The ability to work on a team is a core work skill. Teamwork is critical to solving many of today’s complex problems. Your ability to avoid self-imposed traps that limit teamwork should be carefully considered to become a more successful team player.

Teams work well when a group of people come together to work on a common project or problem in a constructive and efficient manner. This only happens when each team member does his or her part.

When I need some downtime, I often find myself watching nature shows that involve beautiful scenery and wild animals. I am drawn to these shows due to the scenic backdrops more than the plight of the animals. I found myself watching one such show recently where a team of researches went into a large valley in Asia to catch a rare and illusive mountain cat. It was a vast valley where they were able to set only a single trap before nightfall. They admitted their long-shot hopes of success, but gave it a try anyway.

They dissented to their base camp and tuned in their radio receivers that would indicate movement at the trap site. Amazingly enough, the alarm went off in just a couple hours. One group hurriedly got up and began their accent back up the mountain to investigate. To their amazement, they trapped their prey. The show continued in a predictable fashion as they completed their research, attached a tracking collar, and completed their work with its safe release.

The story reminds me how easy it is to step in it. In this case, it was an animal trap. On teams, it may be a plethora of other traps. They can be set by other people who selfishly seek their own agenda or by ourselves when we lower our guard. I want to share my three self-imposed traps that limit teamwork.

  1. Circumstances:  There is no such thing as a perfect circumstance or situation. People are simply not perfect. I often think to myself that if I could ever find the perfect situation, I should avoid it. Since I am not perfect, why would I want to mess it up for others? Avoiding the trap of circumstances require us to focus on the positive aspects of the team and carefully step around or through the negative ones.
  2. Expectations:  Everyone has expectations they hope to realize. Expectations can set for self, others, or the outcome of the group. Some are conscious and others more subconscious. Expectations that focus on the good of others and help the team perform at a higher level are typically good. Avoiding the trap of expectations require us to control self-serving expectations that have negative consequences on the team.
  3. Emotions: When you care about a cause or mission, it is easy to jump in with everything you have including your mind, will, and emotions. This is good, except when you begin operating out of emotion rather than a well-balanced approach. Rising tensions on a team due to disagreement or disharmony is often first seen through emotions. Avoiding the trap of emotions require us to see our emotions as signposts of our hearts and taking early action to recognize what is going on inside us that will limit our influence on the team.

Take the time to identify these traps before you engage in activities with your team. With a little advanced thought and preparation, you should be able to avoid some of the more common or visible traps such as these three.

What are some of your self-imposed traps that limit teamwork?

Writers Note: I have been absent from this blog due to writing training classes, two separate spring breaks, and some personal illness. I appreciate the kind comments I receive from you and look forward to many more interactions as I try to jump back into the grove.

Self-Imposed Traps that Limit Teamwork
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2 thoughts on “Self-Imposed Traps that Limit Teamwork

  • The observation of circumstances, expectations, and emotions impacting teamwork are so true. I am currently involved in a school project. Five people were thrust into a situation without knowing one another with the goal of doing a group project. One individual decided not to participate at all. Another individual turned out to be extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the class project. The rest of us really appreciated the individuals guidance. We are near the end of the project and things blew up. The knowledgeable, passionate one took exception to another persons lack of effort on a section as it jeopardized our class grade. This lead to emails firing back and forth making accusations. Neither individual took the time to assess the situation and both chose the wrong path. As a result, what was a good team project has crumbled into disarray with an uncertain outcome. Circumstances, expectations, and emotions all came to play to limit our teamwork and success.

    1. Such a great illustration of this point. Thanks for sharing it. I wish you the best on your project’s outcome.

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