THE BLOG
05/13/2013 06:37 pm ET Updated Jul 13, 2013

10 Team Trouble Signs

Here is a list of indicators that something (or someone) in your team needs your attention or assistance. Any one or more of these "troubles" left unattended can quickly shut down the effective flow and functioning of your team. Here are 10 of the warning signs that you or your team are missing a true teaming culture:

There's Lots of Team Talk, but No Real Communication. It is quite easy for a team to confuse the sounds of people in the room talking with true interaction and communication. The fact is that communication is more about honesty and understanding than the amount of words spoken. Smart teams and team players care more about coming to consensus than just merely airing their opinions.

The Team Meetings Are Too Formal and Awkward. If you don't laugh often with your team, then you may be taking yourselves (and even your team) just a little too seriously. One important factor that plays into awkward team meetings is determining exactly where you will meet. Some teams hold every meeting in a board room. I would contend that doing so would be like having to eat every meal during the week in a formal dining room in your home. Who wants to do that? Not me. That's way too formal for every day. Location impacts atmosphere, and atmosphere affects people's level of comfort. Find a warm and engaging location for your team meetings. And, switching out for a new location periodically is also a good idea. Sharing a meal before or after together is also a great way to break the formalities and build the sense of team togetherness.

The Same People Always Dominate the Team "Discussions." This is an age-old problem with boards, small groups, and committees. Temperaments are, of course, a big factor in who will or will not tend to carry (or monopolize) the conversations. The wise team leader will periodically walk their team through temperament surveys (i.e., MBTI, Smalley-Trent, DISC, etc.) to help the team and team members develop healthy self-awareness. True Teaming Leaders also work hard at facilitating discussion techniques that draw in the entire team. It is a huge mistake to allow the people who never talk to "never talk." Another approach for the team leader/facilitator is to not only ask questions of the entire team, but to periodically ask them of specific team members. (i.e., "Jeff, we haven't heard from you yet today. What do you think about this question?")

There's So Much Sarcasm that Sincerity is Scarce. Sarcasm may be at an all-time high for frequency of use. With all of the talk shows, pod casts, comedy channels, YouTube clips and social media resources, sarcasm has become a sport and a new art form (sic)! That being the case, it can sometimes be difficult to determine which contributions of team members are sincere and genuine. The wise teaming leader will watch the amount of sarcasm happening on their team and endeavor to find ways to affirm the sincere contributions and comments of their fellow team members. In the New Testament, one leader (Paul) told a "team member" (Timothy) how much he valued his sincerity: "I have been reminded of your sincere faith..." (2 Tim. 1:5)

The Team Members Cannot Easily Describe the Team Goals. Vision leaks. Have you noticed? One reason communicating and re-communicating the team's vision and goals is so important is that it can tend to quickly fade in our minds if not emphasized repeatedly. The only way to stay on the same page as a team is to write that "page" together and find ways to stay on it and rehearse it, as well.

The Team Interacts but Fails to Act. Never mistake interaction with action. While healthy interaction and communication helps teams determine priorities and goals, simply talking about them will not bring them to pass. Action begins once the hopes and ideas turn to plans, tasks, goals, deadlines and accomplishments. Every great team is not just an interaction team, but an ACTION TEAM.

The Leader Calls It a "Team", But They End Up Making the Decisions. Teams are so popular today as an approach to leadership that some churches have teams that are "teams" in name only. The hierarchical leader can call his team "team" a thousand times over, but if they don't treat the team in a teaming manner -- no one is fooled by the semantics.

The Team Members Are All Too Much Alike. In this case the team members have so much in common, they don't adequately challenge and stretch each other's thinking and abilities. Although everyone may seem to get along, they cannot seem to get ahead.

The Team Never Evaluates their Teaming Skills. Although the team may take time to evaluate goals, plans, presentations, programs, (and, on church teams) sermons, services, and the like, they seldom (if ever) evaluate themselves as a team. More specifically, they do not critique their function or stretch themselves to improve their collaborative skills.

Elephants in the Room are Regularly Ignored. When unresolved conflicts emerge in the team environment, they are intentionally overlooked and disregarded. The more this is done, however, the more these negatives influences and motivation drainers grow and emerge, sapping the life right out of the team.

This is an excerpt from my newest book, The Teaming Church: Ministry in the Age of Collaboration. Read another excerpt from the book on "Teams vs. Committees". You can order a copy of the book here and read about the evidences of a strong team.