An effective team fosters creativity and takes advantage of diverse strengths and experiences. Working as a group can produce results beyond what any individual member could do alone.

However, some teams thrive while others flounder. Creating a collaborative environment takes work, and many obstacles can undermine the process. Maybe negative competition runs rife. Or perhaps your organization could benefit from investing more time in teaching team-building skills.

Situations like these can take a heavy toll on job satisfaction and productivity. Learn how to spot and overcome 3 of the most common obstacles to team building.

Vague Goals
Teams must understand their goals before they can commit to them. While work groups may function independently in some ways, they still need senior leadership to provide adequate direction and support.

Use these strategies to ensure that everyone on the team is on the same page:

  • Clarify your purpose. Each individual needs to be on board with the organizational mission and values. You can help keep these principles at the top of employee’s minds with meetings, retreats, and regular conversations.
  • Set specific goals. Establishing common ground and concrete goals for your team helps to guide decisions and evaluate progress. Have a clear written statement of what you want to achieve. Take personal goals into account too. 
  • Define roles. Reach a consensus about roles, responsibilities, and expectations. Detailed job descriptions prevent conflict and confusion. They also help each member to see where they fit into the bigger picture.


Lack of Trust
Cohesive teams trust each other. They create an atmosphere where members feel safe to share information and take risks. Developing healthy relationships makes it easier to tackle any task.

Try these tips to build trust within the team:

  • Establish ground rules. Codes of conduct let members know what’s considered acceptable. Employees are also more likely to follow rules that they played a part in negotiating.
  • Spend time together. Work groups may bring together employees who otherwise have little contact with each other. Plan some fun social activities to break the ice. Keep teams small enough to encourage personal connections.
  • Reward teamwork. How do you get members excited about shared priorities rather than their own agendas? Provide incentives for collaboration and host group recognition events.
    Discourage cliques. Some teams might remind you of high school with an in crowd that leaves some students out. Try giving assignments that require interacting with someone new and change the make-up of each team from time to time. 


Ineffective Communication
Friendly and respectful communication makes employees feel like they belong. Team members feel more driven to achieve their common purpose.

Keep these effective communication techniques in mind:

  • Exchange feedback. Help each other with honest and tactful observations about how to enhance individual and group performance. Resolve disagreements before they escalate into serious conflicts.
  • Ask questions. Learn from each other. Listen attentively and ask for more information and clarification when you’re unsure. Many snafus can be avoided by gathering facts and consulting each other before taking action.
  • Provide training. Communication skills can be strengthened with practice and instruction. Survey teams to find out what assistance they want and need. Offer courses online or engage outside experts to customize a program.
  • Use technology. Cloud computing, project collaboration software, and video calls have transformed the way teams interact. Now, you can stay in touch and coordinate activities, even when some employees are in the office and others work remotely.
  • Stay positive. Attitudes are contagious. Team members can lift each other up or make maintaining morale more challenging. Focus on what you like about each other and be generous with thanks and praise.

You can make a difference in any team you join. Knowing how to deal with common obstacles will help you to create opportunities for engagement and advancement for yourself and your colleagues.


About Mary Kelly: Smart, funny, and high-energy, Mary’s audiences request Mary back again and again. Mary provides actionable takeaways that motivate, inspire, and engage. From the C-level throughout the organization, Mary is a hit!

From her days as a naval intelligence officer to her role as one of today’s most influential economists, Commander/Doctor/Professor Mary C. Kelly has carved out an unforgettable career in leadership. Former chief of police, professor, realtor and HR Director – Mary has spent over 25 years teaching and training more than 40,000 military and civilian personnel. Mary is now on a mission to spread her message of success with audiences worldwide, sharing with them the secrets to being a true leader in today’s workplace.

A high-energy keynote speaker, Mary is focused on using research, laughter, and experience to show professionals how to excel. Mary’s relatable, no-nonsense approach inspires audiences to embrace their roles, surpass their goals, and plan for the future.

Mary is the author of 13 books on business growth, leadership, and today’s economy. She is a speaker, coach and trainer who has worked with hundreds of organizations and companies across the globe.

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