The Real Reason Teams Don’t Work
Overwork prevents teamwork.
Imagine the feeling of being close to missing a deadline. At 3:00 p.m. a team mate needs your expertise on their marketing project. Are you eager to serve? Or, are they an irritating pain in the a**?
You’re frustrated because you want to help but feel you can’t.
People who can’t get their own work done can’t help others.
When schedules are maxed out teamwork is out.
Overworked leaders don’t have time to help. They are too busy helping themselves. A corporate leader recently said, “My boss is buried. She doesn’t have time or energy to give me.”
Turf wars not teamwork:
“Overworked staff results in turf wars and office politics,” Andy Stanley at Catalyst. Can you see people jockeying for position? Jockeys aren’t team players.
Helping others help others:
- Get real with workload or teamwork-talk becomes platitudinous drivel.
- Reward and recognize helpers. Ask, “Who helped you?” at the end of projects.
- Honor serving. Ask, “Who are you helping?”
- Ask, “How are you helping others?” What get’s asked about gets done.
Supporting team work:
From Facebook: Leaders support teamwork when they _______.
- … don’t try to do everything themselves.
- … are willing to do the nitty-gritty work with team members.
- … share opportunities, responsibility, and credit.
- … affirm others’ strengths.
- … treat team members as stake holders.
More at: Leadership Freak Coffee Shop.
What are the roadblocks to teamwork in your organization?
How can leaders support team work?
On macro level there are two dominant reasons why team do not work lies in individual belief. And this is mission- values mismatch and values clash among team members.It means when individual does not see any place or respect for his values, it does not make the whole effort. For example when organization is only concerned about increasing profit figure and doe not respect human values, there exist a mismatch. And when member brings different values and do not ready to share or understand others.Additionally, no growth and opportunity and lack of direction and information from the top management.
Today why team do not work mainly depends upon leaders and leadership direction. And more often than not,leadership is missing which is not able to translate mission into people values. So, this is the case of attitude and mindset of leaders.
Leaders can support team work by adding more human element in getting what they want. They should bring proper balance of financial target and non financial efforts. They should believe effort and achievements are not connected. But effort has major role in long term performance and achievement.
Thank you for sharing your insights. You extended the conversation!
“Efforts and achievements are not connected…” Powerful thing to remember. In other words, sometimes people are working very hard but aren’t achieving desired results. It’s not about lack of effort.
Honor effort even when methods should be adjusted.
I really appreciate your comments, very logical and sensible
Teamwork is often compromised by failing to communicate real priorities – everyone appears to busy with something except the one thing that matters most.
Whenever I walk through a plant where people are rushing through orders that are needed “now”, I ask about all the other material that is finished and ready to go. Lack of priorities, poor planning, and the plight of “activity versus action” drive teams into deeper levels of frustration.
Great post as usual Dan. Have a great weekend.
Thank you Redge. Great seeing you again.
Thanks for bring priorities into a conversation about time pressure. Great add.
Great one Dan. But I also think that people would not want to give their best to a team when they don’t feel belonged to the organization. Many employees have ‘great’ goals and aspirations, and when they seem not to be able to connect their ambition with their work, frustration naturally sets in. See http://ayobankole.wordpress.com/2012/10/08/work-and-the-cycle-of-frustration/.
Great contributions accompany great connections, I believe. We often do things not for the sake of just doing them, but because of our love for the people involved. An old school friend used to say: “What are friends for if not for inconvenience!”
While I’m not asking others to keep dumping their problems on others. When the need arises, people would naturally want to respond if they are ‘connected’.
You may see my blog: http://ayobankole.wordpress.com for more workplace articles.
NIce photo Dan.
Leaders can best support teams by placing people in the areas that they know and do best. Know yourself and know your people. This requires honest evaluation of what everyone, including the leader, bring to the team. It also require difficult and honest conversations about what is or is not working.
No, the busy leader does not have time to babysit everyone, but they must make the time to be sure that everyone is on task, understands the vision, and as Redge said, has their priorities straight.
Reblogged this on Abrielle Valencia and commented:
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Leaders can also work on identifying what is busy work, the stuff that takes time but doesn’t add value to the business or the service experience, and get rid of it. And if they’re not sure what those tasks might be, ask the stressed out people doing them.
I believe that is a big value that a leader brings. A leader clears the hurdles to make the team exceptional. Identify the things that bring results and impact and focus on those first.
One workplace symptom that does not add values is ” look busy” and do nothing. There are practices when people just pass the time whole the day, and spread work when people are about to pack up or at the end of office hours. Leaders should be aware about such mostly prevalent practices.
Recently I conducted a half-day course on Ethics for the American Board of Industrial Hygiene. During a discussion on ethics within teams, a government employee made an interesting observation about “Teams and Teamwork.” In his opinion, Teams and Teamwork have morphed over the years into nothing more than exercises of “Group-think.” He sees teams in his own agency that go into group-think mode producing solutions to problems that don’t exist. Invariably, the solution creates a problem for which there is no solution. He concluded, “Work needs to be less about teamwork and more about the individual contribution toward actually getting something done.”
Teams and teamwork have become so politically correct in organizations that the actual work of teams has become so secondary virtually nothing gets done and what does get done is rarely on time.
Good post and good discussion. It reminds me that, “A Desk is a Dangerous Place from which to View the World.”
Hands-on people know what needs to be done, but the farther the decision-making from the actual work, the less effective the teamwork.
Personally, I think that feedback and measurement systems have an awful lot to do with performance, as does ownership and engagement. You WILL get what you measure from the average employee, and often not much more.
Senge’s comments about Accidental Adversaries also rings with me, in that little “pinches” get to be REALLY annoying over time. With measures and pinches comes “interdepartmental collaboration.” which is one of my most favorite oxy-morons.
The reality is conversation, focus, alignment, and leadership that supports good measures and feedback. Lots of other things can also happen, but people will do what they are (generally) expected AND measured to do.
You also have self-directed supporters, lots of middle people who will watch, a few Spectator Sheep who will not be engaged but who will express their opinions verbally, and often a few actively dis-engaged saboteurs, who operate for their own individual rationales and reasons.
I agree with Martina. A busy leader does not and should not have to babysit. A busy leader should facilitate the discussion amongst staff of the state of current projects, in my opinion. One of the best places I worked, we not only had overall staff meetings for the entire organization once a week, but we would also have departmental meetings. In both situations each leader or team member shared what they were working on at the time. We kept each other in the loop about different projects and deadlines. It fostered the teamwork environment because most likely someone would say, “hey, this is a slow time for me, let me help you out with that.”
The problem that I’m finding today is that too many “silos” are being created in response to the “blame game.” No one wants to take responsibility when things go wrong, they want to blame someone else. This is not a culture that I was raised in and it is extremely frustrating to me. Is the onus on me, for example, to always “ask” for help or should other “team members” be on the lookout for ways they can help. Or, is it the responsibility of the leader to make sure that each team member is getting what they need? I never look at helping or rather not helping someone else as a way to escape blame. I look at helping someone else as a way to either utilize a skill set or to increase my knowledge and skill set in a particular area. Perhaps I stretch myself too thin but I’d rather learn something new than to stay stagnant in my career.
On the flip side, when one does help another team member and that team member uses that help as a way to place blame on everyone else but themselves when mistakes are found, it creates tension and does not increase one’s desire to want to help that person again.
What is the answer if the leader does not recognize the problem or perhaps doesn’t care that it is a problem? Many times leaders will band-aid the situation instead of working to resolve the issue. How does one who probably needs the help of their team get that help when they are not in a “true” team environment? I feel like I’m asking the ever popular question, “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop?”
Thanks for letting me rant.
“People who can’t get their own work done can’t help others”
Reminds of the stewards on the plane reminding us to put on our oxygen masks before helping others …
I am not sure if that fits what is being said here, thought I’d mention it anyway.
Hi Dan, can you do a post on the balance between a leader and a team making decisions. Many thanks
Great points Dan, thank you for giving me some new thoughts on team work. Have a great Saturday
I think an important add is that if roles are clearly defined and everyone on the team is not asked to be everything to everybody, the sense of ownership, coupled with the desire to look beyond one’s own project to sincerely help a teammate, is a more desirable place to exist. Forced teamwork generates resistance and resentment. It’s like when we were kids. If we saw our little sister or brother struggling, we wanted to help. If our parents demanded we go help them it felt like another chore on top of our chores. Great post (again)!
Good points – I like the way you reinforce the idea of “talk about the behavior you want to see.”
It surprises me how often leaders wish they saw more of a behavior in their people, and yet so rarely actually talk about those things.
Great post, Dan! I appreciate how everyone is so engaged in this discussion. I know that this is an old post, however, it really does speak to me on a different level. It’s refreshing to see the different point of views that your readers have.
For me, I believe that communication plays a big role too. Being able to communicate in a way that there would be no misunderstandings and unwanted behaviors from colleagues. This should keep everyone happy and just be focused on delivering results rather than dealing with office drama.