A profitable business bottom line depends on effective teaming as much today as it ever did; yet, “effective teaming” may be destined to be no more than another irrelevant buzz phrase, because by and large teams are still dysfunctional and broken.
If you’ve ever worked in a team – and I’ve yet to meet someone who hasn’t – I know you have at least one horror story to tell about a team that crashed and burned. Isn’t it ironic that with all that’s been written about the negative impact dysfunctional teams can have on business and with all the training available to help correct the problem, success is still elusive.
It’s easy to ignore the damage that dysfunctional teams can do to a business, but the financial impact can be huge. Consider the wasted time in meetings debating the same issues again and again, as well as the constant squabbles and in-fighting over priorities that lead to inaction or worse, bad decisions that result in good money being thrown down the drain.
A recent Microsoft study found that U.S. workers spent an average of 5.6 hours per week sitting in meetings and 69 percent reported that they were not productive. Business is about increasing revenue and profits, so the financial implications to the organization are significant. A $100,000 worker will cost their employer roughly $13,000 to sit through meetings that waste time and do nothing to further the organization’s business goals. Ask yourself if you can afford the $130,000 price tag for having a 10 person team waste hours week after week.
Though some are jaded at the prospect that teams can work together successfully, I believe they can. Developing the cohesiveness that ensures success, though, requires that the root causes of team dysfunction are identified and cured. However, overcoming the issues that lead to dysfunction in the first place is a daunting task requiring openness, disciple and the courage to see it through. The reality is that many teams can’t or won’t summon the strength to tackle the challenge, but those willing to take it on will surely reap the rewards.
There are scores of reasons why teams don’t work. Common ones touted are a lack of clarity about team member roles, a lack of focus on doing the right things at the right time in the teaming process, a lack of appreciation for the unique strengths of every team member, and a failure to reward and recognize the contributions made by each person. Mix in conflicting professional agendas, increasing diversity, lack of trust, a global business world where people are teamed together “virtually”, as well as a resistance to clarifying goals and roles up front, and it’s no wonder teams are stuck.
For teams to perform at their peak, it all begins with trust, unfortunately a rare commodity these days. Trust is the first and most critical component of building a strong team. However, trust cannot be forged when team members put their personal agenda first, refuse to ask for help, when they are unwilling to admit mistakes and blame others, or they summarily dismiss the opinions and ideas of other team members. If team members don’t feel they can trust each other, effective teaming is impossible.
One way to begin building trust is to recognize that people behave differently; they exhibit different behavioral styles and they have different motivations. While you cannot motivate another person, all people are motivated. The mistaken assumption often made is that all team members are motivated by the same things and nothing could be further from the truth. For example, in a situation where a team is working together to achieve a sales goal, it might be easy to assume that everyone is motivated to hit the sales target. But are they really? What happens when not everyone on the team stands to earn compensation for hitting the goal? Sure, the sales person cares, but does the support staff have the same motivation if they don’t share in the commission? Doubtful.
Taking the time to develop a greater understanding of individual behavioral styles and motivations will foster a trusting environment, improve communications and builds a foundation for effective interactions with other people. And before you start griping about not having enough time, remember that it costs your company in more ways than one if you don’t make the time. Doing the upfront work positions teams for innovative performance.
Cohesive, high performing teams give an organization a powerful competitive edge. Great teams don’t waste precious time focused on the wrong issues, nor do they constantly revisit the same topics over and over again, in meeting after meeting, because team members didn’t buy-in to the goals from the beginning. High performing teams make high quality decisions; they get more done in less time without the normal personal hassles and frustrations. Finally, when it comes to keeping great talent in the organization, which is itself a significant competitive advantage, remember great people don’t walk away from teams that get it right!