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While we always want teams to work out and go well, sometimes they just don’t. Fixing a broken team can be a very painful process, but it doesn’t have to be. Let’s not kid ourselves, it isn’t going to be easy, however glossing over problems and a problem team will only make things worse in the long run. These aren’t overnight fixes, but you can start the process of rebuilding with five key steps.

Accept it won’t be easy or painless

This isn’t going to be fun. Not by a long shot. If you’re ready for the pain, well, at least you’re ready for it. When you get the team together to start, tell them too. If a team is really off the rails, if personalities are clashing and work suffering, fixing the problems could bring up unpleasant stuff. It has to happen to fix what’s broken.

Plan enough time and then add more

Chances are if you’re thinking that a team is really broken, this isn’t a “let’s hash this out in an hour” kind of thing. Plan that this might need half the day. Plan that at the end of it people might just need to go home. This isn’t going to be a day wasted, but it could be what the whole day will be. Best day? On a Monday you can start the week off and have a new start on Tuesday.

Or it can trash the whole week.


Could ruin the entire weekend or people the time to internalize the changes the start a new week fresh. Only you can say which might be best for the team.

Set the ground rules

When you get everyone together make it very clear what the meeting is about and why everyone is there. Then set the rules. Like:
– Honesty.
– Take ownership of what you say and also what mistakes you have made.
– Now is the time to speak up.
– This is time clear the air.

These are just some rules to start with, and maybe they won’t all work for your team, but the important thing is to have rules. The goal is dialog, discussion, progress, and fixing things. It might get ugly. There will probably be hurt feelings. Remember this isn’t going to be easy. Rules have to set so discussion can start and solutions can be found.

Make changes

When the meeting is done commit to the changes that are needed—and make them. This is not a time for half-hearted promises or platitudes. Uncover the issues, find the solutions, and make it happen. Many changes can’t happen overnight, but things like moving desks around or even how music is (or isn’t) played in the office can be. And sometimes a few little changes can help achieve much bigger ones.

Accept there will be repercussions.

But there could be fallout. People might leave. There might have to be other things like demotions or whole team moves. It happens. Don’t sugar coat this stuff, it happens and it’s real. We’ve all been on teams, in companies, where the eventual outcome is that one or more people see the writing on the wall and part ways. However, we’ve also seen how new leaders emerge. How the unlikeliest of people step up to greatness. Those are repercussions too…and good ones at that.

Wipe the slate clean—and mean it

When all is said and done, it’s done. Over. To really fix things and move on people need to know that nothing said in that meeting is going to come back to haunt them. Everyone needs to be able to move on.

Even you.

Yes. The scenario painted here is dire. Most of the time, teams having issues aren’t nearly as dire. Maybe people just need to work out why deadlines are missed or just setting better rules for the office kitchen. Regardless of the severity of the issue, these steps will get you on the track to fixing it.

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Inscape Consulting Group
Greg Nichvalodoff, BSc. BM (Honors), MBA, PCC, CMC
Office: 604.943.0800
Mobile: 604.831.4734