Common team challenges have always been a bottleneck for achieving high productivity and promoting creativity in business tasks. And these challenges have escalated, considering there has been a significant change in the way people work.
In fact, Gartner has predicted that 31% of all the workforce will go remote in 2022. So you’re not alone. A lot of companies are navigating similar uncertainties and hardships.
Here, let’s dig deep into some of the common team challenges organisations face and practical tips on overcoming them.
Involve your employees to reduce engagement
An engaged employee is a productive employee. No argument there. Engaged team members often go the extra mile to get the job done. They’re as much invested in the companies’ vision as you are and will often hit their goals on time. But if the engagement is missing, they can have the opposite effect. Employees can become apathetic if they lose interest in their tasks.
In times of physical detachment from workplaces, it becomes even more imperative to keep the employees engaged. And we all know, there aren’t many water cooler conversations happening and some employees may not even have physically met their team members. How do we address this?
Involvement is the biggest solution here. Social culture in organisations plays a highly important role in keeping teams motivated. Even if teams are working remotely, keep them engaged through insightful conversations on communication channels such as Slack.
Have regular one-on-one sessions with employees to understand the common team challenges of working in a team. Talk to them about how their work is ultimately meeting the company’s objectives. Help them see the bigger picture to make them feel like a valuable asset to the organisation.
Create a collaborative culture to address communication challenges
We always associate transparency as the epitome of effective communication. While it’s true, getting to that point is surely difficult.
Internal Communication is hardly straightforward when it comes to teams. And these challenges have multiple facets.
There isn’t clear communication for delegation of responsibilities.
There aren’t clear channels for the teams to connect.
There are a lot of information silos since everyone wants to shine and do better than the other.
There isn’t a seamless flow of ideas, experiences, and skills that are vital ingredients for group collaboration.
The list goes on.
You cannot solve communication challenges overnight. You’ll need to start by creating a culture where team members are comfortable enough to share their ideas and embrace the uniqueness of every member.
Communication transparency starts with leadership. You can start by creating a standard operating procedure that clearly defines the goals in writing. Advocate open communication and start with laying down clear expectations for every team member and the delegation of responsibilities.
Establish practices to set seamless communication between team members through messaging channels, emails, and meetings. Determine the designated channels for formal/informational communication, etc.
This will lay the ground rules for following communication guidelines in the organisation.
Nurture trust amongst team members
Successful teams taste success together and take the fall together. There’s really no in-between if the team is bound by interpersonal trust and mutual respect.
However, every team member is driven by different personal goals. Their personalities also differ and trust is something that doesn’t come easily to a few people. What can you do?
Like communication, trust will develop over time. You’ll need to nurture it. As a leader, you can give a push through team-building activities. Allow team members to know each other, not just professionally, but personally, too. Go for team dinners and outings. Facilitate small talks in meetings.
Only with genuine bonds can team members have each other’s back and work collectively towards their goals. They may have varying opinions, but with trust, they’ll learn to communicate them openly without the fear of being alienated.
Have a clear role definition
While it’s not apparent when employees are working individually, skill overlap is a common occurrence when individuals work in teams. You may witness that while some people worked on the same tasks, they did not work on other tasks at all. This often leads to unfulfilled job roles.
Having clear roles and responsibilities for job roles may seem like an obvious solution here. But for framing clear goals in team collaboration, you’ll have to be more specific. Let’s say you’re managing a marketing team with two digital marketing executives who more or less have the same job role.
In this case, you’ll need to create individual goals and tasks for each of them to avoid job overlap. Try to assign responsibilities based on the interest and development needs of each teammate.
Identify their strengths and expertise to effectively divide their tasks. This will give every team member a sense of individual purpose.
Finally, check-in over the course of the project to ensure that their work shows their understanding of the project needs. The best practice would be to put everything in writing so team members can use it as a reference whenever needed.
Implement tactics to embrace change
Change is often met with resistance. But we cannot deny that it’s inevitable too. We work in fast-paced environments, so it becomes difficult to follow a single business workflow.
Even if you take the example of the past two years, employees are repeatedly juggling between work from home and coming back to the office. As situations change, so do their routines, productivity, and outcomes. The addition of new tools or changes in leadership further disrupts the workflows and affects team collaboration.
To tackle these challenges, you need to build your organisation on the foundation of change. Elaine Pulakos- CEO of PDRI, in her article, mentions that there are three coping mechanisms to managing change- Adaptability, Resilience, and Agility.
Introducing these mechanisms means to fully embrace change rather than avoid it. Start by monitoring your internal conditions and checking how each team member views change. Identify early adopters and motivate them to lead the change within the team.
Communication is again the key to effective change management. If the team is going remote, communicate how teams will continue to collaborate, how they will report to each other, and what channels will they use? Conduct training sessions if you’re adding a new tool for team members. Give teams the time and space they need to adapt to change.
Sensitively tackle poor performances
For a lot of employees, working in a team doesn’t come naturally. They may be introverts, or maybe too comfortable in their own skin, and are often hesitant to work collaboratively. Even though they are talented, the talent won’t necessarily shine while working in teams.
Tackling poor performances is always tricky with other common team challenges. Especially when some team members outperform others and a few don’t live up to expectations. Appreciating one team member and ignoring another can harm the overall team morale. But it is a tough conversation that you cannot put off for long.
A pro-tip worth following is to praise in public and provide constructive criticism in private. Talk to the person and show them empathy. Be very clear with the feedback, and ask them if there were any reasons for their underperformance.
Talk about the time they performed well. Set new objectives for them and have a different approach in monitoring their performance. Prepare them for future team projects and hold regular review meetings to help them perform to their fullest potential.
Learn to manage conflicts in team
If we lived in a perfect world, maybe you could dream of a team that functions and works without conflict. Human nature is dynamic. No single person will have the same thoughts, opinions, skills, and nature. Conflict is a very natural result of personality clashes and their repercussions are felt by everyone in the team.
There’s no definite method to avoid these clashes altogether. However, you can follow some diligent hiring practices and enforce initiatives to build valuable relationships. It is ideal to identify these gaps in differences in advance and step in at the initial stage before the situation goes out of control.
The way you handle conflict would very much depend on how well you fare in other common team challenges that we discussed. If you have worked on building trust and built the culture for open communication, there will be few personal conflicts.
In case the conflict has reached a point where these solutions don’t work, you need to take a holistic approach to conflict-resolution activities. Resolving personality conflict requires patience and good faith on all sides. Understand the root cause of the issue and have an honest and fair discussion with the employees involved.
The point is to be unbiased towards each team member. Have multiple people on board to resolve it to avoid favouritism and performance biases. Give each involved member an equal chance to put forth their issues and remind them of the common goals to get them on the same page.
Remind teams of the bigger picture
A lot of teams fall prey to short-term thinking. Employees will often chase goals that won’t matter in the long run for quick appreciation and gratification. They are also resistant to think long-term if things are going too well for them in the short term. This short-term vision of a few members can halt the progress of an entire team.
Without a long-term plan in sight, it is easy for teams to get off track and seem like there’s no end to the project. A healthy team needs to comprehend its long-term goal and the rationale behind it. To know if the team are thinking long-term, gauge their attitude towards change and how do their strategies align with the long-term goals.
While clear communication of the long-term vision is a must, you also need to facilitate measures that help team members be on track. Build a project schedule that contains the detailed structure of the project and the responsibilities of each team member.
You can leverage project management tools like Trello to document the goals and milestones. It will help your team have a visual representation of the progress and keep track of their goals.
Constant reminders of the end goal and its documentation will help teams to keep their focus. It won’t make them think they’re stuck on a treadmill of small tasks but rather will constantly help them strive towards the finish line with the big picture in mind.
Behind every successful team lies the hurdles they countered and common team challenges they overcame to reach the point of success. A single team accumulates different backgrounds, ideas, and personalities. But differences don’t have to be bad.
You can instead turn them into strengths and let each individual add to their uniqueness in teams. It will help you build long-lasting teams that function on mutual respect and collectively work towards organisational objectives.
About the Author
Hiral Rana Dholakiya is a Digital Marketing Consultant with over 10 years of experience. She’s passionate about all things Digital & Social Media. Hiral also shares her insights and knowledge with the audience of publications like AdWeek, Entrepreneur Magazine, Social Media Today and Social Media Examiner to name a few. You can follow her on Twitter.