Global Leadership Blog


Top 3 Reasons Why Your Team is Underperforming

One of the things that keeps a manager up at night is wondering why the team is underperforming. The well-known secret to success is a high-performing team–one with members whose talents and skills complement each others’, challenge one another, and collaborate to achieve a common goal. But creating and sustaining a high-performing team isn’t easy.

In my work with clients like LinkedIn and SAP, I’ve discovered the three components absolutely necessary for developing this essential unit–no matter where the organization is, its size or function.

If your team lacks these three things, you’ll be hard-pressed to achieve the results you want.

1. Open communication.

Communication is vital to any relationship, and a cohesive team is, really, a network of close relationships. Research from MIT shows that 40 percent of creative teams’ productivity is directly explained by the amount of communication they have with others.

So, regular open and honest communication at all levels is a must. Give frequent and specific updates to all members, so no one is left out of the loop.

You must educate your team members on what other parts of the unit are doing and are responsible for to ensure their work is supporting other functions. Make everyone feel included, and the floor should be open for anyone to contribute to discussions at any point. Boundaries and territories don’t exist in successful teams.

Also, address any conflict immediately. An exercise one of my clients uses with her partners includes a “conflict circle” held at the beginning of every team meeting so the team can discuss issues before they bubble up into crises.

2. Shared goals.

All high-performing teams know what they’re working for. Goals are outlined and clearly defined ahead of time. Questions high-performance teams answer before pursuing a project include–what are the objectives? How do they align with the organization’s mission or strategy? And, what is the team’s vision?

One study by Accenture found that high performing teams that are aligned with business strategy will achieve superior results in key business performance drivers.

3. Defined roles.

One of the reasons why there is such low engagement in the workforce (just 32 percent in American according to Gallup) is because people don’t feel like their jobs or roles have a purpose. Defining how one’s part is integral to achieving the shared goals negates this.

So, along with defining the goals, you must work with the team to define everyone’s function. People feel pride and ownership when they have real responsibility.

When outlining professional roles, it’s also important to understand personality types. By this, I mean, everyone brings a different perspective to the table. It’s important to honor and respect these different viewpoints and to use them to the team’s benefit.

Does someone always see the silver lining? Is someone typically a worst case scenario person? Does someone like to talk through solutions while another needs quiet time to digest and problem-solve?

Understand these personality traits and be sure to allow these team members to share their perspectives in their preferred way so you can get a clear picture of what may be happening on the project–and within the team.

Leading a team can have its challenges, but, if you have these three things, you’ll be able to head off issues quickly and continue on your path to success–and real results. And, if you need help with your team? Contact me.


A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo: David Nichols, CC 2.0


Melissa Lamson

About The Author

Melissa Lamson, Founder and President of Lamson Consulting, is an author, consultant, and speaker who accelerates the business expansion goals of today’s most successful companies by developing global mindset, refining leadership skills, and bridging cross cultural communication. More About Melissa Lamson