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Ten Ways to Turnaround a Dysfunctional Team

You’ve just been hired or promoted to lead a company, division, function or team. However, your quick analysis of the players in the group suggests you’ve got some major problems. What do you do? Here are the top ten ways to turnaround a dysfunctional team:

  1. Get rid of non-performers immediately. You will save yourself a lot of time and goodwill with other team members if you get rid of the cancerous members of the team right away. You’ll notice a lightness and energy in the air immediately afterwards.

  2. Fill vacant roles with capable people with amazing attitudes, skills for that particular area, and zealous attention to detail and follow-through. Top talent loves other top talent. They hate being on a team with others that are slowing them down. Most companies we see do a decent job hiring for attitude and skills but a terrible job judging someone’s attention to detail and follow-through.

  3. Set the vision for the group and establish milestones to achieving the vision. You’re the group leader. That means, it’s part of your job description to set the goal for the group. It doesn’t have to be a vision with a capital “V.” Just paint a picture of what you want to accomplish over the next few weeks/months/years. You don’t want you’re team saying, “what the heck are we doing? Where is this leading us?” The vision also needs milestones. People want to know how they’re doing in relation to their goal. Milestones let you tell them.

  4. Follow-up and remind the team how they’re doing against the milestones. This sounds simple, but a lot of team leaders forget to update their members on how they’re progressing against plan. If too much time passes between updates, people’s attention drifts to other topics.

  5. Agree on meeting ‘rules of the road.’ Start and end meetings on time. Also, it’s unacceptable for team members to be late for meetings. This can’t be enforced differently across the group. Even if it’s your star sales person who’s late, he/she should be held accountable just as if it was anyone else. If we’re a team, we all need to follow the same rules.

  6. Schedule regular face time with each of your team members at least monthly and ideally bi-weekly. I meet lots of busy managers who say, “my people know they can always come to me… I have an ‘open-door’ policy.” Yet, probably most don’t bother. It doesn’t happen. The best bosses who have the best teams know the importance of ‘checking in’ and keeping a finger on the pulse with every team member. When it doesn’t happen, you can see the team start to gradually drift apart.

  7. Hold fewer team-wide meetings but smaller ones with the right people attending. Top talent hate it when their valuable time is chewed up by endless meetings that they really shouldn’t even be at anyway. This is especially a problem in companies which have a more participative/democratic culture. Yet, you’ll have a happier team with fewer meetings with only the most necessary people invited.

  8. Do annual performance reviews and discuss the team member’s developmental needs. This one is a big differentiator between the high- and low-performing teams. Everyone’s busy. (Don’t you get sick of people telling you how busy they are? Aren't we all?) Yet, a lot of people will use their busy-ness as an excuse for not doing performance reviews in a timely manner. They see it as less important that “getting real business done.” Yet, when we’ve studied multiple industries and multiple companies, whether or not you do timely performance reviews is a huge predictor of team performance. The best team leaders make time for this – and their people appreciate it and get better in the areas they need to.

  9. Hold people accountable. If someone’s not pulling their weight, you’ve got to call them on that. Other team members who are pulling their weight will resent you more than they resent the loafer if you don’t.

  10. Measure the team’s progress at least annually. There are lots of tools available to measure where your team is at today and where it needs to be tweaked. It’s a good idea to get in the habit of benchmarking the team’s performance relative to others on an annual basis. By reviewing the strengths and weaknesses from their own ratings and seeing them in black-and-white, you’ll find it easier to gain consensus on the areas that need improvement.



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