Turning Around a Failed Team

Teamwork calls for collective effort on a task and mutual cooperation in all activities related to a task. However, the team process is not easy and most teams have a few teething problems before they begin to jell and work well together. Some initial hiccups are quite normal when the team members are still trying to understand each other’s work styles and building rapport. There are also teams that never seem to be able to work well together, even after weeks or months have gone by. At times the team leader is blamed and may even be replaced in the hope that a change of guard will improve the team’s work.

The problems within a team and its poor motivation levels can create a roadblock in the performance of an organisation. Quite often teams are unaware of the larger repercussions of their poor performance. Unless the ‘problem team’ is carefully dealt with and set right, the organisation’s performance goals are compromised. The team’s problems could be anything from lack of trust and poor communication to poor role clarity or even personality clashes. The person who has been given the task of playing ‘doctor’ can achieve the turn around of the team by applying some of the measures outlined below:

Measures to Put the Team Back on Track:

  • Introduce informal team building exercises and games to break the ice and get the communication going. The more the team members open up and interact with one another; the more chances there are of building team cohesion.
  • Try and infuse ‘organisation patriotism’ in the teams. Stress the importance of their own performance in the overall scheme of things. When they see their role as significant in taking the organisation forward, the common purpose and common goals can work wonders in keeping them on track.
  • Build on the team strengths and break away from poor practices of the past.
    • Identify the capabilities and strengths of individuals and develop roles accordingly.
    • Identify poor practices within the team and look for solutions that can divert the team from previous behavioural tendencies. You have to pinpoint specific problems within the team and use relevant methods to rectify the problems. Is it poor role clarity, poor time management, egos, poorly conducted meetings, etc.
      Read these related articles for insights into team ineffectiveness and appropriate solutions to team problems:
      Diagnosing Team Failure
      The Right Solution For An Ineffective Team
  • Use training sessions to talk to the team about the essence of teamwork, about being a good team player and the expectations of the organisation from the team. This sends out a signal that says “This is how we want you to work, this is our vision for the ideal way to interact and work together as a team.”

Others measure include:

  1. Strong Leadership: Providing strong leadership is important for such teams. A good leader can drive the change and stimulate substantial and committed reform in work approaches rather than a half-hearted attempt.
  2. Bring Back the Team Spirit: Put the spark back in the team by instilling a sense of pride in the group. Charge them up to perform better using positive statements such as ‘You can do it’, ‘You have what it takes to deliver better results’, ‘The company is looking forward to greater contribution from this team in future’.
  3. Provide the Right Challenges: Motivation models have long emphasized the importance of providing adequate challenge when an organisation wants to create a high level of motivation towards a task and energize the team effort.

Turning around a poorly performing team takes time and needs patience. It just cannot be achieved overnight but it is something that is achieveable with the right tools.

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