“Team-Building” - It’s one of those terms that elicits a variety of responses, from groans and grumbles to over boisterous excitement. But it’s also something that we are consistently told is necessary to help a team work more efficiently as a group towards a common objective.
If you are a leader or manager of a team that is under-performing, or maybe a team member that is frustrated at the constant pull in different directions, you may have already looked into how you can help make a difference and bring a band of individuals together to start pulling in the same direction.
So here are the Top Ten reasons why teams misfire and fail to realise their true potential and achieve their higher goals.
1. Lack of clear leadership, vision and direction
A high performing team needs strong leadership, vision and direction. If individuals are not shown an inspiring idea of where they are headed and what their individual contribution makes to the whole, they become disillusioned, directionless and frustrated. This is true of the simplest tasks and challenges to the long term epic challenges that you might be facing.
2. Inability to cope with or adapt to change
Change can come out of left-field when you are least expecting it. The ability to adapt, accept and overcome those challenges is key to the ongoing success of the team or project. How many times in your working world have you experienced redundancies, mergers, take-overs, restructures or on a more basic level, moving desks in an office can be enough to upset the applecart?
3. Team members not feeling listened to or engaged with the plan
We’ve all experienced teams with autocratic, dictatorial managers or leaders who see only their way as ‘the way’ and they don’t feel pleasant to work under. Well the same rings true if you do not give opportunity for all personalities in your team to contribute their ideas, concerns and unique insights on a project. Harness the unique points of view and your team and project outcome will be stronger for it.
4. Closed thinking and suppression of creative ideas and freedom to experiment
A step on from not listening is where influential individuals only see one way of achieving an outcome and no other ideas will do. Suppressing a teams creativity and not allowing them the freedom to play and experiment with their ideas is a sure-fire way to inhibit growth and the potential of what your team is capable of and lower morale. Allowing room for creative ideas is the only way to have long term success at innovating and ultimately beating the competition.
5. Poor communication between team members or groups
Every individual has a different communication style and needs in terms of exchange of information. So often teams fail when they do not openly and honestly express themselves or feel heard and over time this results in individuals shutting down and disengaging from the larger group. Keeping open communication at the heart of what you do is critical to keep everyone involved and moving in the same direction.
6. Lack of trust in each other or the leadership
No doubt you’ve heard or even been part of the 'us and them’ grumblings that many teams experience. Where management or other departments are seen as a separate entity not to be trusted and kept at a distance. The best teams foster deep trust, openness and honesty and make sure they have a culture that insists on these qualities at the heart of what they do and how they operate.
7. Project too easy or too challenging
It’s a fine balance between a job or task being boring and one that over-stretches an individual or teams capabilities or confidence. Psychologists and often refer to the peak state you should be aiming for, where performance and challenge are at their optimum levels, as being in ‘Flow’. Finding that point for your team can be a challenge in the thick of the day to day grind and quite often is a shifting target, that can only be achieved by regular contact and understanding of the individuals in your team and where they are on the challenge/capability spectrum.
8. Not working towards a greater cause or mission
There is nothing worse than thinking your contribution in the world doesn’t matter… that what you do on a day to day basis has little or no positive impact on the lives of other. Two of our Six Human Needs are the need for ‘Significance', to feel like you matter, and the need to feel you are ‘Contributing' and making a difference and that what you contribute has meaning. If these needs are not met through what we do, this is when we start searching for new opportunities that may better fulfil these requirements for living.
9. Poor balance of team attributes and qualities
This is more of a recruitment and selection challenge for managers and team leaders. You see, it is all too easy to get drawn to and feel rapport with those that are like ourselves. After all, isn’t it easier to understand and communicate with someone who thinks just like you. The challenge is that much of the time, this is not what you or your team needs. You need others that compliment or contrast your skills and personality style to bring balance to your team and offset your own or others weaknesses. So making sure your team has a balance of personalities, skills and ways of looking at the world is key.
10. Losing the Fun-Factor
When the pressure is on, and the deadline is looming, the first thing that goes is the smiles. No matter how fun your colleagues and banter are, it goes out the window when the chips are down. But it is also critical in maintaining an upbeat atmosphere and buoyant spirit in the face of challenge and adversity. When your team is pushed beyond its comfort zone, stress levels are elevated and tempers start to fray, is the time you need strategies in place to ensure you maintain a positive and fun working environment.
Do you recognise any of these signs and symptoms in the teams you work in or manage?
Traditionally, you would be advised to seek out a ‘team-building’ company, exercise or activity to help with many of these and bond the team together. So, I alluded to why 'team building' is not the solution, and here it is…
In the vast majority of cases and solutions available, team-building is about taking the team out of their normal environment, doing something challenging and fun that brings the group together and helps them work on problems. That is all well and good, but there are a couple of important elements which are nearly always missing… Sustainability and transferability.
How do you take that great energy, and newly formed bonds and help them survive beyond the two week stories over the tea making in the staff kitchen? Because that is what usually happens. Those learnings, those stories, those experiences do not easily transfer back to the workplace and prove themselves more sustainable than the few weeks of memories and anecdotes of the HR Director stuck quivering half way up a high ropes course.
Your outcome of embedding new thinking, strategies and working bonds needs to go beyond a one day quick-fix and focus on a longer term integration and embedding back in the workplace. Hint: It requires more than a one-day wonder involving thrills, child-like giggles and a group high five at the end.