6 Factors That Sabotage Team Performance

It’s so easy to underperform! We’ve all done it, had an off day or simply not felt like making an effort. Most commonly because our energy levels fluctuate perhaps from lack of food, lack of sleep, lack of exercise or simply our body’s biorhythm. Naturally our personal wellbeing has an effect on our ability to perform! Whether you’re an employee, manager, leader or business owner it’s useful to understand and control your energy fluctuations.

And even though this means performance could fluctuate, it’s usually not long term or permanent! However if you’re working with a team where there is constant underperformance, where employees hesitate to work together or where fellow team members don’t even show up, it’s very likely there are other problems! At first they may seem to be just small problems that are left unresolved because they’re not important enough. Yet because they’re unresolved and continue to grow they soon begin to impact team performance! And still there is no resolution or discovery of the cause of the problems. If this sounds too simplistic, it is happening in teams every day! Is it happening in your team or business? What can you do about it?

One of the most important things to do is recognise the cause of the problems. An example would be if decisions are made when some team members are not present and they are not kept informed yet are expected to produce the same result as the rest of the team. Then at the next team meeting they’re reprimanded for their lack of activity! Mostly we only see the effect of the problem, like in the above example where those team members not present didn’t produce a result, which was CAUSED by a lack of communication. We’ve distilled the cause of problems that sabotage team performance down to these 6 factors…

1. Fear – the most common cause of poor team performance is real or perceived fear. The fears can be personal or shared by the enitre team. To overcome these fears skilled team leaders can assist individuals and the team to identify their fears, understand the cause of the fear and create a plan to reduce or eliminate it. Then there is also the fear of the external environment, such as the consequences of the current economic crisis, which can be reduced by creating shared objectives and goals. Along with identifying the actions the team could take it would give the team a common bond and help them overcome their fears.

2. Internal conflict – is an enormous source of underperformance in many teams. Conflict occurs most commonly when there are no ground rules and problems are not dealt with or cleared up as soon as they arise. Creating a Team Code of Practice will assist teams to reduce conflict by giving team members a pre-determined set of rules to abide by and to use in conflicting situations.

3. Lack of direction – can easily sabotage team performance without team members being aware of it. If the team leader, manager or leaders of the enterprise are not clear on the direction they are heading in, their teams will simply follow in their footsteps. Direction must be set by the business leadership and consistently communicated to everyone in the team.

4. Lack of communication – amongst team members and from the leadership to the employees remains one of the biggest problems in managing and increasing team performance. When people are not adequately informed there is an increase in mistakes, poor decision making, poor customer service and more. Multiple channels of communication that are open to communication passing in both directions are a critical part of increasing team performance.

5. Lack of trust – between management and staff or amongst team members creates a negative spiral that can be difficult to reverse. An example is the massive drop in trust amongst the worlds financial institutions has been partially responsible for creating the global credit crisis. When there is sufficient reason for people to stop trusting each other it can take a long time to re-establish that trust and get the team back to a higher level of performance. It’s imperative that team leaders and managers avoid this scenario because the consequences can be devastating and long term!

6. Divisive culture – occurs in teams where there is no agreed set of values to guide the culture. This results in the most dominant people creating team culture which can quickly divide the team! For instance dominant leaders and managers can alienate some or all team members by not facilitating a process that develops team culture. From the leaders or managers viewpoint it may seem to be an effective form of team management and control, but it usually has the effect of reducing productivity and performance. Ensure you’re building an inclusive culture in your business and amongst your teams. If you’re experiencing low levels of team performance consider the list of causes above and ask yourself if any of them could be the reason.

Take some time to step back and really analyze the cause, either by listening and observing or asking questions. Once you’ve identified the cause you’ll need to make decisions and take action that will give you a different result. Involve your team in this process as much as possible and you’ll gain far more than you would believe.

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