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Team Building Challenges

Team Building Challenges

When authors Mike and Harvey Robbins wrote a book called “Why teams don’t work” – they weren’t saying teams “don’t” work, but highlighting the roadblocks to effective teamwork. Listed below are some of the reasons they cite for poor team performance.

Why teams don’t work . . .

  • Bad/poor leadership practice(s)
  • Invisible/inadequate leadership
  • Bleary vision
  • Uncertain boundaries
  • Unresolved roles
  • Mismatched needs
  • Insufficient feedback and information
  • Personality conflicts
  • Bad decision making
  • Lack of team trust
  • Unwillingness to change.
  • Anti-team culture
  • Confused goals
  • Cluttered objectives
  • Bad policies
  • Stupid procedures

Although this is quite a long list, we can readily categorize these problems into four realms or clusters as follows: 

Team Leadership

  • Bad/poor leadership practice(s)
  • Invisible/inadequate leadership
  • Bleary vision
  • Uncertain boundaries 
Team Relationships

  • Unresolved roles
  • Mismatched needs
  • Insufficient feedback and information
  • Personality conflicts 
Team Values/beliefs

  • Bad decision making
  • Lack of team trust
  • Unwillingness to change.
  • Anti-team culture
Team Processes

  • Confused goals
  • Cluttered objectives
  • Bad policies
  • Stupid procedures 

The clusters represent quite unique team building challenges.

Team Leadership problems are obviously related to the team leader, rather than to team members and make team building difficult because the leader typically needs to make the greatest change in terms of current behavior of approaches. For team building to work, a leader either needs to start thinking in new ways ahead of time, or at least be open to make adjustments in the future. If neither of these are possible, team building efforts are likely to be sub-optimized of fail completely.

Team Relationship problems (such as personality conflicts) are often best dealt with on a private basis between the individuals concerned and not in a team building situation. However, if the relationship problems are about communication shortfalls, role clarity or mismatches between people and the jobs they are being asked to do, team building can be a good way to tease out the issues and potentially identify new ways that things might be done in the future.

Team Values/Beliefs problems often stem from the leader, who may well let individuals hold very different beliefs and/or values which can lead to many problems in terms of consistency of decisions, and trust. A very “hands-off” leader may also allow a culture that is not very team oriented or unwilling to face up to major change, when it comes along. Team building can be useful in these circumstances as it allows a leader to not only air any issues but to seek to create more values/beliefs alignment in the interests of better team efficiency and effectiveness.

Team Processes problems relate to all the policies, procedures, operating standards and systems which exist to guide the team’s efforts. If well-designed and clear to all they are rarely much of an issue. However, where this is not the case, team performance can suffer greatly change has to occur. Team building activities can be a great way to address team process problems and challenges and start to identify better ways of doing things.

Summary

Team building challenges tend to fall into four realms or clusters. These relate to Team Leadership, Team Relationships, Team Beliefs/Values and Team Processes. Effort is therefore best invested in analyzing in which cluster most problems tend to exist before designing any team building efforts.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at OptimalJon@gmail.com

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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