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teamsWe use the word team so often that it has almost become a garbage can word. Everything is a team. We have our department team, our sales team, our whole company is called a team, and we have even called the guys who meet every Friday night a team. Because we use the word so frequently, we think we know how to work effectively with teams. Unfortunately we do not.

Teams are complex dynamic systems that face many challenges. In fact 60% fail to reach their potential. Listed below are 8 of the most common reasons teams fail based on our experience and research.

  1. Lack of clear purpose and goals

Without clear purpose and goals, the team will falter. Not knowing what to accomplish and why it is important is a major reason for lack of performance

  1. Unsure of what requires a team effort

Not every decision or action requires a team; some are best accomplished by individuals. Team action is required when the result calls for multiple skills and perspectives and for a common goal.

  1. Lack of accountability

The very definition of a team is one where mutual accountability for outcomes is a given. Effective teams hold themselves and each other accountable for commitments made and results.

  1. Lack of effective or shared Leadership

Applying leader behaviors that do not meet the developmental level of the team impacts both productivity and morale. Every team needs a leader, but as the team develops leadership needs to be shared. You will never have a high performing team if the leader does not give up control.

  1. Lack of trust among team members

Teams are trust- based systems. The lack of trust leads to poor communication and withholding of information, which is a barrier to relationships and innovation.

  1. Inability to deal with conflict.

Not dealing with conflict will cause productivity and morale to come to a standstill or worse. Rather than being seen as differences, it can become a struggle for control. If dealt with correctly can be the source of innovation and deepened relationships.

  1. Ineffective problem-solving skills

The strength of the team lies in its ability to creatively and effectively deal with challenges. Without this skill set (which thrives on different perspectives), it will not reach high performance.

  1. Lack of focus on creativity and excellence.

Creativity and excellence cannot be taken for granted but ideally written right into the values and norms of the team. Continual improvement is applauded and honored. Team members should be allowed to take calculated risks. If mistakes occur, they are treated as learning opportunities

Overcoming these challenges is not easy but doable. Teams are a powerful vehicle to produce results and build morale. When managed effectively, they can outperform any group of individuals and do more to unleash creativity and build skills than individuals working alone.

I recently read a fascinating chapter from the book Managing in the Age of Change: Essential Skills to Manage Today’s Workforce. The chapter looks at “many of the often reflexive ways that gender differences, and the behaviors associated with them, are enacted in the world of work” and gives practical examples of how this plays out.

I found it very insightful, going beyond much of the stereotypical advice I’ve read about gender differences in management and communication in the workplace.

And it got me thinking about the importance of adopting a “both/and” stance, rather than an “either/or” stance when it comes to managing our employees, their performance, development and career progression. By that, I mean that as leaders and managers, we need to be careful to not use ourselves as too absolute a yardstick when evaluating the behaviors and performance of those we lead and/or manage. We need to embrace, support, celebrate and even reward our differences. It can be both my way and your way; not either my way or your way.

Being aware of culture, individual and gender differences in communication and behaviors is especially important when coaching, giving feedback or doing performance appraisals. In these circumstances, like it or not, leaders and managers are in a position of power over their employees. So, although we can’t help but work from our own frame of reference, we need to be mindful of our biases and try to move beyond them.

How do you do that?

  • By continually refreshing your knowledge and understanding of cultural, personality/individual and gender differences that impact the way we interpret and respond to circumstances and the way we communicate.
  • By knowing yourself deeply and becoming aware of your communication style, your way of dealing with conflict, your biases, etc.
  • By seeing and valuing your employees as individuals.
  • By establishing and maintaining an ongoing, two-way dialogue with our employees to help us understand each others’ perspectives and behavior.
  • By working on developing or maintaining humility.
  • By asking your employees what you could do to better support their performance and development. Then listening to what they say, and acting on it as appropriate.
  • By actively finding ways to leverage the strengths of all employees, so you work in a “both/and” rather than an “either/or” culture.

By embracing and valuing differences – be they cultural, gender or individual – we create a more diverse workforce but also a much richer one, where the employees and business benefit from the broader perspectives and abilities of all.

Melany Gallant is a blogger and PR/social media maven at Halogen Software who researches and writes about best practices for managing employees and supporting their career development

I stumbled upon an fascinating article entitled “How Women Work” on the How Stuff Works website.  I was prepared to amused or outraged that someone could capture how the female gender works in one article but I have to say the author does a good job.  She has an equally interesting article entitled “How Men Work” that you may find helpful!  Read the article “How Women Work” and let me know what you think.