I often hear about teams that don’t work well together. A leader or manager will tell me about team members that don’t get along, or someone who’s not “pulling their weight” and it’s causing problems on the team. Certainly there are team members who can be disruptive – and other times it’s the team leader. What might you be doing – or not doing – that is causing problems for your team?

  1. You talk with team members about other team members. Seems obvious and crazy right? Of course you don’t do this! Be honest – unfortunately many leaders do. If a team member comes to you about a problem with another team member – coach them, don’t get pulled into unproductive chatter. Ask: What conversation have you had with your team mate? What conversation do you need to have? When will you have it? And follow up to insure they followed through. Then go deeper – think about what you say about team members when others aren’t present. Are you building up all of your team members? Are you showing respect for all in conversations to others? You set the tone, and example, for the team.
  1. You allow poor performance. In First, Break All the Rules, author Marcus Buckingham identifies the top 12 items that measure the strengths of a workplace, and are needed to attract, retain, and motivate top talent. #9: Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work. Well-functioning teams have people who are equally committed to performing well. There is a mutual respect for the talent and contributions of all. And if there’s a performance problem, there’s confidence that the team leader is managing it to change. Poor performers drag down a team. If you don’t address it, you are contributing to dysfunction on your team.
  1. You’re ignoring your team. Teams don’t just happen. Groups of people happen. Building a team takes spending time together for the purpose of building the team – yes, team building! This doesn’t mean trust falls, touchy feely group activities, or ropes courses – but some of those work well! It means identifying what your team needs to come together and create a sense of team. Maybe it’s working on strategy for the upcoming quarter, attending a non-work related event together, volunteering in a community activity together, having an off-site to deepen your understanding of how your team functions and build better relationships. My guideline: at least twice a year (and a holiday gathering doesn’t count) gather your team together – separate from a staff meeting – for the purpose of improving your team’s functioning.

As stated by Patrick Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, “Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.”   Go ahead – be rare – invest in your team!

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