership, responsibilities, scope and the work environment will immediately impact team performance.
If you think your team could well be in trouble, don’t worry – P2R Team Performance Coaching will soon get them back on track!