Friday, March 22, 2013

5 Reasons Most Teams Underperform

Guest post from Mark Miller:
Have you ever been on a great team? I’ve come to realize over the years not everyone can say yes. As I think about my own experience, I realize I’ve been on scores, if not hundreds of teams; unfortunately, the majority have not lived up to their potential. The more I study the topic, the more it feels like there’s a global pandemic of underperforming teams.

Think about the wasted human and financial capital from teams who don’t reach high performance team status. Like a scientist from the Center for Disease Control, I wanted to find the root cause of this problem and the cure.

My personal team journey began almost 50 years ago. As a child, I played on sports teams from my earliest memory. My professional team journey officially began just over 20 years ago. In an attempt to improve quality in our restaurants, Chick-fil-A asked me to help us learn and apply the best practices of the most elite, high performing teams. I wrote about our journey in my book, The Secret of Teams.

Today, I’ll focus on the five most common reasons we’ve seen over the years for underperforming teams.

1. Lack of Leadership
This may seem obvious but the truth is most teams that struggle and those that ultimately fail do so because of poor leadership. There is a legend that great teams can exist without leadership – it is a myth. Teams must be well led. This can come from an individual or the team itself, but leadership is the single-most critical factor for team success.

2. Insufficient Focus on Results
Great teams exist to accomplish something. If a team doesn’t have clarity on the results they are pursuing, they will drift. Worse yet, they will waste resources. A compelling performance challenge is at the heart of high performance.

3. Wrong Players on the Team
The team with the best talent usually wins. This is no guarantee but it matters. Do you have men and women on the team who are team players? Are they willing to learn and grow? Are they open to feedback and coaching? Are they willing to accept responsibility? If you’ve got the wrong players, high performance will forever be just out of your reach.

4. Skill Gaps
Does your team have the necessary skills to excel? A team needs two distinct skill sets to perform at its best – individual and team skills. Do the members have the skills needed to perform their assigned responsibilities with excellence? Does the team know how to solve problems, make decisions, resolve conflict and have effective meetings? If any of these are lacking, the performance will be too.

5. No Sense of Community
The little known fact about teams is what actually makes the great ones great. As important as Talent and Skills are, they are insufficient to propel a team to greatness. The best teams always demonstrate a genuine care and concern for each other. We call this community. It is a place where the team members know, serve, celebrate and mourn together. It is not an accident; it is the result of a conscious decision to create this type of place.

The good news – all of these deficiencies can be overcome. Your team can do it! Many have successfully navigated the road you’re on today. Granted, the path to the top is not easy to travel, but the view from the summit is unmatched. Stay the course and enjoy the journey!

Mark Miller, well known business leader, best-selling author, and communicator, is excited about sharing The Secret of Teams: What Great Teams Know and Do with those who are ready to grow. You can find it on Amazon and in bookstores everywhere. You can also read Mark’s blog at


Katherine Bengan said...

There seems to be an overwhelming opinion about the lack of leadership in the workplace because either the company has the wrong person leading the team or leader is too self centered and unwilling to entertain anyone Else's opinions.

Alastair Macartney said...

Great post- thanks for the insight. The lack of leadership is very true. The insufficient focus on results is linked in this area. It is down to the leader to give clear and succinct direction which should negate this issue.

Anonymous said...

Number 5 is probably the one that is missing the most among teams, creating that sense of community. Thanks for highlighting this for the readers.