I usually think about, talk about, study and write about teams that excel. My book, The Secret of Teams, is about creating High Performance Teams. However, I’ve been looking at this topic long enough to know - some teams stink.
I’ve been on my share of really bad teams - in sports, in non-profit organizations and at the chicken. In their groundbreaking work, Katzenbach and Smith gave a name to these severely underperforming teams – they call them Pseudo-teams.
A Pseudo-team is a place you don’t want to be. And if you find yourself there, you want to do all you can to improve the situation as soon as possible. Before we plot your escape plan, let’s be clear on the condition we’re describing. Here are some of the clues you may be on a Pseudo-team:
- Chronically poor results
- Little team discipline regarding process
- Low investment in team development
- Ineffective meetings
- Low team accountability
- Little personal concern for other members of the team
If this sounds like a team you’re on today, what can you do? Here’s the good news: you do not have to stay where you are!
When a team realizes how bad they really are – often coming to grips with the fact they are actually wasting resources by pretending to be a team, you only have three choices: move forward, retreat, or stay where you are - this third option is tragic. If your team is faced with these options, be careful not to retreat to your previous station as a work group. If you do, you’ll miss what could be the chance of a lifetime – to be on an amazing team.
If you decide to move forward, the path is clear and well marked. To move from a Pseudo-team to a Real Team you need SKILLS. The blocking and tackling of team basics will move your team forward. This statement is built on the assumption you have the requisite individual skills to perform your assigned roles with excellence. If that’s not the case, you’ll certainly have to address that. A team with weak individual players will always face an uphill battle.
The skills you need for the team to escape the pit are straightforward. You can actually make your own list. Simply answer the question, “What skills does our team need to better function as a team?” I’m guessing your answer will include skills such as…
- Goal Setting
- Problem Solving
- Decision Making
- Effective Meetings
- Conflict Resolution
There’s one more thing you’ll need – I probably should have mentioned it before now.
Leadership will be required.
No team drifts to greatness. Neither do teams generally identify and close their own skill gaps; at least not in the early days of team formation.
My encouragement to you is to identify the gaps and lead your team to close them – one at a time. When you do, you can move to Real Team status on Katzenbach’s curve. From there, you can see your ultimate goal – High Performance![GLS_Shield]