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Why Your Team Is Not Successful

February 27, 2012

Struggling to understand why your team is not successful?

As a leader, it’s your job to figure out the answers. Here are five questions to ask yourself:

  1. Is everyone on the team clear about the team’s overall goal and their specific objectives?
  2. Do each member’s objectives tie out to the overall team goal?
  3. Does every member of the team have the ability and the drive to achieve their objectives?
  4. Is everyone held accountable for achieving their objectives?
  5. Does your culture support and encourage constant learning, growth and adjustment?

Is everyone on the team clear about the team’s overall goal and their specific objectives?

A survey conducted by the consulting firm Partners in Leadership found that 84% of respondents “indicated that changing priorities create confusion around the key results the organization needs to achieve (emphasis mine). Everyone on your team needs to have a consistent answer to the question “What are our overarching goals?” Otherwise, everyone is not “rowing in the same direction”, as the saying goes.

Do each member’s objectives tie out to the overall team goal?

False success is worse than clear failure. Failure is important, healthy and good. Failure teaches you what did not work if you are brave enough to embrace the lessons learned and make adjustments in the future (see below). False success comes from creating individual victories for the members of your team that don’t add up to team success. Individuals should have goals that are highly aligned with things within their control (sales, audit results, client satisfaction, etc.), but they should also be aligned with the goals and needs of the entire team or organization. There is no real victory in celebrating a bunch of individual “winners” if it doesn’t add up to a team win. Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson’s goal was not for Michael Jordan to necessarily average 35 points a game, it was for the Bulls to win the NBA championship.

Does every member of the team have the ability and the drive to achieve their objectives?

It’s important to be brutally honest about the ability (skill) and drive (will) of each member of the team. Skill without will is worthless, and you will be doing the rest of your team a favor by separating those players from your team. Will without skill is preferable, but not everyone can be trained to do the job adequately. Think about moving these players to a role to which they may be better suited.

Is everyone held accountable for achieving their objectives?

Nothing hurts team morale and undermines top performers’ discretionary effort than seeing those around them fail to be held accountable for underperformance. Ensuring accountability without devolving into finger pointing is an art well covered in the book The Oz Principle: Getting Results Through Individual and Organizational Accountability.

Does your culture support and encourage constant learning, growth and adjustment?

Ray Dalio, the founder of acclaimed hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, has written and shares freely an amazing piece of managerial advice which he titles, simply: Principles. It is available in its entirety from the firm’s website. It is a treasure trove of quotables (sure to be shared in future posts), but the relevant advice here is in a section he calls “To Get the Culture Right…”

Create a Culture in Which It Is OK to Make Mistakes

but Unacceptable Not to Identify, Analyze, and Learn From Them

If you can answer yes to each of those questions, your team is surely on its way to success.

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