I clearly remember the day I received a panicked call from Carol, who had finally come to terms with the fact that her team was broken and she couldn’t fix it on her own.
When she called me, she had been head of IT for a large multinational organization for about 18 months, her first time in such a senior position. Her first few months on the job seemed to go well as she got to know the team, assessed gaps and functions, found some small wins and received positive feedback from the CEO.
Bit by bit, though, things began to bubble to the surface. She heard rumors that the executive team was unhappy with IT’s delivery, key business leaders were reporting it was increasingly difficult and cumbersome to work with her team, and fractures were emerging in the IT organization itself as silos began to build up and turf wars erupted. No matter what she tried, from shared objectives to monthly team dinners, personal agendas abounded, covert warfare was the norm and public humiliations became routine.
Finally, she reached out to her management team, but no help was forthcoming. To top it all off, the CEO who had been singing her praises just months earlier let it be known publicly that IT had serious delivery problems that needed to be addressed immediately. Carol was embarrassed and overwhelmed, and for the first time in 20 years, she didn’t know what more she could do. Reluctantly, she looked outside for help to fix her broken team. She came to me, deflated and depressed.
Not too long after, Carol phoned me again, out of the blue, but this time it was a very different sounding conversation. She wanted to let me know that her team had just won a national award for delivery excellence.
Carol is like many of the leaders I work with, who find it hard to ask for help with their team. Many times, leaders can improve their team’s effectiveness without external help. However, there are times when it’s better for leaders to partner with professional facilitators to increase their team’s effectiveness, rather than going it alone.
Here are 10 questions that can help you determine whether you may need external help to increase the effectiveness of your team. If you answer yes to at least three of these questions, you likely need to have a conversation with a team expert.
• Is your team’s ineffectiveness highly visible in the organization and a continual focus of attention?
• Is your team’s inefficiency affecting broader organizational relationships and diminishing your team’s credibility?
• Have you been rehashing the same issues again and again without resolving them for at least three months?
• Are team members continually blaming each other and the situation rather than taking responsibility to solve the problem?
• Are team members frequently engaging in non-productive conflict, backstabbing each other and exercising their personal agendas?
• Are team members ignoring or disregarding the seriousness of the situation?
• Are team members withholding critical information and not sharing it broadly with other team members?
• Do team members assume negative intent for other’s actions because trust has been damaged?
• Do you feel like you are spinning your wheels and everything you try is not working?
• Do you feel like team members are saying one thing and doing something completely different that hinders the team?
Although it’s a tough call, you will eventually have to weigh the impact of getting external help against the impact of seeing your team fail. Ideally, revisit the questions above on a regular basis, so you can smell the smoke before the fire is fully visible.