Does Your Team Need an Intervention?

Sometimes a team forms and then goes off track. Why does this happen, and what can you do about it? How can purpose and goals be reconstructed? And how can each team member understand their role in contributing to team success? Here are some thoughts.

Why Do Teams Go Off Course?

Perhaps the main reason that teams drift off of the path to success is insufficient trust. Trust may have existed at one time, but was destroyed by some event. Or maybe trust wasn’t really ever there and team members were merely paying lip service to the concept. Without trust, you won’t have commitment, either to the team or its goals. As a result, the team becomes ineffective. It doesn’t make good decisions, doesn’t innovate, takes too long to implement changes, and ends up costing more money. Talk about a calamity. A team that’s off course may pursue irrelevant goals, or may get “stuck” and fail to accomplish anything at all. So what should be done when this happens?

Is Training the Answer?

It’s easy to say that training is the answer, and to an extent that’s true. But what’s also true is that how a dysfunctional team is trained is crucial. You may have a room full of people with excellent skills and strong work ethics. But if they haven’t been trained in collaborative work and are afraid of honest, open discussion, those skills won’t be put to good use. There’s no real point in investing in a team-building course if the training won’t translate into real-world changes.

Training doesn’t have to be done in a conference room or on a ropes course, however. It can happen right in the day-to-day work environment, where team members learn collaboration by doing it, tackling real problems they’re dealing with. This type of real-time, real-world training, when guided by a talented coach, improves motivation and helps team members confront sometimes uncomfortable truths. And the process may start with some sort of intervention.

The Delicate Balancing Act of Intervention

Successful intervention requires a coach who knows how to build trust and push people to excel.

The concept of an intervention can prompt sincere skepticism. That’s because so many people think of an intervention as a last-ditch effort to help a person (or organization) that has hit bottom. But when a team intervention is done correctly, with a coach who is involved from the beginning and willing to work both individually with team members and with the group, people discover it’s not as fraught as they suspected.

The key is having a coach who knows how to create the safe space necessary to build trust, and also how to push people to fulfill their capacity better. A great coach guides the team in creating ground rules they will accept, and helps team members tackle behaviors they may never have learned, such as honest, candid conversation. Sure, there may be “drama” at some point, but the outstanding coach guides the team back on track and forward and reminds everyone of their role and their responsibility to engage with the team.

Why Coaching Is So Important

Sure, you could train people on the importance of honest communication and give them tips on how to collaborate, but that’s like teaching a group of kids how to play basketball and then expecting them to get together and win games without the help of a coach. Coaching helps people turn concepts into practice, turning the theoretical into the here-and-now. Coaching isn’t one-size-fits-all, but takes into account each person’s strengths, shortcomings, role in the team, and goals. With coaching, a team practices the very behaviors they’ve been taught are so important, so they can see for themselves the positive effects they have.


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