Bad Teamwork

Avoiding Bad Teamwork

Bad teamwork can mean the difference between a successful endeavor and a failure.  Whether the arena is the business world, a group project in school, or team sports, the interactions between the individuals that make up the team determine the outcome.  So learning how to avoid bad teamwork and to build effective rapport between team members is vital for success in any environment.  Here are some basic tips:


Pick a Good “Team”

When you consider what makes a good team function in say football, what you often find is that right from the beginning the coaches and the general manager choose the players that best fit their team philosophy.  Whenever possible, you want to take the initiative to choose your teammates.  If your instructor assigns a project for class, try to approach the person who you know will work best as your teammate.  Try not to let other factors, such as friendships and social hierarchies, distract you.  If you are really committed to success, you will try to match yourself with that person who will both bring out your own best abilities and whom you think compliments you best.

In order to do this successfully, it is best to take the initiative and approach that person as soon as you identify them.  It is better to do this early before other deadlines make that individual unavailable.

Second, you should remember that the best team is not always made up of the best individuals.  Teams are about working as a unit.  Therefore, if you are getting a project together for work that involves researching company X that that happens to be in India, and the boss gives you the opportunity to pick two other people to help you, you might not want to choose the two best researchers in the marketing department.  Although this might work in terms of competition, it could also backfire since both may want to take the lead and communication might suffer.  You need to think “team.”  So perhaps you choose the second best researcher (the one with something to prove) and the new gal who happens to be from India and is just starting to get to know your company.  Perhaps, you’re very good at organizing and communicating tasks.  The three of you together make ONE team: great researcher, a gal who is willing to do the dirty work, and a guy who knows how to keep things moving.


The other way to avoid bad teamwork is to keep communications clear and regular.  Bad teamwork often sets in when individuals fail to communicate with one another.  If you are in charge of a team, you need to keep talking to the individuals and checking in over time to make sure that everything is going smoothly.  This can be a difficult task, because you don’t want to seem like you are micromanaging or like you don’t have confidence in a particular individual.  However, you can avoid many problems if you keep lines of communication open.

A good way to instill communication is by having regular meetings to check up on individual progress.

Delegating Responsibility Appropriately

A subset of communication is appropriately dividing responsibility.  When bad teamwork occurs, it often starts with someone who feels they are taking on too much or with someone who feels they have been slighted.  Try to think through which tasks your team needs to complete in the project right from the beginning and to hand them over to individuals who you feel can handle these tasks.

This however, is not enough in itself.  You will also need to follow up to make sure that individuals are actually accomplishing the tasks.  Have clear deadlines for partial completion from the beginning so that monitoring progress is easy.  If you keep open lines of communication, individuals who are falling behind will feel comfortable telling you when they need help and you will be able proactively to head off problems.

Of course, even when you do all of these things, problem will still occur.  If you have done your job right, you can minimize the effects of problems and you will thus develop a good reputation as a team leader.