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15 Team Obstacles All Managers Need to Know

Updated: Oct 4, 2019

One of the biggest responsibilities of leadership is to get a group of people to a desired outcome. That involves individuals working together as a team. With the interesting human dynamics that come into play, leading a team can often feel like herding cats.

​It takes very intentional leadership to develop a well-functioning and cohesive team.  Understanding the obstacles will help managers prepare to lead their teams.

These 15 obstacles were gathered over the last 20 years from thousands of people in our classes, and from business owners, executives and all levels of employees who participated in leadership 360s and training needs assessments:

  • A manager who doesn’t know how to empower the team: This manager most likely gets frustrated and does most things herself. Or she may rule with an iron fist, using her position and authority to force people. In most cases, people do not feel empowered either way.

  • Lack of awareness and/or appreciation of various personality styles: When we don’t realize that different styles are valuable to a team, we tend to be annoyed by them rather than use them to the team’s advantage.

  • Not having a unified direction: There needs to be a common goal that people can rally behind. Without it, people will tend to focus on what they think is important, with little if any regard to anything else. This leads to another obstacle - silos and competing priorities.

  • A lack of trust in each other and/or in the team leader: Trust is the foundation to any relationship. Without it, we have hidden agendas, people holding onto information, and wasted time worrying about things rather than talking about them.

  • Fear of making mistakes, being wrong, or being criticized: This shuts people down. They will not be open to sharing or offering ideas and suggestions. They will not want to step up or speak up.

  • Lack of respect: It’s very hard to get people to trust and commit if there is a lack of respect. John C. Maxwell said this best “People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.”

  • Not enough clarity on roles, expectations and responsibilities: With ambiguity, people are less likely to commit and follow through. They show up at the next meeting confused with what was supposed to happen and who was supposed to do it.

  • Individuals focused on their own goals at the expense of the group goal: Most of us are conditioned to focus on our individual goals in a silo, without thinking of how it impacts the bigger picture. Teams fall short when this competes with the group goal.

  • Not bonded together as a team: The group didn’t spend enough time forming and bonding as a team. There is a lack of emotional connection.

  • Wrong carrot: Rewards are given for individual achievement rather than group achievement.

  • Not feeling a purpose or connection to the vision of the team: When the vision lacks meaning, or it doesn’t inspire or help people feel connected, people will lack motivation.

  • No structure for accountability: When we don’t have a system or structure for follow through and accountability, people tend to fall short of expectations.

  • No role model for holding people accountable: If the leader doesn’t hold people accountable, then the people on the team are not going to. Ironically, if the leader does hold people accountable in a respectable way, and creates an environment where it is safe for others to do so, the leader will not have to hold people accountable because team members will step into that role.

  • Fear of disagreeing/fear of conflict: When people refrain from disagreeing, good ideas are left behind, creativity and growth opportunities are stifled, and potential errors are ignored causing more problems to occur later.

  • Individual egos and insecurities: We all have them. It can be difficult to be aware and not let our egos and insecurities get in the way of the health of the team.

  • A manager who doesn’t remove the person who is not contributing as a team member: Otherwise known as a wuss, when the manager isn’t willing to take care of things, this demotivates other team members.

A manager’s job leading a team is no easy task. But it is critical to the success of the organization and can be the most rewarding role for a leader.

Last week, I shared a client story about Bob who inherited a team that needed quite a bit of help. Bob faced quite a few of the obstacles above, so before he could get the team functioning well, he had to identify what to focus on.

Take some time to reflect on your leadership and discover where you might be facing obstacles with your team. Are there any obstacles missing from this list? Please share with us so other people will benefit as well.  

In next week’s blog, we’ll be pulling the curtain back to look at what’s behind the scenes of every great team.

If you haven’t registered for our FREE webinar on One Simple Leadership Activity to Transform Your Employees into a Team (Dec 19 at 2pm EST), reserve your seat now! Grab your lunch and spend 30 minutes investing in you.



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