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Top Five Problems Facing Your Team

top five problems facing your team
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Bored of Time and Motion studies? Get your team out of the office and start looking at productivity in a different light. The secrets to effective productivity are as old as the hills, and they revolve around changing the way your team members approach their work, not the numbers they generate for comparative efficiency reports.

Productivity is the art of maximising time to work effectively, which is a different thing entirely from doing a lot of work. Good productivity training includes learning to plan, break, communicate and delegate efficiently. You can find some inspiration for it here.

Use your T and M study to identify areas in which productivity may be falling, but don't overlook the solutions. If inefficient working practices are the core of a drop-off in production, you should be targeting the classic solutions of focus, time management and communication.

Employee retention

Often overlooked in the scramble for finding ways to make employees work better, employee retention is a core issue for any team. At the heart of this issue is the recognition that long term, trusting work relationships between increasingly expert team members make big differences to the effectiveness of the team as a whole.

Every team member represents an investment of time and money. You've trained them, you pay them, and the knowledge they pick up along the way is a currency that's hard to exchange. The cost of replacing a team member is accordingly high - both in terms of time commitment from other team members, who have to slow what they're doing while the new recruit gets up to speed, and in monetary and time expenditure from the business as a whole.

Retaining talent is more efficient and productive than recruiting new talent. The big question is how to do it. Incentivise staying, and your teams will thrive.

Culture clash

Contrary to popular opinion, there is an “i” in team, as this brilliant image from Garry Dutton shows:

It's no coincidence that “I” nestled into the rest of the word! Successful teams are created when personalities and organisational culture thrive side by side. Ideally, your culture should be capable of attracting talented team members who already love what you do. Just like a brand personality, which works best when it's aligned with the people who want what the brand provides.

Take time to develop and promote your business culture. Use social media internally as well as externally. Focus on your team members as your most important customers. When they get behind your brand on a fundamental level, they'll be primed to impart that enthusiasm in their work.


An oldie but a goodie, communication is still high up on a hit list of big team problems.

If you can't talk the language of the rest of the team, or the organisation as a whole, you've got issues.

Communication is really a baseline problem, which affects all the points on this list. And it can cut both ways. Organisational communication breakdowns alienate both individuals and teams, particularly teams whose function is seen as peripheral to the operation of your business.

In reality, no function is peripheral. You can't function without an IT department, a communications team or a social media crew. But your staff can see some roles and teams as secondary to the real nature of your company. Teams that don't directly sell your product or serve your customers must be saved from marginalisation through a clear business message (see “culture clash”, above, for more on this idea).

Leadership dependence

If your team leader broke her leg tomorrow, would the team still function?

Good teams are designed to work like bodies, sending extra resources to bits that have been hit by illness or injury. Your team should be encouraged and confident. It should be capable of rearranging itself to take up the slack left by an absent leader. If it isn't, it's not yet working as a team.

This problem can be exacerbated by stressed-out team leaders, who feel their department won't run properly without them. Ironically, the more stressed the leader becomes, the more chance you have of running into a productivity issue. When you have team leaders who don't trust their team members to run things efficiently on their own, you have a department head ready to self-destruct rather than take a break.

Solutions to leadership dependence are found in the same place as solutions to employee retention problems: the HR department. Your preparation for unforeseen circumstance (and planned absence) begins with incentives.

Incentivise team members on the most basic level of all, with trust and involvement. If everyone already knows what they're supposed to do in the event of a leadership absence, each team member will feel empowered and ready.

Have you found other problems to have big effects on team building, performance or management? Share your experiences with our community on Facebook and Twitter.

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Written by Jim Alexander

27th Wednesday May 2015

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