Every Tuesday morning I show up at a university campus to teach leadership to international students who mainly come from China and the surrounding region. We have a fascinating time as we merge Eastern thought about leadership with Western ideals.
This semester we are discovering the group dynamics of teams and most of our work is experiential learning in class. My students are hungry to learn how to create effective teams for optimum results and I love watching the interaction. Working as a team with shared ideas is new for some of them. They are used to the idea of autocratic teams instead of teams that are more collaborative.
I’ve noticed one thing that stays the same between our cultures and it is the bottom line. We all want to have an effective successful team to reach common goals. We are learning together some important steps to maximize our effectiveness as teams. And yet, we still fall back on our human nature striving for performance and falling into leading only task driven. And as much as the leadership theories we learn help us, our humanity can get in the way and lead to what I call – The 5 Team Killers.
There are ways we can unintentionally easily kill a team in our efforts to be effective. As a leader, it can become a team blindspot. In my experience with teams I’ve served and lead, this is what I have learned (the hard way) that can cause a team to lose it’s effectiveness.
1. Task First Think Later
As a young leader in my 20’s and 30’s, I thought organizing a team meant putting together a group of people to get the job done. It was all about TASK! And I was the one as the leader to call the shots.
I had little regard for what others on the team might think about what we were doing TOGETHER.
I soon learned the hard way through some crucial conversations that I wasn’t the only one who had the best ideas on how to get the task done.
In fact, sometimes my ideas weren’t good at all!
Thinking together as a team was a slow learning process for me. As we thought things through together, the team actually improved.
I am not advocating group-think in this instance but rather fostering an open-minded atmosphere where everyone’s thoughts about getting the tasks accomplished lead to the best results.
2. Choose Not to Collaborate
Part of what makes a successful team is leveraging everyone’s strengths on the team. When we choose not to collaborate and don’t make it a priority to understand the strengths of each team member, true collaboration can’t take place. Don’t be afraid to collaborate. No one person has all the skills to lead an effective team and no one person on the team can get the job done well all by themselves.
3. Using People Instead of Relating to People
If you really want to kill a team fast, the best way to kill a team is to not care about your people. People will follow the vision and goals for awhile, but when stress starts to play in, if we as a leader don’t genuinely care for those on our teams, motivation will diminish. We don’t want people to feel they are being used. We want them to not just know we care but that we really care about them beyond what they can do for the team.
4. No parties, No celebrations
Teams need to celebrate successes and especially small goals.
Celebrating as a team creates more motivation to reach the end goal.
We often just celebrate the end with a big splash as we cross the finish line. I have found that when we celebrate small goals it brings the team together and provides encouragement. Every team will reach an obstacle at some point that can bring discouragement. Celebrating along the way helps to keep everyone moving forward toward the goal.
5. Enforce Accountability
There are many different ideas of how to hold team members to account. I have found that the best way to hold a team accountable is to empower others by working intentionally as a leader to motivate team members.
Lack of motivation can kill accountability.
When a team loses momentum due to lack of motivation, members can slip into the “just doing enough to get by.”
I believe the key to accountability is to keep the team motivated as a whole. When everyone on the team is energized there is less chance of those on the team falling into the slacker category.
These five team killers aren’t rocket science and yet they bring awareness to highlight what is really important when it comes to functioning as a healthy team.
When my students share how to create a dream team, their passion emerges on how their greatest wish is to help others and leave a lasting imprint in their realm of influence.
As we reflect together in discussion on these and other theories, one common goal surfaces in discussion. We all want to be the very best leader we can be to create a working team that makes a difference!
If everyone is moving forward together then success takes care of itself. Abraham Lincoln.