Barriers to Effective Teamwork


A team of people is only as good as their ability to work together. Like a military unit, a team must have a commander, lieutenants and foot soldiers. So too a business team to be effective must have its hierarchical layers to carry out the mission of the team initiative. When problems arise, it is usually because of a breakdown along the chain of command.

Leaders Gone Wrong

Problems in teams often start with team leadership. The team leader may not have clearly outlined the goals and the tangible end result of the team's efforts. Some leaders may have difficulty crystallizing the vision of the team for team members. As a consequence, the team flounders initially as it attempts to guess at the leader's vision and may make false strategic or tactical steps as a consequence.

The leader may not have adequately communicated the roles and responsibilities of other team players and how they will work across teams if appropriate. Without clear roles, there can be redundancies, delays and waste of resources including money.

A team leader may have personal or ulterior motives so that the real purpose and aims of the team are compromised from the start. Important pieces of information might not be shared with key players to tightly control the actions of the team by its leader and result in a situation that is the polar opposite of teamwork.

Power in Play

There might be power plays at the second tier of the team, the lieutenants. Whatever their true titles in the organization, these are the people who are to define the strategies and tactics for accomplishing the team mission. People at this level, especially if more than one person is in this power role, may attempt to jockey for favorable position within the team’s dynamics or even outside with suppliers or vendors that might be used.

It is not unheard of for one lieutenant to deliberately undercut the activities of another team member to thwart their foreword progression. A good team leader will have to deal with the personalities of the team more than the project details. It is the leader who should directly confront a team member whose activities are suspect.

Dissent in the Ranks

If the team objectives have not been clearly communicated down the ranks to the foot soldiers, the team may falter in delivering its mission. Foot soldiers who don’t respect their immediate superiors or who fail to communicate situations quickly or properly can sabotage a team's productivity.

A tactical implementation team member who outright fails in the task requested because of a lack of skills or supervising direction will fail themselves and everyone else on the team.

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