When Teams Lack Clear Expectations

I have spent the last several weeks talking about and looking at the function of teams. A team’s greatest success or failure often rests on the shoulders of you as their leader. Your understanding of who you are and how you show up with your team has the potential to greatly influence in how they respond to what is asked of them. When you are clear about the guiding principles and the expectations you have for your team it provides them a context for responding.

I believe, through my work with teams, individuals desire to be contributing members of a team that has a clear vision and expectations. Knowing what’s expected of them provides a sense of security and trust is built when all team members are held equally accountable to the guiding principles and expectations.

This is part 5 in the 5-part series on Dysfunctional Teams by Diana Gabriel, Certified Strengths Strategy Coach.

Trust, Healthy Conflict, Commitment, Accountability, Expectations, Human Factor, Inattention to Results, Dysfunction, Track Progress, Affirmation, Acknowledgement, Strengths, Strengths Based Leadership, StrengthsFinder, Leadership Coach

The process is strengthened when there is a foundation of a culture of trust. Click To Tweet

When team members trust one another, engage in healthy conflict around issues, commit to the decisions they make, and hold one another accountable, there is a pretty good chance they will succeed. And yet – sometimes they don’t.

When teams manage the first four dysfunctions of teams that commonly cause project failures, they may still fail. Why might this happen? Is it human nature?

There’s a strong human tendency to look out for ourselves before others, even when others are part of our families and our teams. And because teams are made up of fallible human beings, they often stumble to the human factor. Individuals can lose sight of the ultimate measure of a great team: achieving the results they were designed to achieve.

Inattention to Results
As the leader, without your steadfast team accountability the criticality of group success can inadvertently be lost in the shuffle. Self-preservation and self-interest upstage results in a climate of inconsistency, distrust, and fear. As the leader, your inability to track results leaves you with no way to judge success, failure, progress or pitfalls. No one is praised for good results, and no one is corrected for the lack thereof. As this trail of dysfunction continues, it will not be long before the team becomes ineffective, irrelevant or disbanded.

This type of scenario is often perceived as yet another failure of the team vs. the failure of leadership. It is critical for you to own and face these scenarios as your failures. Equally important is to turn to a trusted confidant to examine what happened, learn from your mistakes, move forward with new insights and prevent similar results in the future.

You must begin with setting the platform – outlining your expectations of how your team will work together. Additionally, project management methods can provide tracking of progress toward intermediate and final goals. It is important for you to affirm team members (and their interdependence) in how they are working as a team and through their accomplishments and struggles. Acknowledgments draw your team closer together and let them know they are valuable to the organization, their teammates and, ultimately, themselves.

Working through issues and encouraging your people to provide candid, transparent responses fosters the discipline needed to reverse a trail of dysfunction. Your people will focus less on self-preservation and more on the team working interdependently to achieve common goals for the greater good.

The process is strengthened when there is a foundation of a culture of trust. You need to be mindful of establishing trust from the start, which puts you on the road to minimizing dysfunctions. Even if your team is deeply entrenched in a project before trust is built, it is not too late to turn things around. Take advantage of continuing education opportunities, leadership training, and executive coaching to help prevent dysfunction pitfalls.

Strengths Based Team Coaching is also recommended. It teaches skills and tactics for contributing to interdependent organizational success, thereby reversing any longstanding trends of project failure.

How do you acknowledge and face the failures you have encountered? Who are your trusted confidants who will offer you a non-judgmental ear and provide wise advice? I would love to hear from you. You can reach me here and on LinkedIn.


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