Ten Reasons Why Teams Fail

Updated on October 16, 2018
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Chris has worked in a business leadership role for the past 10+ years. He likes to share his experiences with others to help them learn.

Working in a team can be both rewarding and challenging at the same time. If you've got a great team with great members then you have a much higher chance of succeeding in your purpose. However, if you have a new team or a team with any one of the following issues, it's going to be difficult to succeed at anything. There are a number of reasons why a team may fail to succeed. This article will focus on the top ten reasons why teams fail and how to deal with them.

Trust is so important that without it a team is guaranteed to fail.
Trust is so important that without it a team is guaranteed to fail.

1. Lack of Trust

Trust is probably the single most important component that any team needs to succeed. When trust is lacking, people may work to undermine each other or they may not understand your motives. When there is no trust amongst team members, the people tend to look out for themselves more than they do each other. A team that does not trust each other may not succeed in anything.

If you're on a team that has low trust, then you need to spend some time trying to build that trust. First and foremost, I would suggest that you take the time to try and get to know your fellow teammates. This helps to humanize them and shows that you care about them. Team building exercises can also help as well. However, sometimes trust can be difficult to build especially when there are personality conflicts. Trust cannot be earned overnight, it must be built over time. Strong leaders know how to step in and build trust between team members by showing them the way and setting an example.

2. Lack of Leadership

When there is a lack of leadership on a team, chaos can ensue. Many of the other things that can cause a team to fail can take root when there isn't sufficient leadership present. In this situation, there is usually also a lack of direction and a lack of team uniformity. Confusion can break out and when there is no leader. No matter what the team dynamic is, someone in the team will eventually rise up and make a decision for the group. They may guide the group in any direction they please, even if their motives are self-serving. If you're on a team where a leader is lacking, don't be afraid to step up and take the reins. With great leadership, your team will be able to achieve anything

3. Negativity

When someone on a team has a negative attitude, it can ruin the dynamic for everyone. Negativity is like an infectious disease that only serves to break the group down. It only takes one person's negativity to take down a great team. As soon as you see that someone has a negative attitude, it's important to take care of it as soon as possible. Take them aside and have a private conversation about their negativity. Let them know that their attitude is causing problems for the team.

If talking to the negative team member, you may want to think about removing the negative person from the team. If that's not an option (or if it seems too extreme), perhaps you can try gently discussing the "elephant in the room" during a team meeting. Sometimes calling someone out on their behavior in front of others can help to calm the situation. However, be careful with this tactic as it could backfire. You don't want to make people feel uncomfortable around you. In addition, you don't want to damage the fragile bonds of trust in the process of attempting to squash negativity.

4. Lack of Time

Something that can make any team fail is a lack of time. If a team is pressed for time, they may make mistakes or compromise quality in order to meet the deadline. Alternatively, strict deadlines can also impart excess hardship and stress on team members. The result of this could be increased tension amongst the members and a higher chance of people finding it difficult to work together. In some cases, it may just simply be impossible to get the job done within the time allotted. Be sure to give your team ample time to complete assignments without cutting corners and compromising the mission. Make sure that there is a plan for success and that goals and milestones are appropriately set.

A team that works well together will harmonize like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
A team that works well together will harmonize like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

5. Lack of Resources

Nothing is more frustrating than being assigned a project where you aren't given adequate resources to complete it properly. In some cases, this could cause stress or even induce quarrels among the team members who are all trying to get the job done together.

When there is a lack of resources, it is the responsibility of the management or executive team to either get the workers what they need to succeed or to accept the reality that the work product may be subpar. Management that expects too much from a project team without giving them ample resources is asking for trouble.

6. Insufficient Skills and Abilities

If team members lack the skills or abilities that are necessary for the team to accomplish their goals, it's going to be very difficult to succeed. Sometimes team members simply lack the training that they need to get the job done. If this is the case, it would be wise to invest in training or certification courses that could help the team members get up to speed on what they need to know. Team leaders and company management should communicate with employees frequently to ensure that they have the training and the tools that they need to do their jobs adequately. Team members should also work to encourage and help each other as well.

7. Power Struggles

Sometimes when a team is put together there is a fight to determine who the leader should be. Arguments about what tasks each member should be doing can also break out. Dealing with power struggles can be tricky so it is recommended to try and speak to the feuding parties individually to attempt to understand what the root of the issue is. In some cases, two of the parties simply want to control the project or the assignment. A compromise can be made by either splitting the work or by alternating tasks. You may also be able to split the team so each leader can focus on one key area of a project or assignment.

In order to win a game of Tug-of-War, a team must be committed to working together.
In order to win a game of Tug-of-War, a team must be committed to working together.

8. Lack of Commitment

When putting together a team, it is very important to get buy-in from the people you are selecting. A commitment from team members is needed to succeed at any task or assignment. If the commitment is lacking, then the team will fall apart and it will be very difficult to complete any project or finish any job.

If you're leading a team, it would be a good idea to take some time to explain to each member how their role is vital to the team's success. In addition, it would be wise to communicate what's "in it" for them as well. If these things are clearly articulated to each of the team members, it's going to be more likely that they will succeed at anything.

9. Poorly Defined Mission or Vision

A team without a defined mission or vision is like a blind mouse roaming the floor of a dusty old warehouse. There is no direction and no end game. As a leader, it is your responsibility to define the vision for the team and to create buy-in. In essence, your vision must become the team's vision if they are going to have any chance to succeed together. When the mission is clearly defined (and stated with a sense of urgency), people will want to succeed.

Even after you have defined the mission and vision, you will still need to remind the team of why they are working hard and what they are working towards. I like to write the vision statement out on a whiteboard and leave it up for everyone to see. Furthermore, at the weekly staff meetings, it's a good idea to remind everyone what the vision is and to discuss their progress towards accomplishing the mission.

10. Personality Clashes and Behavior Issues

Obviously, if team members aren't getting along, it's going to be extremely difficult to get them to succeed together. There are so many possible scenarios for this situation that the only advice I can offer here is of the general sort. Leaders need to speak with the people who aren't getting along individually and try to determine what the source of the problem is. Sometimes it's simply a misunderstanding that's easily addressed. Other times changes to the work situation need to be made. In particularly bad situations you may need to bring in an independent 3rd party to help arbitrate the circumstances.

I'm of the mindset that anyone can learn to get along with anyone else if all parties simply agree to adhere to some basic rules. It starts with having respect for one another while also maintaining a willingness to collaborate and comprise. Team leaders who are dealing with personality clashes and behavioral issues have a tough job on their hands.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

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    © 2018 Christopher Wanamaker

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