There’s nothing obvious about building an effective team. Even if you get a group of smart, diligent, hard workers together, there are plenty of unpredictable problems that can crop up and limit their productivity. It’s up to the boss to help uproot these barriers, so make sure you can spot issues when they arise. Here are some of the most common and limiting obstacles:
Top Obstacles Teams Face on the Way to Success
|Team Members Who Dominate the Room||Some team members are more talkative than others. For the most part, that’s all ok. A bit of variance in participation is expected since your team members will all have different personalities. This type of diversity can strengthen your team–so long as no one takes advantage of it.
But a spotlight-on-me personality isn’t always good. If you have one or two team members who continuously dominate conversations, interrupt others, and try to speak on behalf of the entire team, then their behavior could be a serious obstacle to effective teamwork.
A great way to overcome this overbearing behavior is to acknowledge that you’ve heard from the teammate and asking for more opinions: “We’ve already heard from Chris about this. John–what are your thoughts?” This can open the door to more healthy feedback routines that involve everyone.
|Team Members Who Shirk Responsibilities||Maybe room-dominating teammates can get on people’s nerves, but at least they’re trying to participate. When your team is slowed down by an unmotivated or under-trained worker, it can be a serious barrier to efficiency and team cohesion. This can lead to hidden (or not so hidden) resentment within the group, and the low performing individual might feel ashamed and lose more motivation as a result. It’s just a mess.
To overcome this barrier to effective teamwork, proper management is a must. As the boss, you need to treat all individuals the same. If someone is consistently underperforming, bring it up. Get to the root of the matter – is it burnout, a lack of training, trouble in their personal lives, a general lack of motivation? Once you figure out what’s going on, set a clear standard: all team members should carry their own weight, and if they anticipate that they can’t, they need to bring it up so the whole team can figure out how to make it happen.
|Lacking Clear Goals or Roles||You could have a great team, but if no one knows what they’re supposed to do, it’s all for nothing. Avoid this nonstarter by ensuring that you have actionable, concise goals for every team. The key here is producing clear, measurable, and time-sensitive milestones that everyone is actively working toward.
The same can be said about the roles of your team members. Everyone needs to know how they’re expected to contribute to the project, which is why task assignment is so essential to producing effective teams. With clearly defined, measurable roles, everyone can gauge their own progress and immediately know if they’re performing at the expected level.
|Suboptimal Team Building||A carefully assembled team tends to lead to better teamwork than one that’s just thrown together. It’s much easier to foster cohesive, supportive, and efficient practices when everyone has been hand-picked to work to their strengths. Beyond finding the right personalities, the key is to match the project with the team’s structure. This encourages the right amount of interdependence, which means team members feel pressure to keep at pace–everyone else is depending on them, after all.
The major team structures are pooled, sequential, and reciprocal. Members of a pooled team work independently from one another on some predefined task. This work requires little interaction or direct collaboration. A “sequential” team has one person work on a task and then hand it off to another person to add to it (like an assembly line). This has an element of independence, but ultimately the team must collaborate to complete the project, just not all at once. “Reciprocal” teams require the most interdependence. Here, everyone on the team actively works together to accomplish goals. Ask yourself: which structure is the best match for your company’s projects? How can you optimally manage it?
Team Obstacles FAQ
Why do so many teams fail?
A lot of obstacles to great team building boil down to a lack of trust. If team members aren’t certain that they can rely on one another to competently get their work done, then hidden resentments begin to form, morale plummets, and productivity takes a heavy hit. This is even worse if you have under-performers in the group, like we discussed earlier. Maximizing your team’s interactions can help this – it gives everyone a chance to familiarize themselves with the person behind the work. It makes everyone feel a bit more obligated to do their part. Team building activities are a great way to do this. By giving your workers a chance to interact in a more novel and less stressful environment, they can re-learn how to interact with one another and toss out those unspoken conflicts that have built up.
How do you overcome barriers to effective teamwork?
Depending on the issue that your team is having, there are going to be different optimal solutions. Like we talked about earlier, how you deal with a room-dominating team member isn’t the same way you ought to approach an unmotivated member. Likewise, updating your team members’ roles might not entirely solve a problem if the real issue is that your team structure doesn’t match up with the project everyone is working on. Ultimately, providing oversight and guidance should yield the information you need to figure out what’s getting in the way of great teamwork. So, talk to your members one-on-one, keep an eye on how well everyone carries their own weight, and try to get ahead of problems before they take root.