Alignment Performance Results

6 reasons teams are failing you and what to do about it

Posted on 10/20/2014 in Culture/Team Alignment by Jack Speer

If you’re on a team, how effective is it and how happy are you? Do you enjoy your team members?

Is your team achieving your objectives and teaching you new skills? Will the team you’re a member of support your path to a better future?

Management and the workforce all agree: Teams should be more successful, create better job satisfaction, and achieve you and your organization’s objectives more effectively.

So why are teams failing us? Here are a few reasons:

    1. People are getting lost in teams. The CEO of a client organization observed to me a few years ago, “A person can get hired here and in a year they’ll spend every waking hour working on a project that they’re not quite sure what the point of the project is.” Teams can mask both collective and individual lack of achievement and provide a comfortable place to hide.


    1. Teams all too often average out brilliance. Brilliant leadership, which is critical to organizational breakthroughs, is often unwelcome on teams. Those who have the greatest political ability to keep everyone on board are all too often not the most intelligent or innovative. Collective team intelligence typically goes to the middle. The wisdom of the crowd is good at solid decisions, but rarely, if ever, brilliant ones.


    1. Corporate teams are most often only indirectly linked to scoring. Some team members may work on a defined product like an iPhone, but in most organizations there are teams and sub-teams, with many stuck in blind alleys without a throughway to success. Many teams are enormously inefficient as vehicles to accomplish work.


    1. Team leaders choose harmony and lack of friction over brilliance. Team leaders, if they are really brilliant and want to keep their jobs, soon realize that they are most successful if they act as group coordinators, rather than leaders, letting everyone follow their own path. Keeping team members happy is more important than achieving outcomes.


    1. Teams are hugely expensive, and unnecessarily so – that’s why so many get laid off. Many of the massive layoffs that are taking place in corporate America are of teams that did not fulfill a function, and management discovered that the same functions could be achieved with better technology and a few people running it. There was no need for a team.


  1. Organizations put short term goals over effective teams. Teams require building, training them in their roles, giving them a great playbook, spending time coaching and evaluating them.

How Do We Fix Teams? Take a Look at Google

A must-read for today is Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg’s new book, How Google Works. The first half of the book is about how Google finds talent: finding intelligent people who will not compromise their intelligence to the groupthink that often occurs in teams. The search is for people who are intelligent, passionate, and curious.

Organizations emphasize team players, but the truth is that what the teams needs are star performers.   Team success is tied today to what we call a “star power alliance.” The organization is built around achievers and outcomes. These people ally with each other, because they are equally passionate about a common outcome.

In the NFL, the right quarterback or pass receiver—a single individual— can get the team to the Super Bowl. Organizations are looking for that player. We are now in the age of the corporate entrepreneurial star.

Teams today must develop roles and talents, and utilize and showcase them effectively. Star performers can’t be programmed, managed, prodded or pushed into performance. They must be allied with an organization and team that makes great performance possible.

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