Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

2.9. Identify situations that hamper efficiency in a group

ryanrori February 7, 2021

[responsivevoice_button rate=”0.9″ voice=”UK English Female” buttontext=”Listen to Post”]

There are several obstacles that lie en-route successful teamwork. While some of these hurdles can be easily overcome by simple change of attitudes, others need to be worked upon. Let us look at some of the obstacles that you may have to deal with when trying to build a successful team.

A close-minded leader is one of the biggest obstacles in the process of effective team building. Any team that is unable to generate a host of ideas and alternatives cannot be productive. This is because teams constantly need to create to keep moving. For this, it is important that the team leader be more open minded and receptive. If the team leader is close-minded, the team will be restricted. The thought process and the working of the team will also be impaired eventually. It is for this reason that all team leaders should learn to be open to all kind of ideas and thoughts.

Self-interest is another hurdle that you need to be wary of. If the leader or any team member puts self-interest before the interest of the team, then the team is bound to suffer. This is because when team players are more interested in themselves, they tend to make choices that benefit them and not the whole team. As a result, the entire team suffers. Thus, a team leader should take appropriate steps to alleviate feelings of self-interest. He should inculcate the culture of thinking of the team before one self. This can be done if the team leader demonstrates such behaviour.

Yet another hurdle that you may have to deal with in a bid to make your team thrive is lack of consistency. Your team may perform well in one particular project and fail miserably in the other. Such inconsistent behaviour and performance will never allow you to take your team to the top. You and your team need to work consistently to emerge triumphant. To make sure that your team is consistent, you need to keep your team motivated at all times. Your team will be motivated to do better if it is rewarded after completing a particular project well. This will entice your team to work harder for the next project. Eventually, this will help make your team consistent and more reliable as well.

Power struggles and differences within teams are two of the biggest issues in a team that can hamper team efficiency.  

Power struggles

In most organisations and their teams, much time, energy, creativity, and productivity is either wasted or never developed because of power struggles. Turf battles, empire-building, duelling employees, back-stabbing, self-seeking decision-making, ego trips, favouritism, passive aggression, duplication of effort, poor judgement, poor communication, personality conflicts, contentious employees, gossip, complaining, blaming, grievances, and lawsuits are just some of the things that happen in teams that waste their time and energy. They are activities that do not allow teams to reach their fullest potential. All are forms of power struggles or attempts at avoiding them. All come from the finite, win/lose perspective of power.

Some teams may seem peaceful on the surface. Many of these teams tend to be riddled with excessive conformity, “group think,” sycophancy, buck-passing, avoidance of responsibility, problem concealment, and apathy. In these teams, the power struggles are still there, but in passive aggressive form. In these teams or groups, much productive energy is lost because many of the thoughts, ideas, opinions, and information needed for effective management never surface. Offering ideas, opinions, or information, straying too far from the patterns of thinking established as acceptable, for other team members, is seen as too risky and dangerous. It is being perceived as too different in style of dress, speaking, thinking, and other behaviours.

Power struggles and differences

One of the hallmarks of the finite perspective of power is that differences are used to determine who wins and who loses. In fact, we have been deeply socialised regarding which side of a sizable set of differences wins and which loses. Generally, we understand that “more” wins against “less,” “high” wins against “low,” “fast” wins against “slow,” “big” wins against “little,” “first” wins against anything else. We understand these distinctions without needing a context of what is more or faster. Rationally, we even know that fast and more are not always better than slow and less. Yet, the world of organisations still cycles through periods of mergers to build bigger and bigger companies for greater and greater “economies of scale” and “competitive advantage” that often do not occur.

Other differences are emotionally problematic—male wins over female, white wins over black, straight wins over gay, Muslims contend with Christians. These are differences that carry substantial emotional charges that occur when categories of people feel oppressed. “Diversity programs” aimed at only race and gender issues don’t address the real issue.

The diversity issue most disruptive to team effectiveness is not fast/slow, more/less, race or gender. Rank is. The feeling is those who rank higher in organisations consistently win over those who rank lower. Those of higher ranks have the ability to reward and penalise those of lower ranks making the difference one fraught with risk. 

New team leaders recently promoted over their former peers often tell how mystified and hurt they are that their friends, now team members, change the conversation or disassemble when they arrive on the scene. As friends, these people were open and direct. Those who wish to become team leaders are very clear that it pays to dress like, talk like, behave like, and think like those who are already above them. To do otherwise, is seen as committing corporate suicide—notice the live-or-die terminology. It is like being between the devil and the deep blue sea.  Should you be accepted either by your team members or by management of the organisation?

When differences are perceived as being this dangerous, dramatic amounts of productivity are lost to both power struggles and conformity. This does not have to be true, but it takes a lot of infinite play to make it otherwise.

Differences – a source of learning

Differences are the only source of learning we have. This is worthy of repeating: Differences are the only source of learning we have. Neither you nor I can learn much at all from a room full of people who think the same or have the same opinions and background as we do. Only if someone arrives who is different will we have any opportunity for learning. Likewise, in functional teams where conformity is rampant little learning is possible.

In the same vein, learning from those with whom we are engaged in power struggles is not on the agenda. There might be some small learning about, how to survive a power struggle or how to do something the way “winners” do. Regardless, neither the system nor the “winners” will learn anything constructive. All will stay the same. Learning from differences requires an environment that welcomes and values differences rather than using them to determine who wins and who loses.

Becoming a learning team does not have to be management flavour of the month. It does require, however, that a team come up with ways to assure that differences are used for learning rather than contention or drivers of conformity. Becoming a learning team requires a change in organisational culture that incorporates the infinite perspective of power.

To play infinitely with differences, when you disagree with me about something I know is right, I must be willing to focus on learning—learning about your point of view and learning about you. I do not need to agree; I just need to learn.

Learning from differences can be incredibly difficult, particularly when we are under stress and when the differences involve our sense of identity or esteem. In such situations, we cannot be depended on to learn rather than fight or conform. To learn from differences we require support systems of people who will remind us of our ability to play infinitely even when we protest.