Updated: Mar 23, 2018
Originally written back in 2009, I wanted to revisit the top barriers to effective team dynamics. The primary benefit of working together effectively as a team is many minds and bodies working together to accomplish a common goal. Truly successful teams take advantage of the unique strengths and perspectives of the individuals that make up the group. However, often the differences themselves preclude effective communication and connection to get to the very advantage that is sought. The following is a quick list of barriers that teams must overcome to function together successful and some notes on how to overcome the barrier:
1. Can’t take in what others are saying because they say it differently.
Have team members practice actively listening, where they repeat back what they heard. The individual who is communicating the original idea can correct the understanding and both members and those observing can see where the differences originate and have a deeper understanding of how to communicate more effectively in future.
2. Individuals approach things differently so they don’t know where their team mates are coming from so they don’t develop trust.
Have team members work through a simple problem and document the steps they would take to solve the problem. Then have each member review with the group how and why they approached it in their unique way. The group should see there are many ways to work through things and gain an appreciation for different approaches.
3. The process by which they make decisions is different so they can’t make consensus decisions.
Decisions shouldn’t always be made through consensus, but there are often times when all team members need to have a say to buy in and carry the decision through. So if the team is having trouble making decisions look into why that is, challenge the team to identify why they are having trouble and brain storm on suggestions on how to improve.
4. The group is highly interdependent but they don’t understand what the rest of the teams roles are.
If time and skills permits, allow team members to swap roles for a day or even a few hours for a specific meeting or task. Often we think we know what someone else does until we are actually challenged with doing it ourselves. If time or skills don’t permit, take time out of each team meeting to have individuals give a little review of their role and how they go about it or have team members shadow each other.
5. The common goal is not clearly defined or bought into by all team members.
Some people enjoy the social interaction of team so naturally adjust well to working in a team, others however would prefer to be individual contributors. If individuals do not understand the common goal or benefit of working together as a team, they are less likely to stretch themselves to work together as a team to accomplish objectives.
So to summarize the barriers that teams need to overcome are:
Unclear or unproductive communication
Different approaches result in individuals being untrusting of others
The team can’t make consensus decisions when required
The team doesn’t understand their other team members roles
The team is not clear and bought into the common goal
Evaluate your teams effectiveness and see if one or multiple of these barriers are holding your team back from being a truly high functioning team. Take steps to correct, one at a time, too much change will just throw the group into chaos.
Team Building Coach