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How To Solve Low Team Performance (For Business Leaders)


Welcome to the series on Low Team Performance. In one of my corporate roles I inherited an IT team and within the first week had a business leader tell me “your team is lazy and stupid but I’m sure you’ll figure it out”. Now that’s a great way to start a new job isn’t it! Hello I am Patrick Miller and today we’ll discuss team performance issues and solutions to common problems. When teams are not performing, projects are late and service is poor. And you spend all your time fire-fighting and making excuses. When Internal stakeholder expectations are not met they first grumble quietly around the coffee machine. Then they become openly hostile and your credibility as a leader starts an accelerating decline. But when teams are performing at a high-level everything runs smooth. You have fewer distractions less fire-fighting and no excuse-making. All that negative energy Is converted towards visualizing and building the future. Work actually becomes fun. The challenge is when you are fighting fires on multiple fronts it is easy to be “too busy” to improve. Fixing it requires humility, accepting responsibility, and oftentimes hard choices must be made. How do you know you have an issue? Do you have chronic issues with project delivery or stakeholders complaining about their backlog or service levels? These are indicators something is wrong. You can also measure customer satisfaction. Issue a Net Promoter Score survey to a range of stakeholders and see the results. Do you have low morale or struggle to keep your best performers? Run an internal team survey. The key here is to be open-minded and own the results. Then identify the root cause and don’t make excuses. You have to own the problem. Another thing to do is ask key stakeholders for specific feedback. It takes courage but generally, they point out things you can do to improve. The guy who said I had a lazy team went on to say the thing that bugged him the most was the default answer to everything was “no”. Share the feedback with the team. This will raise awareness of the issue. And listen to the other side of the story. In my case the team complained about being under-staffed, overwhelmed with requests, and the complexity, of the old platforms. These are harder to fix but just changing the default response from “No” to “Let’s Discuss” already made a big difference. Teams reflect leadership behaviour. Often teams are dysfunctional because it has been demonstrated by senior management or at least tolerated. Systematic deflection of criticism making excuses and blaming others when things go bad is very dangerous. It promotes an insular tribal mentality An Us versus Them that is not conducive to collaboration. So take a close look at yourself and other team leaders. Modify your own behaviour and provide coaching to subordinates where necessary. In some cases you may even need to remove some bad apples. Trust and commitment are the fuel of team performance. First the team must trust you. So show up to team meetings and be involved. Actively listen and learn from your team. Your job is more than attending management meetings. Also team members must trust each other. Help each team member understand their role and how they are important. Build a deep sense of commitment. I like the Yoda quote “Do or Do Not. There is no Try” Each member must feel a sense of personal ownership for the results they promised to their team members. As an IT leader I never really liked to call business users “customers”. That implies a subservient role and two teams separated by official documentation that no one likes Like requirements definitions and testing signoffs. In the best teams that I have had the division didn’t exist. I once had a Japanese senior management delegation visit our team in Istanbul while we were conducting design workshops. One of the gentlemen asked me who was IT and who was the business. He couldn’t tell. Because he couldn’t tell. You see we had One Team. Traversing seamlessly from technical to functional. All committed to the common objective. Often one of the root causes Is simply insufficient capacity. When IT teams are overrun with requests defense mechanisms and bad behaviour take root. We specialize in providing dedicated high performance teams which often alleviates the pain. I have made a career by transforming dysfunctional organisations Into high performance teams and would be happy to spend time discussing your situation. Here is what you need to remember. Poor performing teams generate negative energy and fire-fighting. It really isn’t fun for anyone. While with high-performing teams everything seems easy and enjoyable. To fix it, you need to Recognize and Own the Problem Seek feedback from stakeholders. Evaluate leadership behaviours. And set the example from the top. Then start the process of Building Trust & Commitment Tearing Down Barriers, and Building a Sense of “One Team”. If you enjoyed the video, Like it and share your thoughts in the comments. Subscribe or connect so you won’t miss future posts. Thank you so much for watching. Now Let’s go Make It Happen!

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