Why Teams Fail
The things you don’t do are more damaging – in the long-term – than the things you do.
Ignorance prevails when you don’t-do. You only learn when you do-and-fail.
Teams that punish failure end up stupid.
Why teams fail:
#1. Failure to give authority.
Teams that lack authority are impotent advisers.
Any team that needs permission from higher ups to complete its mission is doomed to irrelevance.
#2. Failure to deal constructively with frustration, disappointment, and conflict.
Relationships always deteriorate until we learn how to navigate and resolve dark emotions.
Destructive strategies include clamming-up, blowing up, or withdrawing.
Teamwork always degenerates when unresolved issues percolate.
#3. Failure to engage everyone in the conversation.
Dysfunctional teams have dominant members who talk most of the time.
Teams waste time, energy, and talent when the brains around the table are disengaged. Doing what you’re told might be quick, but it’s soul-sucking over time.
#4. Ignorance of the strengths of fellow team members.
I was recently told about a team that displays a chart of each team member’s strengths in the conference room.
You must know each other’s strengths in order to effectively align and adapt roles.
Competence and strengths are different. A strength is something that makes you feel strong when you do use it. (Buckingham) Competence is simply something you do well.
We can depend on each other – only when we’re all using our strengths – in service to team objectives. You’re not dependable when you function in weakness.
Successful teams know how and when to depend on each other.
One way to improve teams:
Work on the way you work.
Teamwork takes more discipline and skill than working on your own.
In your experience, why do teams fail?
What have you done to improve team work on your team?
Why Teams Fail: 10 Causes and Cures (Blanchard)
5 Dysfunctions of a Team (Summary)
(Image adapted with permission of: r. nial bradshaw)
Teams fail when given responsibility w/o being given authority.
They thus evade engagement, especially when the elephant in the space is the ego (and his/her dark matter) of the authoritarian, “Don’t want to be VP of THAT f’up!).
This, in turn, promotes a culture where passive-agressives thrive (clam up/withdraw/blow up) and authoritarians overjustify themselves.
It’s the original sin of omission, denial – and it’s how (bad) history (predictably) repeats. And it’s how synergy of the team is (intentionally) kept from forming (to overwhelm the [soul-sucking] dark matter).
Evil prospers when good is unengaged.
Thanks Rurbane. I’m still waiting for you to come out of your shell. 😉
Seriously, thanks for your insights. Including passive-aggressive ideas opens my thinking to some important ideas.
Team fail for a variety of reasons including:
1. The mission (team charter) isn’t clearly established.
2. Lack of shared values. Lack of trust being a big one!
3. Dan–as you said— the team isn’t given the power and resources to get the work done.
4. An ineffective team leader. He/she lacks the the ability to manage and lead.
5. The wrong people on the the team. Some team members lack the required skills and motivation.
6. Lack of operating rules as to how the team will communicating, making decisions, resolve conflicts, assigning action items etc.
7. No celebrations when key milestones or improvements are made.
Great stuff, Paul. I have to do another post on this topic and include some of your insights.
Love Paul Thornton’s comments, and can’t argue any of his 7 points! I think teams achieve greatness when they avoid those 7 and continuously self-monitor (individually and as a team) around what’s important. The ability to engage in productive conflict cannot be minimized. Thanks for this post!
Thanks Christi. The idea of self-monitoring seems essential. We need to pay attention to our interactions.
Team fail when there is a diverse interest of achieving the set goal! An unhealthy competition within team members lead to more conflicts and the pace of progress slower down.
One needs to decide on an acceptable Team Leader who shall ensure the right spirit of oneness in achieving the common set goal.
Thanks Dr. Asher. Yes! Unhealthy competition between team members damages team work. Healthy competition is working to be the best without tearing someone else down.
I love the idea of having a chart of each team member’s strengths displayed as a reminder and focus in achieving our goals. Thank you for that!
Thanks Kristin. Yes. Isn’t that a great idea.
Can you elaborate on ways to navigate the frustration, disappointment and conflict? I agree it’s a problem but how do you help your team through it.
My first response is bring it up with your team. Remove the conversation from a specific situation and ask them to determine how they want to deal with conflict during meetings. Perhaps generate a short list of guidelines that can be invoked by anyone on the team when there’s conflict.
I wouldn’t suggest trying to solve a specific conflict before generating some guidelines because emotion can cloud our thinking and you might generate guidelines that are too specific.
There is a difference between leadership and leader. Leadership is also a style of practice and can be practiced depends on where you find yourself.
Similarities between the corporate world and private sector wil be differ from government and joint venture. Sometimes even good leaders will struggle to gain control or stabilise an environ not because they lack qualities but their style of leadership does not incorporate their surroundings.
Thanks Marlon. Sounds a like Ken Blanchard’s Situational Leadership. Perhaps an example of style of leadership and aligning with surroundings is Winston Churchill. He was inspirational under duress.
Why do teams fail? In my humble opinion it all boils down to leaderships level of wisdom. I’ve worked under leaders that were inept and there were those rare occasions that I would work under a leader who had “it.” I really don’t know what to even call “it?” But that individual leader seemed to have an “initiated mind,” a mind that transcended all and could see with a pair of eyes that reached into another realm and dimension. These types of leaders are few and far between. These leaders may or may not have a Phd or had even attended college at all. But this particular leader knows life, more so the nature of life. Leaders of this nature are adept at solving problems. They’ll never come right and tell you what the issue is, but will show you the way. The problem is, most people have “uninitiated minds,” and are totally unaware of what the leader is trying to reveal to them. Leaders of this stature are doing their best to make you think on a deeper level. When one begins to think on a deeper level, one will develop, evolve and grow into the secrets and mysteries of life. You become a MASTER MIND. GREATNESS. I AM. That is when life becomes captivating because a light will appear on your path. An authentic leader knows this wisdom and knows this very well.
I once met a leader as the one I have described above. I will never forget that leader’s final words to me:
“I wish you peace on your journey.”
I think great team leaders have the required balance of “people skills” and “task skills.”
Teams fail when
1- Blurred vision. Not sure what success will look like
2- Overreach, if leadership wants to empower the team, leave off micromanagement. Serves no purpose.
3- No problem solving. Having a meeting just to have a meeting is an absolute waste of time. Bringing a workable idea to the table. Measure twice, cut once (Ross Perot). Solve the problem and move on…
Ditto that, Ron!
Blurred perspective comes of unclear strategic imperatives, which in turn creates blurred agendas (meaningless meetings), which in turn causes egos to overreach.
A perfect trinity for the failure dynamic … well said!
One reason I think teams fail is a undefined end. The question “what does success look like” comes to mind. If teams don’t have a clear understanding of what is success, then they may give up before actually achieving success or completing a task. It reminds me of Covey’s “begin with the end in mind”. Your post hit homes with me, especially listing your team’s strengths. Playing to those strengths can help achieve success. Great post Dan.
Thanks Tm. It’s surprising that we can be working hard and, when asked, we don’t really know what we are trying to achieve.
Strong leadership is needed for a team’s success. Many will argue that a servant leader is best to bring out the best performance in a team, whereas an autocratic leader might lead to team members staying reserved. I would argue that in no real situation do we find a 100% autocratic or 100% servant leader to lead a team, and if we did our teams would probably fail more often than not. As I’ve been reading through article upon article during my thesis research, I have come across a common theme. There needs to be direction and accountability along with mechanisms for allowing team members enough autonomy to feel as though their contribution is of themselves and for the betterment of the whole. I find that teams fail because direction is not clear, and accountability is not upheld. However, on the flip side I feel like teams could also fail if the results require innovation and they are not enticed to put their best foot forward. That is where transformational leadership becomes more than an ambiguous term to describe what we want but don’t have. Transformational leadership is not the antithesis of servant leadership. It is a separate concept that includes a leader’s ability to invigorate his people, and if done through a servant leadership lens will have them willing and excited to achieve goals for both the organization and themselves. Teams are successful with strong leadership that sets firm goals and expectations, but allows for full unbiased unhindered collaboration with his team to determine how to achieve those goals.
In this post, you mentioned some very important points regarding why teams fail. I agree with you that a failure to give authority as well as a failure to deal constructively with disappointment and conflict ultimately leads to the demise of the team. From personal experience, I have witnessed the failure of a team when there are disagreements and arguments but a lack of effective communication. I believe communication amongst the team is the single most important factor for a team when they need to recover from conflict. It is only through proper communication with all team members that people are able to display their strengths as well as be equally able to contribute to the conversation. Because there are always dominant team members, it is important for there to be a way to allow all team members to engage without feeling trampled by some of their teammates. Another important reason why teams fail, in my opinion, is because of a lack of trust amongst the individuals. I truly believe a solid foundation of trust is vital for team members to have a great working relationship and to do their best work. If there is unhealthy completion or toxicity amongst the members, the team will not succeed no matter how brilliant each team member is individually.