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Identifying Potential Challenges with Your Team and How to Address Them

Dan Sines

CEO at Traitify | Star Wars & Superhero Fan, Adventurer, aspiring Renaissance Man | Inventor/Visionary in Work

If you manage a team, you're going to run into challenges. That's just a fact. Problems can have external causes (a project has an unrealistic deadline, the team is strapped for resources, etc.), or internal causes (personality conflicts). Every team will have at least some of these problems at some point.

It's how you tackle these challenges - whether you act proactively to address these challenges or are constantly in reaction mode - that sets your teams apart.

Knowing some of the challenges you may face will help you address them in advance. The (now-defunct) Harvard Business Review's Answer Exchange listed a set of common problems that teams encounter. Here are the problems, and how to tackle them if you see them arising.

1. Absence of team identity.

Members may not feel mutually accountable to one another for the team's objectives. There may be a lack of commitment and effort, conflict between team goals and members' personal goals, or poor collaboration.

Tom Treanor, director of content marketing & social media at Wrike, a provider of project management software, told CIO Australia that "Proactively setting up the decision-making structure, including where all the key stakeholders fit in, is critical." If you, as a manager, don't do it, make sure that there's someone on the team who has good leadership skills and can take charge in the beginning to ensure everyone on the team understands why they're there.

2. Poor communication.

Team members may interrupt or talk over one another. There may be consistent silence from some members during meetings, allusions to problems but failure to formally address them, or false consensus (everyone nods in agreement without truly agreeing).

Research has shown that the teams that communicate best are the most effective. If team members are talking over each other or not speaking up, you may need a team member who can act as a mentor and draw quieter employees out of their shells.

3. Inability to resolve conflicts.

Conflicts cannot be resolved when there are heightened tensions and team members make personal attacks or aggressive gestures.

About half of conflict at work is due simply to personality differences. Sometimes, just putting the two parties together and helping them try to understand the other's perspective from a personality standpoint is enough to resolve the conflict. One person may be frustrated by what she sees as her counterpart's inability to get things done; maybe that's just a creative personality struggling against what he sees as arbitrary deadlines.

4. Lack of participation.

Team members fail to complete assignments. There may be poor attendance at team meetings or low energy during meetings.

A lack of participation can be caused by the lack of enough "doers" on your team (see those "arbitrary" deadlines). Ashley Schwartau, creative director, Production, The Security Awareness Company, offers another tip in this CIO article: "I assign my team members specific deadlines for their parts of the project - and the dates I give are always much earlier than I actually need. That way if something needs to be [fixed], there is plenty of time for changes and another review." Another helpful deadline tip is to break a project into manageable chunks; many people feel paralyzed by a huge project and don't know where to start.

5. Lack of creativity.

The team is unable to generate fresh ideas and perspectives and doesn't turn unexpected events into opportunities.

Anyone can become more creative with practice, but not everyone is equally creative. Make sure your team has at least one outside-the-box thinker who can come up with ideas - and make sure your company culture rewards speaking up, even when the ideas sound ridiculous on their faces.

6. Ineffective leadership.

Leaders can fail teams by not defining a compelling vision for the team, not delegating, or not representing multiple constituencies.

Effective leaders excel at taking charge and gaining others' confidence. If the team lead you've put in place is instead making a power grab, that's a sign he should be replaced. The blog Corporate Compliance Insights puts it plainly: " There is no place on a high-performing team for a player who is willing to succeed personally at the expense of the team's success."

Keep an eye out for these six challenges and while you won't be able to prevent your team from ever having a problem, you can certainly ward off internal challenges before they come to a head.

Want to know more about how we use science to help develop the perfect teams? Sign up for a personalized demo of Traitify today.


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