Workplace teams are an essential asset for many businesses who have reached a level of size and scope that can no longer be operated by the owner alone. Teams can drive growth, create efficiencies that increase profits and enhance work environment harmony. Workplace teams can also be the source of infighting, costly processing mistakes and in extreme cases, disloyalty to the very company that employees them.
Given the costs of employing a workplace team to conduct business on your behalf, it's important to recognize when upgrades in your team are necessary.
I should point out that upgrading the team is different from the equally important task of continually improving your team through professional development programs, training and on-the-job coaching. Team upgrading requires a serious evaluation of who is on the team, how they are performing, what their potential is and are they loyal to your cause.
When Workplace Team Problems Arise, Who Sees Them First?
When team problems arise, the usual response from those overseeing team performance is to fix the problem. And while this immediate approach might be exactly what the situation calls for, there may also be deeper underlying causes driving those problems to the surface. In reality, when workplace teams start to go sideways, it's the other team members who see the real problems first. What's important is for management to see the real problem as well and begin assessing individual team member performances and interactions to accurately determine what measures must be taken.
In my business coaching practice, I run into this situation quite often. One or more team members are not working well together. Projects miss deadlines and inaccuracies start rising. Worse yet, any level of team self dicipline and direction starts breaking down. More 'trivial' matters reach the manager's desk for mediation. When team cohesion starts to break down, the team starts operating less as a team and more like a group of individuals.
Don't Treat the Symtoms Lightly
If you have been dealing with symptoms like these and the end result is you are not getting the team output you need to operate efficiently and profitably, consider the following steps to accurately determine the problem before making any hard, lasting decisions:
1. How is your workplace team functioning?
Teams that work well together get things done faster and with less disruption. Team members handle their responsibility and look to assist other members who need help. Communications are generally spirited, even when conflict arisies. Team members spend less time griping and more time addressing challenges.
When teams stop functioning at a high performance level, attention spans start to drift. Communications become strained as problem solving is replaced with accusations about whose fault it is. Members start finding reasons to miss meetings and some members may even start to bring other members conduct to your attention. These are all symtoms of dysfunction. Recognizing them early is the best way to get ahead of what else is coming.
2. Are team members supporting each other or finding ways to go around each other?
When signs of team members starting to exclude others from meetings or communications because it's easier to "handle it ourselves" than address the problem with the team member in question, your workplace team problems have now escalated!
Highly performing, self directed teams understand that the process of working through conflict is critical for the team to perform successfully. When adherence to the process breaks down, trust in the team starts to erode.
3. Are any workplace team members creating disharmony within the team?
As I stated earlier, when team performance breaks down and some team members start poking the beehive, you have the beginnings of disloyalty on your hands. Not that people can't have opinions or be critical of some part of the team but the way it's served up will tell you allot about the particular team member's intentions. The team member in question may be tired of the infighting but not know how to stop it. They may feel targeted by others and lose the desire to remain on the team. Or, they may see an opportunity to curry favor with you by reporting on everyone's issues. Regardless of the circumstances, it's important to recognize the outcries of one individual vs. the broader issue of the team struggling over a process that no longer works.
If It's Time to Upgrade Your Workplace Team, Consider This Approach
When workplace team performance starts to erode, it's paramount for the manager or owner to recognize what's going on and begin planning for a lasting solution. If team harmony can not be restored with the the existing team members in place, upgrading the team is your next project.
Before you spend thousands of dollars on new equipment, training, or perks like gym memberships, take an objective look at your people.
If the writing on the wall says their are not right for your team, make the hard decision and move on. I've seen way too many workplace teams lose good team members who were tired of the dysfunction and tired of waiting for management to act. In the end, making the call and upgrading the position will have greater benefits to the team and your overall company performance than you realize.
Don't be guilty of saying, 'I should have made that call a long time ago'!
About the Author
After a stellar 29 year career in the consumer products manufacturing industry, Steve Smith converted his knowledge and experience into a successful business and executive coaching company. In 2008, he opened GrowthSource Coaching in Orange County, CA