20121022_113724We’ve all muttered foul words under our breath as we gnashed our teeth, shook our heads and shuffled along to another meeting with the ‘team from hell.’  We are all sadly familiar with at least one profoundly ineffective gathering of souls which generally does nothing but suck up great portions of our valuable time while causing vast amounts of stress and frustration.  Amazingly, a large number of work teams seem to be chugging along in just that manner.

This eBook and handbook is meant to bring those expletives out of the closet in order to describe how we REALLY feel about teams.  Then we can begin to do something to make them better.  Work teams in organizations are expected to produce results, results which contribute to the profitable outputs of that organization.  If they don’t, they are pretty well useless.

This eBook examines what it is that transforms teams into such awful monsters.  It uses plain language to reveal what’s really going on; a reality that can be concealed by fancy words and meaningless jargon.  It presents some simple indicators to help you assess whether or not your team is caught up in one of these hateful traps, and it offers some simple suggestions for improvement.

Work with this eBook and these posts.  Annotate, print and draw, share, make up new four letter words to describe your most hated team.  Make up new reasons to hate it.  After that, step back and have a good chuckle at what your team is really like.  Laughter is a great precursor to accepting what is, and after acceptance can come honest change.  And laughter is a much easier stepping off point than rage, tears or apathy.

So, let’s see what your team is really like….. *#@!!%…

Discussion and comment points for this post:

  1. What’s your number 1 reason to hate work teams?

18 Responses

  1. Lack of respect. My worst team experience had a manager who did not support the team, we were having a real challenge with an arrogant client and in expressing our concerns and how we can seek to improve the situation with our manager – he turned around and said to the client that he had ‘sensitive women’ on his team who found his behavior unacceptable, So that spiraled things into a worse state than they had been… the client became more arrogant and abrasive and frequently asked if he was upsetting the women on the team. it was something out of a sitcom! (Both the team manager and the client have since retired; as needs to be the case with ‘old’ ways of thinking and treating people). I felt a rush of fury just writing and recalling this period of my work experience. (Argh!)

    • Awesome post Cherylynn! Obviously not a good situation but your last line made me laugh…. sorry! Your scenario will fit into a couple of reasons as this plays out, with the boss being a jerk as a ‘sub category’ of one reason and lack of respect fitting into another, broader category.

      While your example is obvious in terms of lack of respect, it can also be very subtle, non conscious and even preference related so it can really be a complex issue to work on.

      Although perhaps you are also saying there is an 11th reason to hate work teams – MEN! 🙂

      • Haha! Well MEN, obviously. Not all but some for sure.

        Mind you I had a similar ‘learning’ experience with a female manager; I remember we went for lunch one day and she was very confident (in how she carried herself) – I quite admired how she commanded attention and would be the center of attention in meetings (with men).

        So we were walking to lunch and she was taking such long strides that on occasion I had to run-step to keep up – she had ways to make you feel smaller and less important. Not sure if you have a category for that but there’s the ‘it’s all about me’ manager.

  2. Lack of understanding of the purpose of the team. I really liked your definition of a team in the last post, as a group of people who both 1) meet and 2) have a common purpose. I have seen examples where one of these criteria is missing, and it doesn’t really work. For example, I have seen a group that was called a “team” and did have a common purpose but never met to discuss how to work together to achieve that purpose. The team members were essentially acting independently rather than as a team. I have also seen teams that met on a regular basis but didn’t have a sense of their common purpose. It is really interesting to facilitate a team building workshop and be told “but we don’t actually do any of our work together – we each have our own area of responsibility.”

    • Sara – the very first reason will focus on this exact issue! I guess you should win something! I have found this happens way more often than I would expect; with the most surprising thing being how often is happens with very senior teams. The different team members all have sections of the business to run for example and when you ask them what the purpose of the bigger team is, they struggle to answer.

      For me some kind of common goal or purpose has to be present or you do not have any foundation as a team and meeting is more or less a waste of time. I’ve actually worked with a few teams over the years that simply decided to disband and stop meeting because they could not identify a purpose that they thought was important enough to warrant meeting about.

    • I have recently come to work with several groups who fall in this category of “not working together” as they are all focusing on their separate projects or what not. As simple as this post is, it has me thinking about different ways to discuss this topic when it presents itself in discussion.

      • Andrea, one of the things I have found is that there is ALWAYS a reason people are meeting. I know always is a strong word but people rarely get together randomly for no reason. Often the reason has simply not been discussed or sometimes the reason is so lame no one wants to discuss it! So the most important question once the purpose has been surfaced is ‘Is this a good enough reason for us to be meeting about’?

        The next post presents a REALLY simple way to get at this. I use it and have found it works well, even in its simplicity.

  3. Misunderstood Team Strategy – Not only do team members need to know the team’s strategy, they also have to believe in it and integrate it into their work. When each member of the group knows how the group will go about fulfilling its mission, people can work in unison. Is the team strategy to build products faster than anybody else? Streamline controls processes to be fit-for-risk? Overcome a sales shortfall by picking up market share in a specific segment? Maximize the value of organization effectiveness engagements?

    Once the strategy is understood, team members must align on the group’s tactics—that is, how the strategy will be implemented. If the strategy is to build products faster than anybody else, what approaches can they take to achieve that goal? Investing more money in tools? Training people to work better and faster? Leaders must make sure all team members understand the strategies that the group has targeted to meet its objectives. Once all the individuals understand and accept the group’s strategies and tactics, they can better function as a team to meet those goals.

    • Well Sheryl, you’ve touched on a number of the 10 Reasons forthcoming! So often teams ASSUME there is a coherent and common understanding of things like strategy, tactics, how to problem solve, scope etc. or even respect as Cherylynn points out above and typically this assumption is wrong and actually dangerous.

      As you’ll see as the 10 Reasons emerge I’ve really tried to keep things simple, it may even seem too simple. However, sometimes asking simple and direct questions can surface and create discussion around some complex issues. Kind of like what Andrea pointed out above in terms of her thinking regarding this simple post!

  4. Hi Tom, the title of this post made me laugh. I have said that to myself a few times!! Being the Manager of a team often feels a lot like parenting, where no one is happy (no matter how hard you try), no one appreciates the “parents”, the “kids” are competitive with each other and critcal of how every one does their jobs, the list goes on. I look forward to reading more on your Blog!!

    • Andrea, to add to your parent metaphor… one difference with being a parent with respect to a work team vs your kids is that your work team never grows up and moves out! Sometimes it’s like a 40 year old kid living in your basement wondering when you’re going to make dinner for them and do their laundry.

      But at least you might be able to fire your team member; kind of hard to fire your kid!

    • Andrea, GREAT analogy!! I just read this to my husband, he agrees 100%. There is always someone who’s unhappy.

  5. I think a common reason to hate work teams is lack of boundaries. Where people forget that TEAM is really just a means to an end (rather than the end itself) team members translate their “common purpose” into a need for “shared thought and action”, laying out every aspect of their individual accountabilities for group think and judgement. And so, both in those l–o–n–g team meetings and on the job, teams lacking clear individual boundaries tend to just get in each others’ way.

    • Denice, this gets touched on in Reason 2 but more from an entire team boundary perspective. However both at a team and individual level as you point out this problem typically creates a lot of repetition of work or differing approaches to the same challenge and no one realizes until a lot of time an effort has been wasted.

  6. Something I’ve run into in the past is a lack of team accountability. The group comes together, makes a beautiful plan and then doesn’t execute consistently. In some cases the plan is never revisited.

    A team I volunteered with a few years ago also was looking for the next exciting idea and plan. They would come together, plan, and then leave with a lot of excitement. But the milestones and objectives were never discussed again. The loved the “high” of creating new plans but struggled in the daily grind of execution and ultimately failed to hold themselves and each other accountable to their goals.

    • Sarah, thanks for the post and the area of accountability is a Reason that will be forthcoming pretty soon. You are very right that in the ‘bubble’ of a team meeting people can very excited about ideas and then end up planning from that excitement rather than from the stark reality of other commitments, available resources etc. This can really drain a team of energy that at one point was a very valuable asset.

  7. Hi Tom, just starting from the beginning and will be working my way through the posts over the next couple of days and weeks…. A fairly recent experience that comes to mind is of a team, quite small, that I was part of. The reason and the rules of play were, I thought, fairly clear until one member started some odd behaviour. What later transpired was that he was speaking with senior management behind our backs, getting extra brownie points and before we knew it, things just started to change… for example, roles and responsibilities, even pay (we were all free lancers working on a project together). He played a double game and it took all the excitement out of the project. He wasn’t “local” so we meet on skype, but even so he managed to get senior management’s ear. Passion paled and engagement evaporated. Senior management “bought” his story – with ugly things like “so and so is not pulling his weight, hasn’t produced anything…”. Sad story. It always is when Teamwork doesn’t live up to what we hope for hey?

    • Awesome the ‘hear’ you’re voice here Katie! Your story hits on many of the 10 Reasons I think with the outcome I would imagine being Reason 9, They Make You Work with People You Can’t Stand!

      It is surprising though when you hear stories like this how a person could actually not see the damage that would be so likely to occur. I wonder sometimes if it is simply and unconscious act with good intentions somewhere, behavior edging toward nastiness or just plain stupidity; maybe all three in the case you describe!

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