Team Working: 8 Indicators That Your Team Is Not Working

by Duncan Brodie

We have all probably been part of teams that have been a huge success and also teams that have achieved nothing. I know I certainly have. If you are leading a team, what are some indicators to look out for that could indicate that your team is not working or is working below its true potential?

Indicator 1: No-One Trusts Anyone

Trust is a core foundation on a team, a bit like the foundations of a house. Building trust takes a huge amount of time, effort and energy. It might feel like an uphill struggle and it sometimes is. At the same time, unless you can build and maintain trust, you are always going to get sub-optimal results.

Indicator 2: People Are Working In Isolation

One of the reasons why teams thrive is because there is a high level of dependency on each other to deliver the result or outcome. Sometimes teams are created when there is no need for a team at all. People working in isolation rather than together indicates that there is either a problem with the team or perhaps there in no need for a team at all in order to get the result you desire.

Indicator 3: People Are Not Being Held Accountable

Accountability is one of those areas that is often taken out of context. For me, being accountable is simply about agreeing expectations with people and then allowing them to account for what they have achieved. Sometimes leaders do a great job at setting expectations but a poorer job at following through.

Indicator 4: Decision Making Is Slow Or Non Existent

For any benefit to arise from a team, decisions need to be taken and those decisions acted upon. Too often, especially in more senior teams within larger organisations, people drag their heals or, worse still, avoid completely taking decisions.

Indicator 5: No One Is Listening

Communication is clearly a key element of team working. My experience is that people do a great job at speaking and writing. Listening on the other hand is much more patchy and more of a challenge. Yet in truth it is listening that can provide the biggest gains from team working.

Indicator 6: Free Speech Is Discouraged

Sometimes things on teams need to be aired and brought out into the open. What often happens is that, to avoid conflict, people are discouraged or persuaded to bite their tongues and keep quiet. All this does is build up frustration, resentment and disconnection. Recognise that conflict is just part and parcel of successful teams.

Indicator 7: Creativity Is Stifled

Achieving anything new or different requires a different level of thinking and also an element of risk taking. Sometimes, in the false belief that playing it safe is best, creativity is stifled. To avoid this, start asking what is the worst that could happen if you took a chance.

Indicator 8: The Loudest Voices Get All The Attention

People are different. Some are very extroverted and outgoing, while others are more reflective and introverted. You need all those different qualities on a team and you need to create a way as a team leader of getting the voices of everyone, not just the loudest, heard.

The Bottom Line: Teams have real potential to deliver great results and often small adjustments can transform the results that you achieve as a team.

About the author

Duncan Brodie of Goals and Achievements (G&A) works with accountants, health professionals, teams and organisations to develop their management and leadership capability.

With 25 years business experience in a range of sectors, he understands first hand the real challenges of managing and leading in the demanding business world.