team, purpose, trust, psychological safety, goal

5 Reasons Your “Team” is Not a Team

Although there are countless books about creating better teams, participating on and leading teams remains a top frustration in most companies. Here are 5 reasons your “team” might not actually be one:

1. There are no shared goals or values.

Your “team” may believe it is working together and headed in the same direction, but when push comes to shove, each of you pursue activities that serve your individual interests and behave without accountability to each other. In other words, your oars are rowing in different directions.

In contrast, you know you are a team when you are a group that shares a few core values and pursues a measurable goal that will define the team’s success. Once a measurable team goal is set and values identified, each of you ensure every person on the team understands how to behave according to those values and is held accountable to do so. Further, you understand how each person contributes to achieving the team goal through individual competencies (e.g., ability to build consensus, drive for results, etc.) or technical expertise.

“Finding good players is easy. Getting them to play as a team is another story.” — Casey Stengel

2. There is low trust or no trust.

With little or no trust, members of your so-called “team” withhold their best and secretly look for ways to “win” at someone else’s expense without regard to a common goal. 

Team trust is strongly correlated with team commitment and follow-through on promises made to each other. To work together effectively as a team, each or you must believe the others have your back.  Also, when setbacks occur (and they almost always occur), you have to believe/trust everyone else is doing his best. This helps your team avoid the blame game and to get back on track quickly.

3. There is not a clear path to achieve the team goal.

When you only have a destination but no map to get there, a group of individuals will spend precious time wasting uncoordinated effort in different directions.

Mapping the route to achieve the common team goal assists your teammates in understanding how and when all team members’ contributions come together to achieve success. A clear path often includes quick wins to gain momentum and milestones to mark the way.

4. Communication is not open, honest, and transparent.

If people on your “team” are more concerned with withholding information and opinions while masking what they really see happening, team accountability and effectiveness are severely hampered.
To behave as a team, you must communicate in a forthright manner to get on the same page, to stay on the same page, to coordinate action, and to hold each other accountable to team commitments and values.

5. “Team” members are overly focused on their own contributions, wins, and reputations.

Ever seen a scoring basketball player point to the teammate who passed him the ball? Acknowledging contributions by teammates reinforces the notion that each person’s success is dependent on the contributions of others, no matter how small or behind-the-scenes.  No one does it alone. Recognizing each other’s contribution to the team fosters better relationships and, in turn, more trust.


WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with executives and senior leaders to create team environments that optimize ownership, accountability, learning, and results. Learn more at firebrandconsultingllc.com.