Why Teams Fail
June 30, 2015
Building and cultivating a high performing team is essential for achieving success. In almost every situation, having a well-functioning team is the best way for you to attain high levels of performance, innovation and employee satisfaction. I don't think anyone would disagree with that statement. So it was scary for me to learn that "about 60% of the time, work teams fail to accomplish their goals"so says a leading management specialist. That's a lot of teams underperforming. That's a lot of failing.
When working with underperforming teams there are some symptoms that you quickly learn to notice. When you spot these symptoms you know the team is unproductive and is plotting its course to failure. These symptoms include; failing to accomplish goals, poor communication, unaddressed conflict within the team, chaotic handling of tasks, a lack of loyalty towards one another and energy being focused on areas not aligned with the team's goals.
A leader's number one priority should be to build a great team. I believe that this is the most important area to judge the ability of any leader; the quality and effectiveness of the team they build. Creating a team that makes a positive impact on the bottom line of your business takes an exhausting amount of work and dedication to achieve. If it was easy then everyone would succeed and as we already know only about one third ever do.
To help you achieve greatness with your team it is useful to identify the most common reasons why teams fail. These are the top 6 areas to avoid. At. All. Costs!
- A lack of purpose
- Undefined roles
- Power struggles
- Lack of accountability
- Lack of trust between team members
- Absence of strong leadership
A Lack Of Purpose
The team lacks a clear and compelling vision. Teams have to know not only their destination but also that they have a compelling reason for getting there. The purpose has to be inspiring. It should resonate with the individual values of each team member. Without this the team will coast, doing what they need to just get by and nobody on the team will do more than is necessary. A team with a purpose will know the answer to the question, "Why does our team exist?" And that provides meaning and direction to the team's activities.
Great teams know why they exist. They know how they're helping to make a difference.
Every team member needs to have their role defined. You must lay out the expectations for each role, along with the responsibility each role has to the team's overall purpose. It is paramount that everyone understands what their contribution is and how that helps the team to achieve success. When roles are without clear definition team members can drift. They may end up taking on a task that does not suit their expertise. There can be duplication of certain tasks or tasks that remain uncompleted. It is also important to define the leadership roles within teams. The team needs to understand who they must approach when there are questions or decisions to be made. Lacking this clarity often results in poor decisions being made.
Great teams are built on clarity; people unequivocally know what's expected of them.
The idea of a team is to embrace multiple viewpoints and to welcome different perspectives. There will always be those personalities who are aggressive and those who are passive -- shy even. The greatest challenge facing a team is to find a way to bring out the talents and gifts of everyone on the team. Teams fail when they allow one or two people to lead the way and leave other gifted people behind. Those left behind often won't speak up but will soon begin to check out. They will become inactive team members. A team fails when it becomes just the ideas and outputs of the one or two strongest personalities.
Great teams encourage collaboration and strive to find effective ways to hear the voices of all.
Lack Of Accountability
Accountability is best defined as 'being able to count on each other for support and reliability.' When there is a lack of accountability team members don't ask for support when it's needed. Instead, they wait until a mistake or crisis occurs. Then it's too late. Team members who lack accountability aren't concerned with hitting deadlines and certainly aren't looking for ways to develop and improve their own work and that of others on the team. A team where accountability is missing plays the 'blame game.' They will blame other departments and team members for problems.
Great teams know that accountability is an essential part of fostering an environment of trust, support and dedication
Lack Of Trust Between Team Members
Trust is the foundation for any successful relationship; "Without trust you haven't got anything." A team without trust isn't really a team; it's just a collection of individuals working together on a task. A lack of trust between team members results in a team that isn't united in its approach. You'll start to see it manifest through minimal knowledge sharing, poor co-operation, poor communication and battles over rights and responsibilities. Trust can be a tricky area for teams as developing a lack of trust can occur both inside the business and outside of the business in informal interactions.
Great teams prioritize trust as a core value and protect it with vigor.
Absence Of Strong Leadership
The absence of strong leadership will quickly slow down the momentum of a team. When there is an absence of strong leadership most of the pitfalls we have outlined above occur. There is no one to set expectations… no way to hold the team accountable, define roles, delegate responsibility, foster effective decision making or to create an environment of trust. A great team starts with strong leadership. They bring clarity and positivity. They are essential to ensuring the cohesiveness of the team.
Great teams have strong leadership. Period!
If your team is failing the best place to start your diagnosis is with the leader. There are many reasons -- the ones we have explored and more -- a team will fail, but it is guaranteed that a team won't achieve its fullest potential with ineffective leadership. If you have doubt in the strength of your leader…replace them!
Building a high performing team isn't easy but it is crucial for success. You should view the quality of your team, not the results you achieve, as your legacy. What would you rather be remembered for, achieving your objectives or building great teams that always achieve their objectives? Your perspective on leadership will change if you focus on the later. You will also find work more rewarding and fulfilling.
The Difference Between Success And Failure Is A Great Team.