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Teams usually fail from the top down

February 19, 2015

In sports, managers and coaches are often held responsible when their teams underperform. Most believe that if the athletes have the talent to succeed, and the team still falls short, something must be wrong with the people in charge. According to recent data from Linkage’s research on team effectiveness, a similar pattern may apply to most business teams.

While the idea of blaming group failures on poor leadership is not a new concept, our recent findings may help to shed new light on why team failure is often a leadership problem.

Across the board, we found that most teams report having excellent working knowledge of their respective fields. Specifically, team members report that they clearly understand the information and concepts needed to execute the team’s mission. We also found that teams generally rate their overall team commitment very high. Team members typically believe that they have the business acumen and interpersonal skills needed to create quality work, and are willing to do whatever is necessary to ensure that the team is successful. Based on these findings, we might conclude that your average team has both the skill and the will required to succeed.

So, why do we see so many teams underperform, and some outright fail?

Our research shows that on average, teams rate themselves particularly poorly on efficient processes, decision making, and metric-based feedback. Specifically, the teams we studied rated their abilities to measure customer satisfaction, coordinate work processes, celebrate accomplishments, have effective meetings, and measure individual competencies quite low.

So, what can we deduce from these findings?

It appears that most team members have the fundamental abilities and the commitment needed to get the job done. However, a collection of skilled and committed individuals isn’t cutting it. When work processes lack coordination, meetings are ineffective, accomplishments are not celebrated, and individual abilities are not assessed, teams break down and it is hard to point the blame anywhere but up.

Are you developing effective work processes, celebrating the accomplishments of your team, and consistently holding efficient meetings?

If not, you may be holding your team back. But we can help.

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