The Top Three Reasons Why Teams Fail

Team success requires a strong performance culture. You want a team that is committed to accomplishing goals and meeting milestones. With successful teams, fun follows form. We all know of teams that don’t get much done but have a blast and go to happy hour together every Friday, but that’s not what we are talking about here. A team that achieves success is a re-engaged and happy team.

Certainly our Western culture, with its bias toward individualism, can undermine the idea of teamwork and a team culture of performance, but it doesn’t have to. The team should find ways to embrace individual talents. Michael Jordan once said:  “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”   For example, if you have an orchestra, you want the most accomplished musicians. If you interview someone for a technology team, you won’t say, “This person’s brilliant in particular technology, but we can’t use her because she is not going to fit well on the team.” You’ll find a way to make her brilliance work for the team.

So, let’s talk team discipline. As a team begins working together, discipline becomes critical to getting the best from each individual. We see this in sports teams all the time; the members are talented athletes in their own right, but they have the discipline to work together and play well. The same goes for teams in the workplace.  Discipline creates the environment for team performance – an environment in which everyone on a team accepts that a project must start and end on time, stay under budget, and satisfy the stakeholder base.

Even though we all know that teams are a necessity in the workplace, people sometimes have a resistance to joining a team. Here are some forms this resistance can take:

Lack of commitment: Our culture tends to celebrate people who do great things on their own, but we often don’t celebrate great teams. Part of the problem is that sometimes the word “team” itself implies imprecision compared to what can be achieved by an individual. For example, you’ve emailed a group of people asking for a response, only to find no one responds because everyone thought someone else would. When you experience these types of situations, committing to the idea of a team as a productive entity can be hard to do.

Personal discomfort and risk: If you are a superstar in your organization, you may feel that joining a team puts your professional reputation at risk; that you’ll be dragged along—and—down by others. We claim “all for one and one for all” but this sentiment generally masks our culture’s belief that individuals matter more. To address this, you need to find a higher purpose.

Weak organizational performance ethic: Is a strong performance ethic a part of a company’s culture? If not—in other words, if teams are not required to perform or aren’t rewarded for performance—then why would you actually want to join a team in that company? Superior team performance has to be baked into the culture of an organization.

Remember the adage “If you want to go somewhere fast, go alone.  If you want to go somewhere far, go together!”

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