What weakens a team and what can you do to fix it?

Whether you realize it or not, we are all part of at least one “team.” This can be a work group, a family, a social group or community service committee. There will always be changes, people and incidents that work to improve or weaken your team. Things that could work against your team include:

  1. Toxic personalities who knowingly or unknowingly hurt your team’s effectiveness.
  2. Bad luck. Let’s face it, we can’t control every aspect of our lives.
  3. Inability to communicate with team members. This could be for a variety of reasons.
  4. Lack of commitment. Within a team there will always be varying levels of commitment to the team and its projects/goals.
How do you deal with some of these issues? Obviously, you cannot do much about luck, but the answer to fixing the other problems can be summed up in one word: Communicate.
This answer may seem trite or simplistic However, communicating well is one of the most difficult skills, and it does not come naturally to most people. You can learn how to diffuse difficult situations, bring people around to agreeing, and boost commitment– all from being an effective communicator. Learning how will also make you an extraordinary leader.
This requires thought and engagement with others. Unfortunately, a lot of people would rather walk away or cut a team member from the group before communicating. This does nothing to help the core issues, and may even make things worse.
So how do you start? Yes, you could take a class, but jumping in, practicing and getting experience are the most valuable. For example, start with one problem. Let’s say you have a team member who belittles others, is extremely loud in expressing opinions and is very divisive. Even if you are not the team leader, there is no reason why you cannot talk to this person (except you stopping yourself from doing so). However, don’t attempt the conversation without some forethought and possibly some homework…
1. What do you want the outcome of your conversation to be? This is the key. Many people start talking without taking this into account at all and simply go by the seat of their pants and how they happen to feel that day. Establishing in your mind the desired outcome will give you a framework for style of communication (soft or loud; dictating or persuading; etc. etc.), the words you should convey, and where is the best time and place to engage this person.
2. Have your facts in order. If you are going to “build a case” to convince someone to change their behavior, facts are important and powerful. Don’t guess and don’t make up things that can easily be disproved.
3. Appeal to a person’s sense of “good.” Everyone wants to be well thought of and seen as a valuable individual. Make sure you mention the person’s contributions and traits that are assets (for example, “people listen to you”).
4. Talk about changing behavior to benefit the team— not about how bad or negative the person is. Make the idea of changing beneficial for the person (ex: “I think that if you soften your approach, you would be able to garner more support for your ideas.” This instead of, “you are always yelling at everyone and taking up valuable time.”)
5. Be as specific as you can. Suggest concrete changes in behavior and a time frame for changing. People don’t just change in a day.
6. Give people options. Maybe they dislike the team so much, they want to leave. That is an option too.
7. Whatever you do, you must talk to the person causing the issue– not gossip or complain about him/her behind their back. Then, you are just adding to the problem not the solution.
8. Revisit and recognize. One conversation is probably not enough. Keep the conversation going by checking in from time to time. If the person is doing better and the team is thriving, please remember to recognize this publically.
Yes, this all takes time and effort. It’s very easy to say “It’s just not worth my time.”— and stay silent. But if we all took the time and effort to communicate more effectively, the world would be a much better place.