Whether you are leading a small work team or a large organization, there are bound to be some team-related challenges. Having some ground rules in place, as I suggested in my last blog, will certainly help, and…you can’t just post those on the board and walk away. As the leader, you need to proactively identify and resolve issues before they impact team members, their work or the business.
Here are 5 common team challenges and what you can do as a leader to fix them.
Lack of trust. This refers to trust in you and in each other. A lack of trust impairs productivity and may lead to missed deadlines, milestones and even project failure.
Solution: Build trust by being very clear about team purpose, individual roles, and expectations. Be open, honest and consistent. Be willing to tackle tough issues and to stand up for the team. Demonstrate empathy. And demonstrate that you trust the members of your team.
Poor communication. Infrequent, incomplete or disrespectful communication impacts employee engagement and may lead to errors or intra-team conflict, ultimately affecting productivity and goals.
Solution: Communicate clearly and regularly. Share as much as you can, especially about business information that may impact the team or their work. Listen. Ask for feedback, ideas, solutions. Model open, honest and respectful communication so the team will mirror that among themselves.
Lack of accountability. When people aren’t held accountable for the quality and timeliness of their work others may have to pick up the slack resulting in conflict or missed deadlines or – at worst – project failure.
Solution: Be sure everyone clearly understands expectations and the impact of not meeting those expectations. Challenge your team to higher performance goals and establish an environment where they hold themselves – and each other – accountable for results. Include regular progress reports, open sharing of mistakes and lessons learned, and team discussions on how to move through roadblocks.
Conflict and tension. Some conflict is good for airing different ideas. However, when left unchecked or unmanaged, it can lead to distrust in the leader and impair team progress.
Solution: Harness the power of diverse thinking. Create an environment that encourages fresh ideas and approaches. Reach out to those who are less vocal to ensure that their ideas get added to the mix. When everyone feels heard and appreciated, “conflicts” become productive discussions. When tension arises between team members, facilitate a discussion to get to the root of the problem. Overlap of responsibilities, perceived lack of effort or contribution by a team member, and personality differences are common causes.
Working in silos. When team members each march to their own drum, chaos ensues, wasting precious time and resources.
Solution: Be sure everyone has a clear understanding of their role, other team members’ roles and the importance and interdependence of each role and task in achieving team goals. Establishing this knowledge up front will prevent duplication of effort, project delays and team conflict.
And remember, the best teams bring diverse personalities, skills and experience to the table. Recognizing the value that each individual’s skills and traits contribute to the team and how they complement each other will help you lay the groundwork for a well-functioning, high-performing team.
Till next time,
What is it that differentiates a high performing team from a team that never gets beyond the “storming” stage in the forming/storming/norming/performing (The Tuckman Model) journey? How does a high performing team continue to achieve milestones and meet deadlines even as dynamics change due to a new or departing member? How do they manage to overcome the inevitable differences of opinion or even conflict to stay on track?
They establish and adhere to Rules of Engagement.
Think back, for a minute, to when you were in school. No, not college. Think waaay back to kindergarten or elementary school. Most likely on the first day of class your teacher shared with you “the rules.” No talking in class. Raise you hand to go to the bathroom. No fighting. Turn your homework in on time. You knew what the expectations were upfront, and you knew (and, yes, perhaps even experienced) what the consequences were if you didn’t meet those expectations. The goal of the rules was to create a harmonious and productive environment for learning. Without establishing and enforcing those rules, the classroom could have been chaos.
And so it goes with teams. In fact, we’ve seen (or at least read about) that chaos on a nearly daily basis with one very, very visible team. Don’t let that happen to your team.
Allocate some time – as a team – to establish your team Rules of Engagement. These should align with your company values and culture. As you think about what to include, consider things that have been an issue for the team in the past – what guideline can you put in place that will prevent that issue in the future? Here are some topics your rules can address:
Communication. What is the preferred method – email, phone, in person – for sharing information vs. decision making vs. resolving conflict?
Meetings. Is there a limit on length? How will you handle chronic late-comers? How will you ensure that everyone is heard (at the meeting rather than post-meeting in a hallway discussion)?
Decisions. How will you make them? A vote? Who’s the tie breaker?
Conflict. What’s your process for managing it? What will you do when it escalates?
Other potential topics are prioritization, accountability, coordinating task hand off, reviewing each other’s work. And certainly don’t forget to include a general rule about good behavior – kindness, respect, integrity.
Diversity of ideas, opinions, skill sets, experience and background enhances a team’s ability to innovate, and to provide the full complement of capabilities to achieve desired results. The best way to leverage those capabilities and to increase your team’s performance is by defining and maintaining your Rules of Engagement.
Till next time,