How To Improve Your Team

Millions of dollars are misspent every year on team-building exercises and programs that do not get to the core of unlocking the potential of team performance. Teams are sent to exotic places to participate in fancy programs and fun activities that fail to help them achieve peak performance. This article explores why team-building programs fail and recommends ways to improve your team’s performance.

A significant reason that team-building initiatives fail is that too much emphasis is placed on the misconception that team-building should be fun. The purpose of team-building is to improve the performance of a work group, thereby creating better outcomes. This requires change, and for most people change is not fun … it is hard work. To drive change, team members must develop skills and gather information connected to the critical business outcomes they must produce. Team-building can be fun… if the members of the work group enjoy the learning process and relish the opportunities that change will bring. Sometimes the most trying struggles produce the most satisfying lessons.

If you want to improve teamwork and performance in your organization you have to look at the four core elements to driving team performance: relationships, goals, roles, and rules. All four of these elements must be executed well for the organization to flourish.


Ironically, improving relationships is probably the last area you should focus on. Yes, the area that most leaders spend most of their time addressing is usually the symptom, not the problem. Almost every organization that has team-building issues will find their root of their problems in goals, roles, and rules. In my experience, when we address goals, roles, and/or rules, many of the relationship problems disappear.

Once you are comfortable with goals, roles, and rules, you are then ready to tackle relationships. Many of these relationship issues usually stem from different behavioral styles and people not appreciating and knowing how to deal with people whose styles differ from their own. I recommend engaging a Certified Behavioral Analyst (such as myself) to help iron out the rest.


The first step toward achieving success as a team is to state your goals properly. You know your goal is well stated when anyone who reads it knows exactly what you are trying to accomplish and in what time frame. The better a person states the goal, the easier it is to create the action plan. An acronym commonly used for stating a goal properly is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realisticly High, and Time-based). In my experience, most goals to not properly meet these criteria and thus diminish the success of teams.

The other Issue that dooms many teams is improper alignment of goals. On an individual basis, each goal may be SMART. However, when you add up all the goals, or look at them on a system-wide basis, they may conflict with each other. These conflicts distract the team as they spend more time dealing with the lack of alignment than actually working on achieving the goal. It is for this reason that an ongoing system for goal alignment needs to be established in your organization.

For a comprehensive discussion on goals please see my article “State Your Goals in a SMART WAY” to learn more on the subject of goals.


In order for a team to function properly it is important that every member of the team understands specifically the actions and/or activities assigned to them. This is not as simple as some make it out to be, which is why this is usually an issue for team. There are two different types of roles: task and maintenance. The “task” roles relate to driving the desired outcome of a team. The “maintenance” roles relate to managing team processes and relationships among people on the team. Many organizations take the latter for granted, as if processes and relationships will automatically fall into place, or underestimate the time required to do it well.

With regard to task roles it is important to break down the tasks required to produce the outcomes you want, and how much time each task will take. Many organizations only think about the big things and take the little tasks for granted. Those many little time-consuming tasks are what throw teams off course. Once all the tasks have been identified, roles can be identified and assigned to the appropriate people.


Rules are a very important component of teamwork. This is one of those areas many leaders, particularly in entrepreneurial and family-owned businesses have the biggest concern with. Everyone is fine with rules as long as they apply to others.  You cannot have one set of rules for some people and another set for others. Owners are particularly vulnerable to this one. They love to pull out the old trump card, “Well it’s my business, so I can do whatever I want!” While this is true, they also must realize that the “need to be me” costs them a lot of money in worker productivity every year. People do as you do, not as you say.

When you have people playing by different rules, it creates conflict and problems, causing your organization to spend valuable time discussing and dealing with conflict rather than achieving goals. By making uniform rules one can eliminate unnecessary conflict and wasted gossip around the office. Let’s use the stop sign as an example. Imagine an intersection where there is a stop sign for drivers going north and south, but not for drivers going east and west. If you can trust that when you are traveling east or west that people traveling north and south will stop, you can drive full speed through the intersection with nothing to worry about. However, if you can’t be sure that the north-south drivers will follow the rules, then you need to slow down or stop at that intersection to prevent serious consequences.

The same thing is true of your organizations. If people are not all playing by the same rules, it breaks trust. People feel the need to be cautious and slow down.


Next time you think you are not getting maximum productivity out of your team, do not assume it is a relationship issue. Do not assume that one of those fun one-day or half-day team-building exercises will change your results. Instead, hire someone who can help you take a more systemic approach to help drive the results you are looking for.

If you want to achieve more goals, make sure that you state them in a SMART WAY! Review our website to understand how an executive coach or business coach can help you increase the success of your career and business or contact Howard Shore at 305.722.7213 or