The moment you recognize that what you thought was your “team” is actually not set up to work together toward a common goal you notice that many of the group members are driven by their own agenda. At that very moment it is your responsibility, as the Team Leader, to transform the group to a team in order to generate success for everyone involved. The transformation begins with increased communication; with you speaking personally and confidentially with each member of the team to discover the underlying cause of your group’s dysfunction.

Diagnosing team dysfunction

This process alone can begin a catharsis for your team, as each member begins to realize their role in the dysfunction.

Your diagnosis starts by asking these five questions:

  • Are there personality conflicts among specific members?
  • Are the individual roles not clearly defined?
  • Is there a culture of incompetence?
  • Is there poor overall structure and organization?
  • Do team members have too great a fear of the consequences of failure?

Once you begin to understand the reasons for the lack of teamwork, you can begin to develop plans for an intervention.

Rebuilding your team

Your intervention should focus on making a meaningful, measurable and positive impact change, improving interpersonal communication, creating a commitment to shared goals, and fostering support among team members. Team Leaders have to work on a number of the following dynamics, and possibly all of them:

  • A change in the structure of your organization, reassignment of certain personnel, even a simple change of office layout.
  • Customized team development workshop designed to build trust, candor, and accountability.
  • Training that increases the awareness of others’ thinking styles, communication patterns and needs, and helps drive healthy conflict.
  • Training and off-sites aimed at addressing latent fears and resistance to working as a team.
  • Meetings that broaden each member’s perspective and understand others’ views of the team’s performance.
  • Change management strategy designed to reduce cliques, introduce new types of attitudes, and increase positive behaviors.
  • New processes, tools or technologies that drive new behavior and higher performance.

As always, knowing there is a problem is just the beginning to developing a solution. Because of the complexity of team dynamics, as well as the multi-layered characteristics of interpersonal relationships, the process can be difficult and time consuming. The alternative however, is the frustration and underperformance that comes when a group is a group, not a team.

Author’s Note: I do very few “trainings,” but the one I love (because it works!) is my Communication for Thriving vs. Surviving: Skills and Tools for 21st Century Business Relationships.