3 obtacles blocking high performing teams

High performing teams require a purpose they believe in, clear goals, and authority to implement the work assigned.

Since before I can remember, the idea that we have to chase people down to get them to do the right thing has been ingrained into the fabric of our organizations.

1) Obstacle:  How we see our teams

First, many of us see our work in terms of herding cats.  Sadly, this is a reality for most of us. I recently attended a conference where a speaker taught how to become more efficient in this reality.  The training may have been valuable to many, but I have spending my time for many years helping people find a better way.

Imagine what could happen if we spent our efforts transforming rather than simply coping.

Retire the old paradigm

The transformation we need is not as difficult as we think, but it will take work.  We begin by freeing our people to use their skills and giftings to develop and implement solutions.   Trust.  We can’t do that if we continue to look at them as extensions of ourselves.

I believe that the way we see our teams effects how we lead our teams.   And how we lead our teams impacts their performance.

Who’s responsiblity is it?

As a servant leader we should be looking to remove obstacles, not become one. When we have a strong feeling that someone should be doing something; that person is usually us.  Avoid the temptation to become a victim.  Stay active in making change.  Invite others to come with you.

2 ) Obstacle: Authority alone

Second, those that practice using their title to achieve results needlessly add risk to their organizations. Authority alone is not enough to achieve the long-term results we crave. Authority alone . . . it doesn’t scale.  It can,  however lead to increased suspicion among employees and even coercive practices.

Increased Suspicion

Employees are suspicious of leaders today because they see us intervene at the slightest hint of a problem. Some even some swoop in and take over in what I’ve been told is called a seagull attack! This is where the leader flies in and back out leaving the team in a worse condition. The sad thing is that their intention was to help.


Worse, some managers coerce others to get things done their way.  Make no mistake.  Under the leader who is looking to grow their kingdom through the accumulation of power, we will pay for our deviations; one way or another.

Good News:  The environment is changing

It is no surprise that those who choose to micro-manage in the face of the tidal wave of change have become increasingly ineffective. Those that have read “Team of Teams” understand that even the military has given up on this approach.

In my experience, I’ve seen that when we begin to see our people differently, expecting that they will follow, many are ready. They are just waiting for the right leader.

3) Obstacle:  Employee disengagement 

Last, we need to find new ways to engage employees.  David Marquet, in his book Turn the Ship Around tells us that as a result of disengagement, “Gallup estimates that within the U.S. workforce, this cost is more than $300 billion in lost productivity alone.”

Are you ready to become part of the solution?

It begins with a decision.

Decide what kind of leader you want to be and where you are today.   The difference between the two is your leadership gap.  Your first step is to make the decision to close it.

Take Action

Identify your Why.   Simon Sinek has a great book on this topic.   Whatever your why is, be sure it is big enough to help power you through the hard times.

Closing your gap will require changing behavior.  This won’t happen by itself and without effort.    I was motivated to change because I realized I couldn’t become an exemplary leader without it.


Get unstuck. Here are a few specific suggestions:

    1. What got you here won’t get you there by Marshall Goldsmith is one of the best I’ve read that has helped me.
    2. Explore your emotional Intelligence and become more self-aware.
    3. Learn your strengths, listen to podcasts and find a mentor or advisor that can coach you.


Let me tell you a story . . . ..

When I was in grade school, I remember during recess we picked teams to play a sport.   There would be two captains, and all the kids would line up waiting to be picked.

Pick me. Pick me! Pick ME!

For a long time I was one of those kids.

I’ve since discovered that leading doesn’t work like that.  The time of waiting to be picked is over.   It is time for you to begin picking yourself.

Look for ways to  Amplify your leadership and resist the temptation to give up on authenticity.

If you commit to leading yourself, you can earn the right to lead others.   Our teams are counting on us!


Overcoming these obstacles is within our control.   I invite you to help me work towards changing the environments wherever you have influence.  As you achieve some success, extend the invitation to others.

While we begin with followers, our goal as shepherd leaders is to raise the leadership quotient in our people. Over time we will raise up others more prepared to lead in the new environment we are creating.   An environment based on respect, trust, and commitment to service.

Shepherding:  the art of becoming the leader others want to follow.