All the complexities of team dynamics come to the fore at the meeting. The meeting is one of the most critical aspects of the team process with strategies and innovative solutions to problems emerging during this time. The team meeting is also crucial for any developmental work that the team plans to undertake and for any joint decisions that they have to take. If the team members are unable to have productive meetings then they will be unable to come up with sound strategies either. There are various reasons why meetings go awry. Some of these reasons are discussed below:
Lack of Open and Sharing Communication
There are many instances when no clear cut action plan emerges from a team meeting. This can be due to the team members rejecting any ideas that are suggested too quickly and without giving the person a chance to explain or elaborate. This can prevent average ideas becoming great ideas through there being no allowance for exploration and refinement.
The key lies in creating an atmosphere that fosters dialogue and debate on thoughts and ideas. Team members should carefully introduce an idea into the discussion as ‘food for thought’ rather than as a fait accompli. When the rejections begin, instead of allowing this to happen, the team member with the idea could start with a request such as, ‘Just hear me out’. Once the idea is fully explained, there has to be an attempt to encourage a healthy debate, exploration of the idea, and analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of that particular approach.
If someone responds with a veto ‘I don’t think this will work’, the important thing is not to let it put an end to the dialogue. Don’t stop there, ask ‘Why do you think it won’t work?’. This kind of dialogue process leads to the interest level in good ideas gradually gaining momentum. As the team members begin to see the light, they can zero in on relevant ideas and finally make a well thought out decision.
Another way is to write all ideas down in a brainstorming session with the team regardless of there plausability. This can then be reviewed and discussed together. It is a good way of preventing immediate rejection and leads to more open sharing of ideas.
Poor Interaction Through a Lack of Communication Skills
Effective listening has to be taken a step further and integrated with interaction and two-way communication. Putting ideas across is one aspect of the team process, team members should also be able to present a counter argument or ask pertinent questions to clarify doubt. This is when the group process begins to work efficiently. It may be surprising to believe that not everybody is able to interact effectively in a group situation. Everybody can communicate, no question about that. But effective communication and business interaction is a whole different thing.
Egos or Just Plain Pigheadedness!
Ego hassles can create conflicts and power struggles within a team. It’s a kind of pigheadedness usually borne out of personal insecurities. A stubborn attitude of clinging to ones own views creeps in. This attitude implies – ‘My idea is the best- your idea is not good enough’. It then becomes a fight for supremacy, a battle of ‘right’ verses ‘wrong’. This can lead confused objectives and goals through team members trying to push their ideas and no longer assessing what’s best for the task at hand. When the group effort degenerates into pandering the egos of individual team players or fighting each other’s egos, the team fails to deliver on the task. When egos are at play, individuals are unable to focus on the joint responsibility that they have as a team. Vince Lombardi, one of the most successful football coaches of all time once said:
This quote sums up what should be the basis of a teams focus in order to work effectively. ‘Individual commitment to a group effort’ should be the refrain that is taught to all those who fall prey to ego clashes during team work. The task comes first and any ego issues must be brushed aside. When individuals start feeding their egos at the expense of the team, then work begins to suffer.
Indecisiveness is a concern of many team leaders. The team is able to discuss the problem, come up with alternative routes to solving it but are unable to narrow down their choice and zero in on one single course of action. It may be that one or more of the team members are dissatisfied with the solutions that have been presented and the team is therefore unable to reach a decision. The best way forward is to systematically assess the pros and cons of each approach, i.e. the objectives in terms of likely results, cost involves, time factor, competitive edge and so on.
Poor Listening Skills
Those who work together on a team have to develop an informal protocol of respect for each others views. This means individuals have to actively listen and not switch off when someone else is talking. Every member on the team warrants attention and their views require due consideration. When good listening skills are absent, the danger of missing a good idea goes up dramatically. Moreover, there are many who cannot put across their ideas well, they are not forceful enough. If others on the team are not actively listening, then good ideas can be lost.
Lack of Information Necessary for Decision Making
The team meeting is the communication point where all team members are present and ready to discuss the problems and derive a solution. If the team does not have all the data and facts ready for reference, then decision making has to be put off to another day which can lead to delays.
In a cross-functional team, the team members have the responsibility to ensure that relevant support information, statistics and research data is made available to each other. Information should never be neglected. A team that does not follow this discipline will be going into wasteful meetings where their decision making capacity is severely diminished due to information gaps.
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