Working in any sort of business is difficult, because business problems are vast and varied. Competitors force companies to improve constantly and technological advancement means that there are always better ways to do things. These are the challenges that we should be striving to overcome. Too often, we instead consume ourselves with solving team issues rather than business problems.
It’s easy to become preoccupied with solving team issues, thinking that it’s real work
Team issues are wide-ranging. There is no doubt that assembling people and getting them to work together productively is a challenge in itself. You may feel as if you’re constantly busy and stressed.
But why are you stressed? Is it because you are trying to solve a real business challenge, or are you tearing your hair out because of team issues?
Team issues make solving real business problems ten times harder
If you do have significant team issues, you can guarantee that it’s making things harder than it should be. Team issues distract your team from its real purpose, which is to sell products, manufacture goods or serve customers.
In the day to day working grind, it’s easy to lose focus on what your objectives are. Time spent dealing with unhappy team members or dysfunctional behaviour is time *not* spent on serving your customers or creating your product.
Signs that you’re not really solving your team issues
You can’t afford to be spending your time constantly dealing with team issues. Here are the signs that your team is wasting too much time on team issues, as opposed to doing real work.
1. You spend more time with some individuals than others
If you notice that you are spending more time with certain individuals than others during your week, this could be a bad sign. As a leader, of course you should be engaging with your whole team.
However, if you find that you spend significantly more time with one employee listening to complaints, discussing issues or making them feel better, then this highlights a problem. Some workplaces have team members that need far more support than others, and this can be a drain on your time and your ability to support other team members.
You can’t continue to keep this up.
2. Strong team members pick up the slack of other employees
Not everybody has the same level of skill. Therefore it’s reasonable for the stronger players in your team to help out the others from time to time. However, if you find that some team members are constantly using your strong players as a crutch for their own shortcomings, you may have a problem.
This often occurs when a team member is in the wrong role. That is, they don’t have the skills for their job, so they constantly lean on others for help. This means that two people are doing the work of one role. Not to mention that it can be extremely distracting for the people who are roped in to help.
3. Significant time is spent doing rework, or waiting on people
The worst thing your team members can do is redo work that has already been done. The second worst is being idle, waiting because someone else hasn’t finished their work yet. Both of these acts cause immense frustration within a team and destroy productivity.
Often these problems can be put down to poor communication. If people don’t understand what they need to be doing, or understand when they need to be finished, it’s a big problem. If your team is designed in such a way that there is a bottleneck that is always holding things up, then this needs to be addressed too.
4. Frustration levels are sky high
If you notice your team consistently complaining about the performance of one team member, or experiencing emotional outbursts borne of frustration, it’s time to do something about it.
High levels of frustration are damaging and will result in a dramatic loss of productivity and motivation. If these team issues go unresolved, you could find yourself with a significant problem as your team doesn’t feel that you’ve tried to address the issue.
5. Too much time is spent on damage control
Damage control is a terrible waste of time. Your team has delivered something, and now you need to deal with the fallout. If you find yourself consistently dealing with fallout after a major deadline or milestone, this is a sure sign of a problem.
Often damage control results from rushed work and poor or insufficient planning. Certain team members may feel that when they are busy doing damage control, they are actually achieving something. They couldn’t be further from the truth. Damage control activities are usually unnecessary activities that could have been avoided with proper analysis and planning.
However, some people have the opinion that when you aren’t actually “doing” the work, you’re wasting time. Depending on the organisation, sometimes planning can be seen as luxurious overhead. However, if you don’t want to spend too much time in damage control mode, it’s worth getting serious about it.
There are many sources of issues that may plague your team. You will experience some of them at some point. However, if you find yourself constantly dealing with team issues, your team will be ineffective at solving business problems and doing real work.
It’s easy to get on the hamster wheel and run like crazy, without paying attention to what the source of your team’s work really is. Rework, distractions and damage control are all sources of inefficiency and should be avoided.
Take the time to analyse what your team is really working on. Is it necessary or does it stem from team issues that need to be solved? Putting up with team issues is a sure way to ruin productivity and increase frustration. The sooner you can get your team humming, the better you’ll be at solving the real problems.