A team is two or more people who partner to create something of worth and use each others skills and talents to make this happen. All teams are like a kaleidoscope, unique in the way they come together yet all share similar characteristics. Here is what gets in the way of optimal team cohesion. The more you know, the more you can make adjustments for team success.

The word used over and over when teams are failing is "lack."

It is like having a vitamin deficiency. Individuals feel lethargic and cannot get the enthusiasm going for the long haul. They are tired and depleted. Creativity is in short supply and everything is an effort.

Recently working with a highly respected team I was concerned about the level of depression that was present when I talked with the members one to one. Each was known as a technical expert and yet, no one could see the forest for the trees right in front of them. They were, as someone said, lost in the woods.

There was no clear path.

There was lots of debris from old, outdated ways of working together. The new team leader had been brought from another organization and was going to infuse this group with better and faster ways of getting work done.

He was in a hurry to make change happen and was known for his entrepreneurial ability. However, he had not read his new team effectively and while he was running at top speed they were lagging behind and dragging their feet.

Progress is a team effort.

When he called me to voice his annoyance he was quick to point the finger at others. After all, he was known as the entrepreneur's entrepreneur and why were they not falling in line behind him? He knew what to do and where they were headed. What was wrong with this team? He was leading and they were not following.

He had been brought in to change the way they worked together and yet now it was worse than it had ever been. He judged and blamed. He defended, explained and justified his own behavior. Talk about lost in the woods. Talk about a vitamin deficiency. He was now running on empty.

He needed a check list to begin to turn things around. Initially he resisted looking at his part in this jumbled mess of friction and lack of action. It was still easier to blame a few of the more vocal members of the team for causing the dissonance. Yet, when we put the list together he was then able to reinvent the way he would work with this group to help them become a butt kicking team.

Here are the 10 pitfalls to watch out for on the road to team success.

  1. Lack of explanation: there needs to be an initial explanation of the business case for change and the purpose of working together in a new way.
  2. Lack of envisioning: without a clear vision of what the future will look like there is nothing to go toward.
  3. Lack of resources: without buy-in as to what will be needed to get to the vision of the future, people feel they are only going to have one oar to row the boat.
  4. Lack of accountability: need for specific and structured way to make sure people say what they mean and do what they say.
  5. Lack of planning: must have specific team action plans and deadlines that are possible to reach, even if they have to stretch.
  6. Lack of encouragement: no procedures in place to close skill gaps and have extra training where needed.
  7. Lack of conflict strategies: no agreed upon ways to handle conflict so it does not simmer and fester.
  8. Lack of collaboration: ways to put diverse individuals together to find new solutions to old problems.
  9. Lack of inclusion: everyone needs to know the big picture issues and have a way to participate in adding their point of view.
  10. Lack of reinforcement: make sure that time is given for individuals to voice frustrations and concerns so they do not end up sabotaging by going behind closed doors.

Add to this check list and keep it handy. When you respond to the concerns of the team and pay attention to how you involve and influence in a positive way, you will have a team that can metaphorically move mountains.

Published on: Sep 18, 2015