Teamwork Leadership Banner
≡ Menu

Your Top Ten Obstacles to Teamwork – Teamwork Tuesday

{ 9 comments… add one }

Teamwork Last week I asked the question on several LinkedIn Groups “What is so difficult about teamwork?” I received well over 200 responses. My intention was to rank each of them and then figure out ways we can create better teamwork.

This is not a formal scientific study by any means. I simply threaded out what I believed each response was saying and then grouped them into categories. I then ranked them by how often a response was given.

So here are the top ten responses I extracted.

  1. Lack of a competent leader (27)
  2. Lack of goals and goal alignment (26)
  3. Individuals focused on themselves and not the team (21)
  4. Lack of understanding of team members (20)
  5. Lack of clarity on team roles, the purpose or vision of the team (15)
  6. Lack of focus on team rewards and appreciation (12)
  7. Lack of spending time together as a team (9)
  8. Poor communication (8)
  9. Lack of trust (7)
  10. Lack of accountability (6)

Each Tuesday for the next couple of months I would like for us to talk about solutions to overcoming each of these top ten barriers to teamwork.

Let’s start with the first one – lack of a competent leader. What types of skills are important for leaders to have when leading teams? What does a competent leader of teams look like? What would be the first thing you would do with a leader who was not competent, besides firing them?

Maybe you have additional questions. I look forward to the discussion, so let’s begin.

Note: Here are some others that didn’t make the top ten: lack of understanding by team members of what being on a team means, lack of rules in the organization for teams, team members aren’t being listened to and heard, lack of commitment of team members, lack of deadlines and priorities on teams, given the difficult economic times team members are scared to storm and norm, too many other priorities people are working on, too many leaders and not enough team players, teams are too large at times, lack of providing the “what’s in it for me” to team members, lack of effective team meetings, lack of conflict and too many politics.

Mike Rogers

Leave a Comment

  • John August 4, 2009, 3:43 pm

    Hmmm, there seem to be at least three cases: the leader is chosen by the team, the leader is chosen by the team’s creator, or, as in the case for me once, the “leader” was not a member of the team. If the issue is lack of an effective leader, it would be interesting to know which of these three situations had ineffective leaders.
    In the case of the team where the “leader” was not a member, we had a team that worked very well together in a sort of anarchy arrangement. Our official leader would pop in and say “do this”. He knew little about the details of what we did; rather he communicated to us management’s ideas of where we should go. The team itself was very effective and efficient, but occasionally we found ourselves abruptly steered in a new direction which caused frustration.
    If the leader were part of the team, I would expect her to understand what is being done and how. (A manager or project manager might not do that, but we’re talking team leader here.) I would also expect her to be respected by the team members as one who can do her share, or maybe one who has paid her dues doing it in the past. As a member of the team I would expect her to support the team to management and as a member of management I would expect her to support management to the team. Handling hat seeming dichotomy is perhaps the most difficult part of being a team leader.

  • Anna DeBattiste August 5, 2009, 7:27 am

    I would like to offer a somewhat different perspective, which is that if someone has set the team up with the right context, you don’t need an effective team leader. If a team has all the other items on your top ten list, and has been set up with clear goals and the resources they need to acheive them, then they have the potential to become a high performing team. So to me, what to do about effective leadership is really just going back to whether the team was initiated in an effective manner, and not whether there is ongoing effective leadership. I’m actually kind of surprised that competent leadership made the #1 spot, although I suppose you could argue that if a team leader or a management group of some sort did not provide the necessary initial steps for the team to form, storm and norm effectively than this could constitute the most crippling factor in their situation.

  • Sandra Wichman, MS August 5, 2009, 7:45 am

    So interesting……I would agree with Anna. In the teams that I have served on, the leadership role rotated with the critical goals at hand. More often than not, I was the actual “leader” by definition and role in the organization…but I moved into a team role that served our purpose and allowed one of my direct reports to head our initiative. This was simply put–amazing, exhilarating and so high performing that it frightened our CEO. To this day, team members express their passion for our mission and vision and pride in our success….in teams from some ten or so years ago. (this frightened CEO practiced this strategy with his senior leadership team and reaped the same results!)

  • Mike Rogers August 5, 2009, 9:50 am

    Thank you John, Anna and Sandra. Great comments! So what I heard being said is that the team leader doesn’t always need to be the “leader?” And in some cases teams don’t even need a leader and they can still be effective.
    My opinion is that all teams need some type of leader to drive the stages of team development. But once the leader has ensured there are clear goals, that all team members feel like they can contribute and are encouraged to and that task conflict (conflict focused on the issues) is looked at by the team as being healthy activity, then the leader can begin to step back and play a lesser and lesser role. Team members will begin to hold teammates accountable for reaching the goal.
    Of course it is a little more complicated than what I have outlined above, but the team needs a leader to facilitate that. Whether the team leader is selected by the leader or by some other method, every team is going to need somebody who can set expectations and facilitate moving the team forward. Do you agree?
    Sandra, what do you think made the experience you told so effective? What was it about having one of your direct reports head up the initiative so amazing?

  • Lisa Bradley-Mitchell August 7, 2009, 11:25 am

    A leader’s competency is defined in part by his/her ability to facilitate the team through/past obstacles 2-10 on the list above. In fact, good leaders ensure the team is clear on vision, purpose, expectations, success metrics; makes sure the team has the required tools/equipment; and then gets out of the way so that the team can perform – clearing barriers/challenges and providing feedback as necessary.
    I agree with those who have already commented, the formal leader (hierarchically speaking) is not/does not have to be the leader for every situation the team faces. Another sign of an effective leader is the ability/willingness to develop team members by sharing authority and trusting others in the team to take the reins. My greatest experiences as a leader have revealed themselves when did what I could to set the team up for success and then “got out of the way”!

  • Mike Rogers August 11, 2009, 7:40 am

    Great point Lisa. Thank you for your comments. I agree, good leaders facilitate the others 2 – 10. Probably why it is number one on the list would be my guess.

  • Terrance Hawley August 19, 2009, 9:04 pm

    The leadership skills posted herein form a surface that is rarely penetrated. What process can help rankd and file wanna-be leaders elevate through the glass ceiling. I’ve used a daily log to record good and bad mishaps that ripple through my management. It seems to me that teamwork is optimized when the team and feels the leader provides ainformation permeable shield against project and career threats.

  • Mike Rogers August 20, 2009, 11:14 am

    I agree Terrance. The shield of protection will create trust. That trust will allow the team to take risk such as objecting to actions that hurt the team, calling teammates out on negative behavior etc… I saw this recently with consulting I have been doing with a senior executive team. It was wonderful to see a team member call the leader out on behavior. This would have never happened in the past, they were afraid to. But through a number of exercises that built trust on this team, team members now feel like they can call the leader and each other out on behavior that they feel affects the team without negative consequences. This leader built was instrumental in buidling this trust. The team is doing way better than they were in the past.


Next post:

Previous post: