How to Avoid an Unpleasant Team Experience

Working in teams is a widespread practice in business today. It’s not uncommon to see the ability to work in teams as part of the job description for a variety of positions in multiple industries. Often, teams are assembled to work on a specific project or event, and disassembled once the project has been completed. Working in a team can fall anywhere in the spectrum of being one of the most rewarding to one of the most frustrating experiences one can have.


After a recent team experience, I learned that there’s a critical factor that contributes to which end of the spectrum the team experience falls: Member Motivation. Simply put, unless all members of the team are unified around the purpose of the project, the process can be a very unpleasant experience.


Before any team project begins, all members of the team need to be on the same page. At the outset, team members must be clear on the meaning, purpose, and what defines the successful completion of the project. Certainly, there can be debate and discussion on how to achieve that end, but if members of the team have hidden agendas that are unrelated to the project, and use the project to pursue that agenda, there will be issues.


In my recent team experience, the members of the team had plenty of enthusiasm for the project; however, during the process it became clear that the project meant different things for different members of the team. Meaning, purpose, and a clear definition of what constitutes success was not established. As a result, during the project process team members would take actions motivated by their personal view of what the project meant. The messages members communicated to potential stakeholders were different, leading to contentious team meetings and struggles to find compromise during the project process.


The event turned out well despite these shortfalls, but the process was far more stressful than it needed to be, and rather than feeling the sense of satisfaction that comes from achievement, there was more a sense of relief that the project was finally over, and the team could now disband.


This has nothing to do with liking or disliking the members of a team. It’s about the experience of working together as a team and making the process of project execution as rewarding as possible. You can personally like all the members of the team, but absent these elements still have an unpleasant team experience.


The team experience is greatly enhanced when the members are clear on:

  • Meaning – The why of the event or project. What are the shared values and beliefs that fuel the project?
  • Purpose – What is the desired end-result for the event or project?
  • Measure of Success – What is the metric to be used to measure the success; was the purpose achieved?


Of course, there is more to working in teams than these 3 elements, but without them, the team experience will be far less rewarding. What do you think are important aspects of a rewarding team experience? Share them; we’d love to know.