I lose sleep and stress over teams I’m working with who aren’t getting the work done – staring at my whiteboard, wandering the halls, asking myself, Is it me? Is it them? How can we get the work done?

These problems occur on all teams.

When I meet with a team leader or project manager to discuss how to get back on track, they’ll respond with one or several of the following:

  • “They just don’t like working together.”
  • We have some strong personalities, and they need to be put in their place.”
  • “The same damn thing happens every time we try to work together. Why can’t they just work as a team?”
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What’s causing these team problems?

Explore 7 of the most common reasons below.
  1. The project manager or team leader, as well as their team, are unclear on the purpose of the team’s work – the “Why are we here?” and “What am I doing here?’”
  2. The project manager or team leader, as well as their team, aren’t privy to the project’s specific goals or what they are responsible for completing.
  3. The team’s purpose is lacking in either the “what” (quality and quantity) of the goal or the “by when” timeframe and required resources to complete the work.
  4. The direct managers of project team members (who are usually NOT project managers or team leaders and generally a different person for each member of the cross-functional team) don’t support the team members’ participation on the team.
  5. The project manager or team leader lacks the authority to be effective with the team.
  6. The team leader or project manager lacks skilled-knowledge.
  7. The team members lack the skilled-knowledge and/or technical skills needed to complete their tasks.

Now, how do we address these problems?

With any team, systems drive behavior. So, it’s best to set things up right in the beginning. Allowing for a clearly defined goal and the necessary authority and accountability of each team member and project manager or team leader.

  1. The team leader meets with the highest cross-over manager or whoever is accountable for the output of the team and specifies the team’s task in clear Quality, Quantity, Timeframe, And Resources (QQTR) language.
  2. The team leader and the managers of each team member sit together to define member tasks and accountabilities for the project, as well as any tasks that are upcoming outside the project.
  3. Consider leadership coaching and development training for project managers and team leaders.
  4. Ensure any additional technical and/or teamwork training has been provided for team members.
  5. Give me a call. I’d love to pace the halls thinking about your team!
Remember – everyone on the team wants to do great work.

Take the time at the outset to supply team leaders with the needed support, accountability, and authority to complete the project goals. Otherwise, you’re going to pay later.


Want to improve team dynamics? Check out these free infographics.

Explore 9 infographics written by Mike Cardus himself, addressing a range of common workplace dynamics – from dealing with a new manager to addressing common problems. 

Referenced: ‘Team Building’. Brian Beiles; Handbook of Management Consulting Services. 1995