team members

By Fiona Adler

Wondering if your team is dysfunctional or healthy? A great team is a pleasure to work with and can achieve incredible results, but the contrast is also true. Even if your team was healthy and performing at a high level not long ago, unfortunately things can change quickly.

When things go wrong in teams, there are a few tell-tale signs that can help you pick up on team problems early. Here are a few signs that your team might need help to get back on track…

Team members don’t know what their colleagues are doing

If you ask one team member about another and are met with a shoulder shrug or confusion about what their fellow team member is working on, there’s a good chance the team is out of touch with one another. Not working close enough so that they are intimately familiar with each other’s work is bad enough, but if they go a step further and show signs of not caring about one another, the problem could be even bigger.

Usual team protocols are slipping

If you’ve noticed that people have started missing regular meetings or are not checking in on their chat channels as often, it’s likely that there’s either an issue simmering or that apathy has crept into the team. Missing the odd meeting is clearly not a big problem but this can often represent a larger team problem.

Team gossip is creeping in

If team members have started talking about each other, and not in entirely complimentary ways, this is a strong indication that something is amiss. It could be that one team member has a grievance against another – and maybe this is justified – but there’s probably a more general issue at hand. Healthy teams respect each other and should air any grievances or disagreements directly with their team members. Gossipping with others is a strong sign that there is a lack of respect for each other.

Team members show apathy

It might also be that people are still showing up for meetings and being nice enough to each other, but they seem to be just ‘going through the motions’. They’ve lost the passion and drive for achieving something greater than themselves. Do they even know what the team results have been recently? Of course, apathy could indicate an issue with just that particular individual, but our energy levels and enthusiasm (or lack of!) tend to rub of on each other so it could also be a signal of a team losing its cohesion.

Team members are focused on individual results

On the other hand, you could find that a team member is very passionate, but on closer inspection, their drive is all about their own results and recognition. While there is nothing wrong with being ambitious, watch carefully for signs that an individual might take credit for work that was achieved jointly, or might seek to undermine their team members in order to advance themselves and their career.

So how do you repair a broken team?

The exact steps to mend a team that has started to rupture will depend on the specific issues at stake, but there are some general guidelines that hold true for almost all situations.

Firstly, address the issues as soon as possible. Team problems can spread quickly and the longer you let them go, the worse they are likely to become.

Secondly, don’t tiptoe around team issues but address them head-on (although gently). Be upfront with the team about the issues you’re concerned about. Don’t point fingers at anyone, but instead treat it as an issue for the whole team to address. Set the example by acknowledging your own role in the problem. As well as speaking to the team together, hold one-on-one meetings with individual team members to get their buy-in and discuss possible solutions.

Thirdly, ensure the fundamentals are in place for a strong team. Make sure there’s a strong and compelling vision for the team that everyone knows, understands and is excited about. There should also be clear goals for the team and an easy way to track progress towards those goals. Individual’s roles should be clearly defined and understood. Plus, there should be defined communication channels and collaboration tools in place. Also see these specific issues and solutions related to teamwork online.

Fourthly, take some measures to build the team culture. Sharing a meal, playing games together, or simply taking a few moments before each meeting to get to know each other better can go a long way towards building or repairing team camaraderie.

Often team problems can be a result of a misunderstanding or a temporary situation related to one or two individuals. Once communication has opened up, these can dissipate quickly and your team can return to its normal state of play. There’s a phrase that says ‘teamwork makes the dream work‘ so a high-performance team is definitely something worth working towards.

Fiona Adler writes about entrepreneurship at DoTheThings.com and is the founder of Actioned.com – a productivity tool for individuals and teams. With an MBA, multiple business successes, and a family living in a foreign country, she enjoys pushing the envelope to get the most out of life and loves helping others do the same.