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The top 6 reasons why teams underperform and how to fix them

Krishna Rajagopal is the Chief Facilitator of Great Outcomes at Narish International. He has a bachelor’s degree in economics, an MBA, and a master’s in information systems management. Krishna’s mission is to help organizations leverage their potential.

Poor team performance has many negative effects on companies; it sets a bad example for others, leads to work not getting done well or on time, and eventually impacts the company’s bottom line. Subpar team performance needs to be addressed at the earliest possible stage, but first, its cause must be understood.

Here are six common reasons why teams underperform.

1. Poor communication

Lack of communication is a major reason why teams might underperform. Without effective communication, it’s unlikely that people will understand the tasks they are expected to do. 

At best, this confusion will lead to delays in getting projects done. At worst, it could result in employees developing poor attitudes—or deciding to leave the company altogether.

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2. Ineffective leadership

Another driver of poor team performance is ineffective leadership. While failure to communicate can be a major reason for poor leadership, it’s certainly not the only one. Good leadership encompasses a wide range of skills, including delegation, keeping teams focused and energized, and soliciting regular feedback.

3. Low employee engagement

Underperformance is caused by several environmental pressures of disengagement. When employees don’t like their job or feel they’re not valued by their company, they’re far less likely to perform well in their role—or on a team. 

4. Lack of motivation

Poor performance can stem from low engagement—but it may have other causes, like mental fatigue, personal stress, or feelings of self-doubt. Getting to the root cause of motivation issues may take time, but it’s an important problem for team leaders to solve. 

5. Poor job fit

When people are in the wrong roles, it makes work harder. The reason why is simple: People work better when they have a job that aligns with their strengths. 

Unfortunately, managers and leaders often don’t have a clear picture of the traits needed for particular roles—and thus job fit. Thankfully, behavioral assessments and other tools can help shed light on which employees are best suited for particular positions.

6. Lack of formal training

When employees struggle to perform tasks or function as part of a team, a lack of training may be at fault. Many college majors don’t provide all the skills graduates need when they enter the workforce. As such, it’s important for companies to invest in and provide comprehensive training for their employees.

High performing team

Fixing poor teamwork to improve performance

Improving productivity of a team is a multi-step process—one that requires patience and perseverance. First, take time to evaluate your team and determine the reasons for its poor performance. Next, ask the team for input on what they need from you to improve and what steps you can take to meet their needs. Throughout this process, take care to listen to each team member, and be open to any feedback they may have.

Together, make a plan that outlines goals and clear steps to reach them. Make sure everyone understands what’s required to achieve those goals—and provide training and other forms of support for both individual employees and the team as a whole. If assessments ultimately reveal that certain team members are struggling because they aren’t in the right roles, don’t be afraid to move team members to different positions or another team where they’d be a better fit.

From there, re-evaluate the team’s performance at set intervals so you can make further adjustments as needed.

Krishna is a Chief Faciliator of Great Outcomes at Narish International.

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