Reason 5 – Ideas to Try

They Generate Tons of Extra Work for the Team Leader

Some key questions to ask yourself and your team.

Basic, really important ones:

  1. What am I doing to ACTIVELY contribute to our team’s objectives?
  2. On average is the work load fairly evenly distributed among team members?
  3. Do team members have the POWER to act on these objectives?

Interesting ones:

  1. Do you care if the work load is distributed fairly evenly?
  2. How can you get, or access the power required to secure the needed resources to help this team be effective?
  3. Does the team leader of this team love the role of heroine or hero?

Key points of this reason to hate work teams:

  • Teams without equitable distribution of activity don’t disintegrate quickly, they die a slow and agonizing death.
  • Teams do not create results without resources. Effective teams cost money and time, make sure you have both.

Discussion and comment points for this post:

  1. Interesting question number 3 above asks about the team leader as heroine or hero.  Have you found this reason to hate work teams can be created by this dynamic and it works fine until the load becomes too heavy for the team leader and there is a crash? How have you worked with such a situation?
  2. Why do you think this hero or heroine role has become so prevalent with teams?
  3. Accessing power and having power are two very different things. For teams to be effective which do you think is best to have or work towards getting?
  4. Have you ever been part of a team that had more power or resources than it really needed to achieve its goals?  What was that like?

Reason 5

20151104_144751They Generate Tons of Extra Work for the Team Leader

This is a classic problem faced by teams with little experience in operating effectively or by teams formed simply because the organization has decreed that teams are the way to go and everyone must be on some team or another. Other common situations where this reason regularly occurs are:

  • ‘Improvement’ teams, employee ‘participation’ teams, employee ‘suggestion’ teams and other such teams with vague terms meant to make things better.
  • Health and safety teams and committees.
  • Teams formed to keep unions from getting a foothold.
  • More junior teams where everyone on the team reports to the team leader.

Whatever the case the result is the same. The team is put together with some vague idea that they have to improve something and the first meeting is scheduled. Everyone arrives bursting to express their wonderful ideas for improvement. The team leader (often the direct manager) notices that everyone is looking right at him or her as one idea after another is enthusiastically put on the table.  Accustomed to being the local heroine or hero, the team leader accepts each idea as valid and necessary with a growing sense of dread. Leaving the meeting with an additional workload heavy enough to cause a hernia, the team leader works like a bandit to get all these ideas off the ground. By the next meeting about a quarter of the ideas have been acted on. Everyone is righteously indignant that three quarters of the ideas are still on the ‘to do’ list. This continues for about four meetings and then something happens to cause meetings to be delayed, rescheduled or just cancelled. And why not?  Would YOU want to go to meetings where you ended up with more work you couldn’t get done and then have a convenient forum for everyone to point out how inadequate you are???

This sort of situation can kill interest in teamwork indefinitely and typically spills over in negativity about management in general. It simply should not happen. EVERYONE on a team should be ACTIVELY doing something to help the team achieve its goals. If they’re not, then your team is carrying dead weight which it doesn’t need. There are three common reasons why team members don’t actively contribute to a goal:

  1. They haven’t been asked to.
  2. They don’t want to.
  3. They don’t have the power to.

The first two can be dealt with simply. Ask them – that’s how you find out if they want to. If they don’t want to then get them off the team, you don’t need them.  The third reason is more complex. The lack of power to do something active towards accomplishing a goal is a problem only solved by those that allocate power in an organization; management. At least 95% of the activity necessary to accomplish team goals occurs outside the team meeting. If the team is to accomplish anything management must be prepared to give team members the resources (time and money) to do things between meetings. Oh- oh, now the labor budget is screwed up, or heaven forbid the capital budget. Well, if you want effective teams it’s going to cost you, operationally, no way around it. If management is not willing to pay for effectiveness, it doesn’t happen. That’s why it’s so crucial to have teams well focused against things that matter. Things that matter get resources.

So decide up front whether this team has the power to be effective or not. If not, then you’re better off doing nothing. To push ahead without the power to be effective will just aggravate people.

Discussion and comment points for this post:

  1. Many teams exist or get formed without an understanding of the resources they might need to be effective. What have you done in a situation when it becomes clear that the resources needed will not be available for the team to be successful?
  2. Have you experienced this reason and if so what happened?
  3. If you have been a team leader in this situation, what did you do?
  4. When resources are not available for a team to be successful does it mean what the team is focusing on is not important to management?

Reason 4 – Ideas to Try

They’re Just a Different Forum for the Boss to Tell You What to do and Why

Some key questions to ask yourself and your team.

Basic, really important ones:

  1. Are we aligned with the boss regarding what is to be accomplished?
  2. Are we following up enough with the boss to make sure we are on track?
  3. How effectively are we dealing with the frustration this situation may be causing?

A question for the boss:

  1. Are the problems this team is experiencing similar to what other teams in my area are experiencing? Am I the problem with this team? (Be honest!)

Interesting ones:

  1. What might the hidden agendas be that our team is dealing with?
  2. Can we perhaps deal with these in a different and more effective way?
  3. How might we be able to prevent this type of thing from happening in the future?
  4. How much am I compromising myself by staying on this team and do I care?

Key points of this reason to hate work teams:

  • Being on a team that is told what to do and how to do it doesn’t have to be all bad. It allows you to quickly get to work!
  • Vent enough to diffuse some of the frustration of this reason, but….
  • Excessive complaining about a situation like never resolves it; only activity does.

Discussion and comment points for this post:

  1. It’s often not so much being told what the team is to focus on that causes frustration it’s more about being told how to focus on the issue. If you have experienced this, how have you dealt with this type of situation?
  2. How do deal with a boss that is a jerk!?
  3. What assumptions do you think are at play when a boss creates a team to deal with hidden agendas?
  4. When situations like this occur, how really aware do you think people are (including the boss) of the dynamics and causes of this situation?

Reason 4

20121022_172143They’re Just a Different Forum for the Boss to Tell You What to do and Why

Surprisingly, this isn’t necessarily bad. If your boss is honest about the fact that a team is needed to do something and then outlines fairly clearly what is to be done, it can actually be pretty positive. You’ll probably get sick of this if it happens continually, but once in a while it’s a good way to help a team be successful.

On the other hand, if your boss is a jerk, it doesn’t take long to generate a good hatred for the team.  Everyone resents being treated like slaves in order to do some menial task which is below the dignity of the boss.  Of course, if your boss is a jerk you’re probably doing menial tasks with or without the team so that’s not the real issue. The real issue is that you’re now stuck on a team that is supposed to accomplish something and no one really wants to be there. Short of quitting or finding devious (and probably illegal) ways of having your boss eliminated, there is no permanent solution to this problem. You just have to make the best of things and in this way strive to improve things over time.

Making the best of things starts with getting your boss to be absolutely clear (relatively clear might be best case though) as to what is expected of the team. Be aware that the boss may well have hidden agendas or other reasons for creating the team. Try not to allow these to interfere with what YOU are trying to accomplish. So check with the boss on a regular basis to make sure you are on track. If you wait until you’ve completed the task, you may find that the target changed when you weren’t looking and you will get roundly chastised, then sent off to ‘do it right’ this time. But if you sincerely try to get a clear picture from the start and honestly check progress on a regular basis things may get better. Sure, you’re playing games a bit, but it speeds up the process which is good for teams in this situation. It’s healthy to vent once in a while too but don’t go overboard. Get the work done quickly and maybe you can spend the extra time searching out a good headhunter or a new work address.

You may also find that this reason to hate work teams takes some time to recognize. The biggest red flag is a lack of clarity from the boss about what is required of the TEAM.  Don’t be surprised if there are a couple of cycles of the target changing for no good reason before you catch on to what may be going on.

Oh, if you are one of the bosses who creates teams for a hidden agenda, at least be honest about it. Of course if you are one of these bosses you probably don’t recognize it. Just in case, take a look around you; if lots of teams in your area aren’t accomplishing much, you’re likely the problem, not them. Take a big dose of humility, ask the teams for help and listen, really listen to what they have to say, if they have the courage to say it. And good luck. You will need it.

Discussion and comment points for this post:

  1. This is not an uncommon problem. What are some of the hidden agendas you have seen for bosses to create teams to deal with these agendas?
  2. If a team is stuck in this reason and needs to vent, how can that venting be contained so it actually adds value and does not spill over into creating a generalized negative atmosphere?
  3. Have you ever had to coach a boss that creates this problem?  How did you coach them?

Reason 3 – Ideas to Try

They Make Everyone More Stupid

Some key questions to ask yourself and your team.

Basic, really important ones:

  1. Do we know what we’re supposed to be doing?
  2. Do we care about what we’re supposed to be doing? Why do we care?
  3. Do we know how to approach this issue or challenge?
  4. Who should we ask for help if we need it?

Interesting Ones:

  1. Are you performing at your potential on this team?
  2. If you have interpersonal challenges are you sure they’re not really work issues in disguise?
  3. How can the team tell if it is reaching its potential?
  4. Does it really matter if the team isn’t reaching its potential?

Key points of this reason to hate work teams:

  • Volunteers almost always make the most effective team members, but work early and honestly on what is to be focused on to find out if those volunteers really do care about that focus.
  • It is critical to have some kind of performance imperative regarding involvement on a team.  It’s surprising how rarely this actually happens.
  • Fix the work stuff first, then see if you need to work on interpersonal stuff.

Discussion and comment points for this post:

  1. Given that working with others on a team both enables and constrains the individuals do you think it is the enabling or constraining that has the most impact? Why?
  2. Have you seen other things that make a team stupid?
  3. What have found in helping a team not get stupid and actually move toward their potential?

Reason 3

They Make Everyone More Stupid20151104_145408

Amazing isn’t it? You put eight bright people into a room together and their collective intelligence sinks like a stone in water. Here’s a valuable rule of thumb: the bigger a team grows, the dumber it gets. So why bother with teams at all you might ask. Good question. Teams don’t HAVE to make everyone more stupid, it’s just that they often do. The collective intelligence of the group never reaches its potential. And surprisingly this is usually on account of one of the following three pretty darn simple reasons:

  1. They don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing.
  2. They know what they’re supposed to be doing but don’t care.
  3. They don’t know how to go about doing what they are supposed to be doing.

We’ve already examined the first reason.

The second can be approached in one of two ways. Either enlist volunteers who care about the issue, or make it a performance requirement.  Okay, okay, this second solution seems heavy handed and oh so uncreative so you may want to supplement it with sophisticated motivational techniques, but after all that make it a performance requirement anyway.

Enlisting volunteers who care about the issue is a really good way to keep everyone from getting stupid but it is really critical to deal with that first point above right away. Quite often you find out volunteers THINK they care about the issue but when push comes to shove they really care about something else that’s attached to the issue and then not only do people begin to get stupid, they also get angry with each other. Volunteers or not, in most organizations being on a team needs some kind of performance imperative.

The third reason requires either technical or interpersonal solutions or both. If the technical reason is that nobody on the team actually has the skill or capability to act on what they’re doing then you have to ask why the heck are these people on the team? You simply have to have people with the skill or capability so go find them.

More often though, the technical reason has to do with problem solving or decision making. If the problem is in decision making (and it often is) then figure out how the team is going to make a decision. Majority vote, pass it up the ladder, (consensus is another reason we’ll deal with later) or someone having the final say.  Whatever it is, figure it out and stick to it.

If the technical mess is problem solving such as understanding root causes, generating solutions etc. then find a problem solving process that the team can work with.  At last count there was about a million of these processes to choose from and your organization probably has a bunch of these so just pick one and stick to it.  Just one word of caution here. Don’t pick a problem solving process that is more complicated than the challenge you are working on.

On the interpersonal side of things, teams get more stupid because members aren’t good at expressing themselves or can’t handle conflict well and as a result, potentially great contributions never surface.  These interpersonal problems will, in many cases, require outside help since either the solutions are not obvious or the team doesn’t want to make them obvious.

While it may seem like more fun to begin with the interpersonal stuff, resist the temptation to do so. After addressing the first two reasons noted above and the technical part of the third, you’ll be amazed at how many interpersonal issues just disappear. If not, and the team is still stupid then find someone who knows what she or he is doing in the interpersonal area and get them working with the team on these issues. Make sure they don’t have any big investment in whatever the team is working on.  If they do, they’re at risk of becoming part of the problem and just as stupid as everyone else involved.

Discussion and comment points for this post:

  1. What have you experienced that makes some teams just get stupid?
  2. Have you ever found that working in depth on interpersonal issues doesn’t help the team actually perform any better?
  3. What do you think are the primary things that help teams actually achieve their potential?
  4. Have you ever worked with a volunteer team? What were some of the challenges you faced that could/did make them more stupid than they should have been?

Reason 2 – Ideas to Try

They Think They’re Solving World Hunger When They’re Really Just Making A Suggestion For Dinner

Some key questions to ask yourself and your team.

Basic, really important ones:

  1. Where is our team on the following involvement scale?Team Involvement Scale for 10 Reasons
  2. Who should we ask to determine if we are correct in our assessment of where we are on this scale?
  3. Are we at the appropriate point on this scale for our level and expertise in the organization?
  4. If not, why not?

Interesting ones:

  1. If you were being brutally honest at what point on the scale above do you think your boss wants you to be?
  2. If you were being brutally honest at what point on the scale do you want your team to be?
  3. What do you think drives teams to want to do more than they are asked to do?
  4. What is it like to be on a team that is at the far right of the scale?

Key points of this reason to hate work teams:

  • Initially and from an efficiency perspective it is more important to know WHERE your team is on the involvement scale than WHY it is at that point.  You can work on the WHY while you’re doing a good job doing what you’ve been asked to do.
  • Only successful teams move along this scale to the right. Unsuccessful teams fall right off the left end and you might even fall further if you are on a team like that.

Discussion and comment points for this post:

  1. Have ever worked with, or on a team that discovers they are trying to do more than they have really been asked to do? What was the state of the team after this discovery and what did you do?
  2. Most organizations will say they want teams as far to the right of the scale above as possible but when teams actually begin to push and act at that level, the team is ‘reigned in’.  Why do you think this happens and have you experienced it?
  3. Do you have other ways of ensuring a team is really focused on what they have been asked to do right from the start?