The famous international soccer player Pele said,“No individual can win a game by himself,” and in business, teams are essential to winning the corporate game.
As you evaluate teams and their performance, it is easy to see that some teams thrive while others will have a long journey towards achieving their desired success.
If your team is under-performing or falling short of expectations, there are two things to look for that may be impeding team results and overall effectiveness:
1. Point and Blame
Nearly every underperforming team possesses an element of blaming others, which is usually unspoken and hidden from view. Numerous team leaders and members choose to point the finger and blame others for team failures and problems, but they do so surreptitiously.
Admittedly, others may certainly be part of the problem; however, if you are a member of an underperforming team, it is your responsibility to do something differently, better, or new in order to change the course of performance—and everyone else on your team should be held to the same firm standards as well.
When I discuss performance issues with team leaders and members who are busily placing blame on others, I like to ask this question: “Do you think members of your team would say that you are causing part of the problem or causing the entire problem?” The question is posed in this way so that team leaders or members are unable to dismiss their contribution to the team’s performance (or lack thereof).
The truth is that it’s human nature to struggle to see ourselves as others see us. Therefore, asking the right questions to help team leaders and members see that they do, in fact, contribute to the team’s performance (good or bad) is key to boosting team effectiveness.
After individuals are able to accept and understand their role in and contribution to team problems, here are two simple questions each team member should ask:
• What am I doing or not doing that is causing my team members to struggle?
• How will I make adjustments that will help us achieve our team goals and increase our effectiveness as a group?
Only after we have looked in the mirror and made some plans to change and adjust our behavior should we have a candid and courageous conversation about others’ contributions to the team’s performance.
2. Commitment, not Alignment
Most teams struggle when there is confusion about the goals that the team is expected to achieve. When team objectives and goals are not discussed, understood, and agreed upon, you can guarantee that some team members will have hidden agendas, feelings of resentment, strong competitiveness, turf wars, and disagreements over processes and procedures.
Many teams say that “alignment” is their desired state, but this isn’t enough to maximize team performance. Alignment is nothing more than compliance wearing an Armani suit; it’s a corporate buzzword, and people tend to just go along with it.
Unfortunately, the passion to do whatever it takes for the benefit of the team is rarely present in alignment. Commitment is the stuff that gives high-performance teams an edge over their “aligned” compatriots. It produces obligation, accountability, and assurance—and in combination, these three elements create an excellent recipe for outperforming the competition.
So, how can teams establish greater commitment? High-performance teams candidly discuss their collective goals and precisely define what is most important to the team’s success. They agree to cooperate, speak freely, and thoroughly discuss and refine team goals and expectations.
Once they have clarified their team objectives and strategies for execution, the best teams also ask their members to offer verbal commitment and loyalty to the team and its goals—and they do this with everyone present. Team members who are less-than-committed to team goals and objectives have this one opportunity to air their differences of opinion in front of everyone.
At this point, there should be few objections because team members have been given the opportunity to speak freely and share their opinions honestly from the very beginning. If some team members do have issues with committing to the team at this time, here are some questions to consider asking:
• How can the entire team help you overcome your objections?
• Do you have another solution that will help us all reach commitment?
• What can the team do to support those team members who aren’t completely committed to our team goals at this moment?