Take Time to Address Issues That Hinder Team Efforts

Posted by Kristin Arnold on December 26, 2008

Teams typically get ticked off about six different issues:

Setup Stinks.  Even before they walk in the meeting room, team members are anxious, upset, or clueless about what they are going to do.  They feel ill-prepared to tackle issues identified on the agenda — or there isn’t an agenda to begin with!  Alleviate their concerns by publishing an agenda with a clear purpose, key deliverables, and required prework.

Process Goes Awry.  During the meeting the team doesn’t follow the agenda or the stated process.  Someone takes the team on a journey far away from where the rest of the team agreed to go.  Worst case, the team jumps in to tackle an issue without pausing to clarify the process they will follow.  When you see the process going awry, ask the team for a “process check” where the team clarifies if they are on the right path.  If no, then park the tangential issue and restate the process.  If the team agrees you are on the right path, carry on!

Historical Baggage.  Team members carry preconceived notions about their fellow team members and the work they are chartered to do.  If they had favorable experiences in the past, then they will tend to look favorably on the team’s work.  If they had absolutely horrid experiences, then they might bring their “baggage” with them.  If you think baggage might be getting in the way, ask for the team to “check in” with some initial forming questions such as “What are your expectations for this team?”  “What are your concerns about being on this team?”  “What would you like to see happen (or not happen) on this team?”

Team Inequities.  Tension arises because some team members feel like they are “pulling the weight” of the team — and the loafers are getting off scott-free.  On the other hand, some may feel like others are “dominating” and that their contributions are being ignored.  Keep in mind, this is all a matter of perspective.  This type of tension will never be resolved unless there is some pretty frank feedback and discussion about people’s perspectives.  As a team, agree on how to move forward equitably.

Bad Attitudes.  If these frustrations are not resolved, team members may develop a “bad attitude” about the team.  If you find your team spiraling downward, you may want to consider an intervention where a neutral person or “facilitator” can guide the team through a balanced discussion about what’s happening and how to move forward.

Need Therapy.  We all understand those folks who have a bad day, a tough week, an awful month, or even a bad year.  For those whose wounds are fresh, we need to pick them up, help and support them through their trials and tribulations.  On the other hand, some folks simply have a “bad life” and are more than willing to share every single aspect of their pitiful existence.  Newsflash:  These folks are not team players!  You simply do not want them on your team.  They are perpetually miserable and will make your team miserable, too!  Send them to therapy because, no matter how hard you try, you will not be able to fix their “attitude.”

Question:  What obstacles are hindering your team efforts?

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