Every organization emphasizes the need for teamwork. But few really achieve a high performing team environment. Setting the stage for collaboration requires that leaders play close attention to several common traps that, when present in the work environment, make true teamwork nearly impossible to achieve.
Team Members Who Don’t Pull Their Weight
When studies are done regarding what employees like least about being in teams, working with others who don’t do their fair share appears top on the list. Conscientious team members take-up the slack, burdening their already demanding work loads. While the team may look successful to others, the top performers recognize that the laggard team members are getting credit for work done by others. Leaders who don’t actively manage performance issues cannot build a collaborative work environment. Instead, they burn-out the best players.
Engaging in meetings to generate ideas that seemly go into a dark hole causes team members to eventually give the leader the silent treatment by minimizing their contributions. Leaders who have already made decisions yet ask for input after the fact, create discouragement and cynicism. Communication becomes stifled as ideas, initially shared in good faith, are shelved. A controlling, dominant leader-style cannot produce a collaborative work environment.
Weak Conflict Resolution Capability
Tension steadily mounts when individual team members have significant issues with one another. If not effectively addressed, the conflict impairs communication and creates dysfunctional dynamics. Warring sub-groups may form or passive-aggressive, mean-spirited behaviors may emerge. Team members, then, become focused on sabotaging one another, rather than cooperating to achieve results. Teamwork cannot succeed when this destructive dynamic prevails.
Too Little Time Together
Teamwork can’t flourish when members lack a forum for joint problem solving and decision-making. Without group time, the group dynamic fails to mature. It takes practice to learn how to listen, respond, ask questions, create ideas, and build consensus¬–the essence of teamwork. Understanding and adapting one’s style to effectively work with others in the group requires quality time together. The potential collaborative ability of the full group becomes suppressed when little time is spent collectively.
Absence of Praise and Recognition
Even when high performance teamwork has been achieved, it can quickly diminish when positive reinforcement is neglected. Praise and recognition need to be nurtured from team member to team member, and from the leader to both the whole group and individuals. Without acknowledgment of good work, team members readily become cynical, thinking, “Why bother since no one seems to care.”
Good leaders have a strategy for team development. They identify the type of input they want from their group, then invite meaningful, participation that results in implementation of good ideas. They make certain every team member performs to established standards. They mediate conflict quickly, once it develops. They provide frequent opportunities for facilitated group problem solving and relationship building. They generously praise and recognize. Without employing these behaviors, teamwork most likely will fizzle.