The Great Pyramid of Giza, the Roman Colosseum, and the Taj Mahal Wall. In addition to being Wonders of the World, these remarkable creations have something else in common: they exemplify the incredible power of teams and teamwork. Teams have been an indispensable feature of humankind for millennia. They were a major factor in the rise of civilization as we know it and are the lifeblood of nearly every modern organization. Yet the health, well-being, and importance of nurturing teams are too often taken for granted. The unfortunate fact is that while many teams are high-functioning, many more are not, and some are just downright dysfunctional. But why do some teams stumble, while others thrive?
The Seven Deadly Sins of Teams – Teams fail for various reasons, and the missteps may be related to internal team dynamics or external factors. Here are some common causes of team failure:
Poor Communication: ineffective communication within the team can lead to misunderstandings, lack of clarity, and misalignment of goals. This can result in decreased collaboration and overall team performance.
Lack of Trust: trust is crucial for team cohesion and productivity. When team members don’t trust each other, it hampers open communication and collaboration, leading to a breakdown in team dynamics.
Unclear Goals and Roles: if team members are unclear about their roles and responsibilities or the team’s objectives, it becomes challenging to work towards a common purpose. This lack of direction can cause confusion and demotivation.
Inadequate Leadership: poor leadership can have a significant impact on team performance. A lack of guidance, support, and decision-making can lead to disengagement and inefficiency within the team.
Inability to Resolve Conflicts and Disagreements: every team has conflict. Successful teams know how to manage conflicts constructively before they escalate and disrupt team dynamics.
Lack of Accountability: when team members do not take ownership of their responsibilities or fail to deliver on commitments, it can undermine team performance and erode trust among team members.
Lack of Diversity and Inclusion: teams lacking diversity in terms of perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds may struggle to innovate and may overlook critical factors in decision-making.
The Seven Features of High-Performing Teams – In order for teams to thrive most if not all of the seven factors below need to exist. For that reason, a key step of our team coaching engagements is to first understand how well the team is performing on each of these dimensions, and then quickly identifying strategies to address any deficiencies:
A clear and shared understanding of what they are trying to achieve together
A commitment to putting collective priorities ahead of individual priorities
Confidence in each other’s competence
A sense of goodwill and assumptions of positive intent towards each other
Open dialogue about difficult topics
Defined and agreed on norms for managing conflict
A commitment to being mutually accountable for the team’s performance
Emotional Intelligence & Inclusivity – Two Critical Ingredients of Successful Teams – Research has established that the higher the emotional intelligence of a leader the better the team performance. And teams of leaders with high emotional intelligence often model that behavior and make it their new norm through elevated team empathy, self-awareness, and self-management. Likewise, research also shows that teams make better decisions than individuals. Effective teams create psychological safety by giving all team members an opportunity to speak and share their perspectives. Inclusivity, then, is not just about managing diversity, it is also about getting more voices and perspectives to weigh in on team decision-making. When it comes to teams, the whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts.
The Power of Team Coaching and Development Programs – A well-designed team coaching program can identify and address the causes of dysfunction and cultivate the habits and behaviors that support healthy team dynamics. But to be effective, team coaching programs need to be customized to address the unique challenges and opportunities presented. A one-sized fits all approach will rarely reveal the root causes of a team’s performance challenges, let alone generate the interventions that will move the needle on performance.
We at Attain Leadership view each team as a unique social system with its own structures, dynamics, and behaviors. For that reason when approaching a team coaching assignment we find it helpful to bring the mindsets of an anthropologist and sociologist to see both the internal and external dynamics influencing team performance. Only then can meaningful interventions be developed. It’s important to note that the success of team coaching depends on the commitment of team members and the organization’s support for the coaching process. When implemented effectively, team coaching can create a positive and high-performing team culture that drives success and continuous improvement. It is an investment that can lead to significant long-term benefits for both the team and the organization as a whole.