The word and idea of a team gets used a lot in the work world. Managers talk about their teams. Teams are pulled together to solve business issues. Teamwork is touted as the best way to achieve results.
I’m often asked to work with teams who are not performing as well as they should be. Some are outright dysfunctional. And, sometimes, the group is not a team at all. They are a group of people who report to a particular manager or who serve a particular client group. Usually, the person who brought me into the organization thinks they are or should be a team, but in reality, they aren’t or don’t need to be. There are four reasons why what is often called a team is not a team at all:
- Lack of common purpose: A team needs to have a common purpose that can only be achieved by the members of the team working together. If the purpose can be achieved without that kind of collaboration or if the only commonality is that we have the same boss, it’s not a team.
- Individual, not shared, goals: Teams have shared goals and accountabilities. If each individual only has individual goals and there is no need for shared goals, then what is it we are all trying to achieve together?
- Team members aren’t bought into the cause. If the team members don’t find the purpose of the team to be compelling and can’t really see how they add value, there is no team. Team members need to believe that the work being done by the team is important. They need to be committed and motivated to achieving the results.
- They only get together to share information. Many of us have been in team meetings where the sole purpose is for each team member to update the other team members and this is the only interaction the team members have with each other.
Teams exist to take action against a shared purpose and goals. If we do not work collaboratively to generate ideas, to make decisions or to execute specific actions, then the “team,” is really a very labor-intensive communication vehicle. The “team” is a distribution channel. It’s not really adding any value, just getting information from one point to another.