Successful teams produce extraordinary results in all areas of business, in sports, in communities, and in voluntary agencies, to name a few. Teams often fail to fulfill their potential because barriers stand in the way of success. What are those barriers and how can you overcome them?

Barrier 1: individual agendas

People are used to taking care of themselves. We’ve probably all been told or heard someone say that you should take care of number one. In other words, focus all of your attention on your schedule instead of the team’s schedule.

Solution: When you’re on a team, focus on the unique contribution you make to overall team results and put team results first.

Barrier 2: silo thinking

In organizations, achieving a result will depend on the joint work of all those involved in the process. Take for example a hospital. Someone has to make the initial appointment for the patient to see a doctor. If the doctor identifies that the patient needs an operation, he must go on a waiting list, be notified when his operation will be, and make the necessary preoperative evaluations. Once they are admitted, arrangements must be made to get them to the operating room on time, make plans for their discharge, including home support and medication.

Each of these tasks will require input from different departments and is too easy, especially when people are busy and stretched to indulge in siled thinking. In other words, viewing the challenges in isolation without considering the impact on other parts of the process and, more importantly, on the client (in this case, the patient).

Solution: Take time for teams to understand the impact of their actions or inaction on others and, in particular, on the customer.

Barrier 3: Lack of trust

Most people need to be sure that others will comply in order to fully embrace teamwork. In other words, they need to be confident. Building trust takes time, effort, commitment and belief. There is no magic formula, but actions speak louder than words.

Solution: Commit to and deliver on the actions you have agreed to take and demonstrate that you can be trusted to deliver.

Barrier 4: Vagueness about what you want to achieve

Teams need to know what they have to accomplish. In other words, they need specific and measurable results. Teams are often formed with vague goals like improving retention, reducing errors, or shortening the reporting cycle, to name just a few. This vagueness is a guaranteed recipe for a dish called disappointment.

Solution: Set specific, measurable results for teams to address, such as reducing illness levels by 2% by June 30.

Barrier 5: Absence of conflict

In teams, particularly in organizations that are performing well, conflict is often missing. We are doing well, so we can rest on our laurels and not rock the boat could be the motto. Conflict should not be seen as a negative, but as a constructive way to get the best of everyone.

Solution: Encourage debate and constructive challenge in the interest of achieving the best for all.

Successful teams will make a real difference in the results achieved. So what barriers do you need to address to get the best results from your teams?

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