Teams – The Five Common Barriers to Effective Teamwork

Successful teams produce extraordinary results in all areas of business, in sport, in communities and in voluntary bodies to name a few. Teams often fail to realise their potential because barriers get in the way of success. What are those barriers and how can you overcome them?

Barrier 1: Individual agendas

People are use to looking after themselves. We have all probably been told or heard someone say that you need to look after number one. In other words focus all of your attention on your agenda rather than the team agenda.

Solution: When on a team, focus on the unique contribution that you make to the overall team results and put the team results at the forefront.

Barrier 2: Silo thinking

In organisations, the attainment of a result will depend on all those in the process working together. Take for example a hospital. Someone needs to make the initial appointment for the patient to see a doctor. If the doctor identifies that the patient needs an operation, they will have to go on to a waiting list, be notified of when their operation will be, have the necessary pre-operation assessments done. Once they are admitted, arrangements need to be made to get them to the theatre on time, plans made for their discharge, including home support and medication.

Each of these tasks will require contributions from different departments and it is all too easy, especially when people are busy and stretched to fall into silo thinking. In other words, viewing challenges in isolation without considering the impact on other parts of the process and most importantly the customer (in this case the patient).

Solution: Make the time for teams to understand the impact of their actions or inaction on others and in particular the customer.

Barrier 3: Lack of trust

Most people need to be confident that others will deliver to fully embrace team working. In other words they need to have trust. Building trust takes time, effort, commitment and belief. There is no magic formula but actions speak louder than words.

Solution: Commit and follow through on actions that you have agreed to carry out and show that you can be trusted to deliver.

Barrier 4: Vagueness about what is to be achieved

Teams need to know what they have to achieve. In other words they need specific and measurable outcomes. Teams are often formed with vague goals like improve retention, reduce errors or reduce the reporting cycle to name just a few. This vagueness is a guaranteed recipe for a dish called disappointment.

Solution: Set specific and measurable outcomes for teams to address like, for example, reduce sickness levels by 2% by 30 June.

Barrier 5: Absence of conflict

In teams, particularly in organisations who are performing well, conflict is often missing. We are doing well, so we can rest on our laurels and not rock the boat might be the motto. Conflict should not be seen as a something negative but a constructive way of getting the best from everyone.

Solution: Encourage debate and constructive challenge in the interests of achieving the best for everyone.

Successful teams will make a real difference to results achieved. So what barriers do you need to address to get the best results from your teams?