The Best Way to Deal With “Unspoken” Team Problems

Posted by Kristin Arnold on December 9, 2020

Sometimes you just don’t know what is going on with the team.  It’s not just one person.  It’s more than just a few people.  Everybody feels a certain way and you just can’t pinpoint what the problem is.  

The best way to deal with team problems, particularly those which are “unspoken,” is to create a safe space to talk about them. 

The group may show some “symptoms” of team trouble:

Confusion.  If the team appears confused as to what they are supposed to be doing, chances are it lacks “vision,” a clear understanding of the goal or end state.  Clarify the goal until everyone can visualize the mission accomplished.

Lack of Integrity.  If the team is saying one thing and yet doing another, or the behavior borders on the unacceptable, chances are they have a misalignment of team values.  Have a brutally frank discussion on what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior.  Make the team’s values explicitly known to each team member.  Agree on how the behaviors will be enforced.  What will happen if someone breaks a team ground rule?  Agree to hold each other accountable and not look the other way.

Diffusion.  If each team member appears to be doing “their own thing,” chances are the team strategy is not in place.  Decide how the team is going to accomplish the task, who is going to do what, and by when.

Frustration.  If the team appears frustrated, chances are the team lacks the resources to do the job properly.  Either get the resources or modify the job expectations with the limited resources you have.

Fatigue.  If the team appears to be tired and it is hard to get them moving, excited, and alive, chances are you have a problem with motivation or capability.  Probe deeper to find the cause of the problem.  It may be a training, skills, or knowledge issue or a lack of interest.

Doubt.  Finally, if the team doubts that their work will make a difference, chances are they need feedback from management on how their work contributes to the organization’s overall success.  

Once you share your observations, ask for the team to confirm (or deny) their observations.  Discuss (but don’t dwell on) the symptoms – and how they may point to the problem.  Once you have the cause identified, you can then brainstorm what to do about it!

For more information about how to lead your team in the virtual environment, use these resources.

KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CPF | Master, CSP is a high-stakes meeting facilitator and professional panel moderator.  She’s been facilitating teams of executives and managers in making better decisions and achieving greater results for over 20 years.  She is the author of the award-winning book, Boring to Bravo: Proven Presentation Techniques to Engage, Involve and Inspire Audiences to Action.

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