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Barriers to team development

There are times when we know what we should be doing and we know the benefits of actually doing it, but all we can see are barriers that are stopping us from taking action.

Whether it’s a piece of work you don’t like the look of or packing to move house – the barriers are there and need to be explored so you can get on with the task at hand.

I’m often hearing people talk about their barriers to doing team development so thought it would be useful to look into some in more detail.


Lack of time

This is one of the top reasons people don’t get around to doing team development.  There just doesn’t seem to be time to fit it in around the day job.  You’ll also likely have heard the phrase “invest to save”…?!  If you can invest time now in developing your team, you can save time in the future because you’ll be working better together as a team.  You’ll also be glad to know that you don’t have to have a full day out for team development – even a 20 minute conversation can help.  One of my previous blogs talked about “How to make time to develop your team” – get some tips to help you overcome this barrier.


Low or no budget

A barrier that all managers are likely to face at some point in their careers.  Team development can cost thousands of pounds.  But it can also cost nothing.  Developing your team can be as simple as getting to know each other a little better in order to develop a better understanding of each other, or it could be working together to redesign one of your internal processes.

There’s plenty of things on the internet to help you – think about what you want to improve or focus on (e.g. communication, process improvement, trust) and then type it into your favourite search engine to see what comes up.  (e.g. exercises to improve team communication, improving trust in the workplace, getting to know my team etc).  Not sure which one will work?  Pick one and give it a go – doing something is better than nothing.

If you want a little more guidance and have some budget then check out ready made packages that you can deliver yourself.  I’ve created the Imagine If Academy for this very purpose!


Don’t know where to start

I can absolutely see why this is a huge barrier to overcome and when I’ve been in a similar situation I know it can become paralysing and seem to grow as you try and ignore it!  But my tip for this one would be; just do something.  It doesn’t have to be big, it doesn’t have to be fancy, it doesn’t even have to take loads of time.  Here’s three things you could start with;

  1. ask your team what development would be useful as a team – if they come up with a massive list, get them to vote on the top three.
  2. if you can already see something within your team that could benefit from a development session then ask someone for ideas on how you could tackle it – ask someone who you know already does things with their team, ask your social media network, ask Google (see previous barrier), or if you are lucky enough to have a learning and development or organisational development team in your organisation ask them for ideas (I’m sure they’ll appreciate you asking for advice!).
  3. ask your team members if there is a topic they are interested in or something they’ve learnt recently that they could share with the team.  Set aside some time at a team meeting and let them take the floor in whatever way works for them.

If you need more help than this, or help at the next stages then find a specialist who can give you advice or provide packages for you – there may be people inhouse in your company or there’s people like me who provide this as a service – I love coming up with fun new ways for teams to develop together!


Lack of engagement from your team

Getting your team engaged with the idea of team development can pay dividends in getting things started and it’s the key to keeping momentum.  They may have their own barriers in place that you can help them overcome.  For example one person might have experienced some truly cringy activity in the past and now thinks all team development is like that, another person might have been promised team development before and it never happened so they think it’ll be the same again, a third person might not even know what it means.  If you can understand where the lack of engagement is rooted then you can help dispel their barriers – much like I’m trying to do for you now!

So if you think they are not engaged with the idea, talk to them as a team or individually to understand the reasons why – then you can tackle them!  For more tips read my previous blog “How to get your team engaged with team development“.


Scared it might bring problems to the surface

Ok, so this one is a little different to the others.  Will doing team development bring problems to the surface?  Yeah, probably.  Were the problems already there? Definitely.  Were they going to go away if you ignored them?  Not likely.  Will getting them out in the open and resolved help? Yes!

If there are problems brewing within your team then as a manager it is your responsibility to fix them.  Ignoring them certainly won’t help so you need to find them, tackle them and help everybody move forwards.  Sometimes you might even find that what you thought was going to be a massive problem turns out to be quick and easy to solve and instantly makes your team feel better!

Sure, there are times when the problems might not be so easy to tackle, but ignoring them will only make them grow and could be more destructive in the long run.  If you think there could be something you can’t or don’t know how to handle then seek advice from someone experienced so you can be prepared and confident.


No-one to run it

I find some people think you need to be a team development expert to deliver a session with your team.  And sure, sometimes that could help in tricky situations or if you’re doing something specialised or needing accreditation.  But I honestly think that if you’ve been trusted to lead a team then you can do plenty of team development yourself.  If you’ve ever run a meeting or discussion then you’ve already got skills that will help you; holding the room, guiding the agenda/discussion, sticking to time etc.  Hopefully having read some of the barriers above you’re already feeling more able to run some team development yourself.

I’ve also seen teams where there’s a team member who is passionate about learning and would love to take the lead in team development on your behalf – if you have someone like that then find ways to involve them – whether that’s to take turns, share the load or maybe it really is their ultimate passion and should be encouraged!

One of the things I offer alongside my courses on the Imagine If Academy is a coaching session to help managers prepare and plan for delivering their session, or to debrief afterwards.  You might have someone within your organisation who could do this for you (Learning & Development or Organisational Development departments may be able to help you) or you could find a coach or specialist to support you.


So that’s six barriers with tips to overcome them.  I’m sure there are other barriers and worries out there – feel free to comment below and I’ll help where I can!


If you need sessions to deliver to your team, no matter whether it’s a half hour meeting or a 12 month plan – get in touch to talk about how I can help you put together the perfect plan for you, providing the right level of support to you as we go along. Contact imagine if here.





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