Why Teamwork Fails, and 9 Things You Can Do About It

Energized, cooperative and fully engaged teams and team members are the key to productivity.

Teamwork Matters

Your team players are also the most important factor for smart, innovative thinking and the ideas that drive all of the above.

Yet your teams will go down. What you can lose with a failed team is almost too staggering to contemplate.

Very often, frustrated managers and team leaders will walk away from teams, or dumb down their expectations permanently. That’s, unfortunately, the environment that most team members inhabit – day after day – until they walk. A full 60% of work teams may very likely be failing right now.

All teams need leaders, and blaming individual players is just way too easy. A great team leader will take responsibility for even the weakest player on a team. Let’s have a look at what it takes to reverse the overall trend toward failed teams.

1) Everything is Way Too Slow!

This is a big one and it saps energy and leaves half your team in the dark. Use whatever auto-email system your using to highlight progress and to shed light on every step forward.

2) Support

This one really can’t be outsourced or delegated. Upper management needs to get off its duff and really support teams. It can break down to a communications problem. More likely, upper management is staffed with people who really don’t care about, much less support, the teams you’re worry about. What can you do?

3) End the Bark when there’s no Bite.

If you really do face upper management who couldn’t care less, then you need to replace management, where-ever possible, with smart, proactive team-leadership. The most important thing is to end the focus on un-winnable and pointless battles. Instead, focus on achievement and what can be done when nothing else can be done. And keep the focus there.

4) Train for the Weakest

That new team leadership needs some training. Make sure they’re not leaving anyone out. They’re probably already dominating people, so make sure they are not overshadowing the players most likely to fall into disengagement, despondency and despair.

5) Re-Focus and then Focus, Focus, Focus

Focus can’t be under-emphasized. Ask team-leaders what is their focus for the day, week and month. Are they asking their teams what was their own focus for the day, week and month? This is another area where communications and even some online interactivity and polling, surveying and questioning – on an ongoing basis – is never too much.

6) Confront the Biggest Problems in Pieces

Leaving truly big problems to chance is a recipe for disaster and a teamwork killer. You’ve got a team. Get the team to work together to solve parts of the problem. Open communications, anonymous responses should be welcome, and get answers. Discussions will solve anything. Use them.

7) Confront Mistrust

The lack of trust between teams is a big, fat reason for teamwork breakdown and failure. Get it straight. Some people will hate each other. They can still learn to trust one another. Work environments are not the places for BFFs either. Keep the focus on the job to be done. By the way, even casual camaraderie can work against your team. And all of the problems above can be confronted with “focus” (see #5 above).

8) Meetings

90% of organized meetings waste people’s time. They also distract from focus, reinforce false and destructive hierarchies, and more often than not, they dissolve discipline. If you’re regularly herding more than 2 people into conference rooms, you’re asking for disaster and teamwork breakdown. Oh, and you’re probably making somebody feel overly important. Is it you?

Meetings require more planning and execution than 90% of meeting planners will give them, and work groups of three or four people work better without meetings. Give them space to talk. If they need more space, give them that too. But eliminate meetings and everyone will thank you. Better still, get everyone online for ongoing casual communication and you’re really in business.

9) Energize people

The higher the level of management the greater the level of energy you can receive. People like receiving praise, and the higher you are the more you can give. Make sure that all your teams are giving energy and not just using it up. Keep the suggestions in check for a while and focus on the positive achievements instead of constantly criticizing.

Remember too: Your team leaders are not likely reading articles like the above. Skilled employees and the kind of active, energized people you want pushing your teams along are probably involved with a hundred other things.  Each of the points above is a long, term cultural imposition that needs to be made, re-inforced, re-proposed and discussed at length, freely and openly. Take some advice to heart. You’ll leave lots of suggestions behind, even just today. But getting tranparent, dedicated, open and focused teams takes some doing.

But neglecting any of the above can have much more long-term consequences than you’re going to want to deal with. So let’s get started.


Photo this page: Withered Jasminum polyanthum flower © Wikimedia Commons by Ileana n.

Karin Jakovljevic

About the author

Karin Jakovljevic

Karin Jakovljevic is the head of marketing at Ximble, a powerful, cloud-based workforce management system, simplifying employee scheduling and time tracking for retailers, restaurants and small businesses.

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