Problems can arise in any team that will hurt the team’s effectiveness. Here are solutions to four common problems faced by any kind of working team.
Barrier One: Knowing Where to Begin
At the start of a project, team members may be at a loss as to how to begin. Also, they may have reached the end of one specific task, but are unable to move on to the next step or put the task to rest. Floundering often results from a lack of clear goals, so the remedy is to go back to the team’s mission or plan and make sure that it is clear to everyone.
Questions to Ask:
What exactly is our end goal? (Surprisingly enough, teams sometimes lose sight of what exactly they are trying to accomplish. Not seeing the forest for the trees happens more often that you might think.)
What must be done to achieve that goal?
Is everyone clear on their assigned tasks?
Team leaders can help move the team past floundering by asking, “What is holding us up? Do we need more data? Do we need assurances or support? Does anyone feel that we’ve missed something important?”
Barrier Two: Dominating Team Members
Some team members may have a dominating personality that encroaches on the participation or air-time of others. This overbearing behavior may hurt the team morale or the momentum of the team.
An effective team must have a strong leader. This is not to say that the leader needs to be a rude bully – far from it. But, the leader must be able to take control of a meeting, and guide the participants. If the leader observes that one or more persons consistently dominate the room, they should tactfully elicit input from others. If need be, the dominating person should be spoken to privately, and encouraged to allow others equal time. (Positive encouragement often works far better than chastisement.) If the dominating person continues to be disruptive, it may be necessary to assign them a different role on the team.
Barrier Three: Poor Performance of Team Members
Research shows that teams deal with poor performers in different ways, depending on members’ perceptions of the reasons for poor performance. In situations in which the poor performer is perceived as lacking in ability, teams are more likely to train the member. When members perceive the individual as simply being low on motivation, they are more likely to try to motivate or reject the poor performer.
Keep in mind that justice is an important part of keeping individuals working hard for the team. Be sure that poor performers are dealt with in a way that is deemed fair by all the team members.
Barrier Four: Poorly Managed Team Conflict
Disagreements among team members are normal and should be expected. Healthy teams raise issues and discuss differing points of view, because that will ultimately help the team reach stronger, more well-reasoned decisions. Unfortunately, sometimes disagreements arise owing to personality issues or feuds that predated a team’s formation.
Ideally, teams should be designed to avoid bringing adversaries together on the same team. If that is not possible, the next best solution is to have adversaries discuss their issues privately, so the team’s progress is not disrupted. The team leader or other team member can offer to facilitate the discussion. The adversaries should be encouraged to “agree to disagree,” park the dispute, and move on. Or, perhaps they can be given assignments with no overlap, and therefore no arena for collisions. If the parties remain unwilling to work things out, a decision by a manager may need to be made.