Overwhelmed with
team problems

#60, Jun 6, 2024

Once upon a time, in a tech org not far away, there was a leader…

A manager was feeling overwhelmed. He was part of a startup leadership team and was participating in a team coaching session together with his fellow managers and the CEO.

He was staring at the whiteboard.
He was looking at the section titled “Topics to follow up.”
He was looking at the 7 items below the title.

“Wow ☹️ So many problems! Where should we start?” – he asked the team coaches with despair…

Hi 🙂 Hari here.

/* I’m writing this on a Thursday morning, after a very hectic few weeks.
We’re having a training with tech leaders on how to become a Trusted Advisor in 2 hours. And then I’m off to fly outside of Bulgaria for the first time in 5 years. */

Today’s tale is focused on what to do when you have too many team issues.

Strong teams know their issues

Today’s tale happened 5 years ago.

We were coaching the managers of a startup on how to be strong as a leadership team. They were laying the foundation for scaling the company and wanted to be as aligned as possible.

Part of our team development coaching process is to share our observations.
To act like a mirror and share the strengths and the dysfunctions of the team. We also facilitate people to share openly what they see as their top problems.

I usually illustrate the drawing above during our Deep Dive sessions.
I joke that we, as coaches, are the character who pushes the other one from the rock. The flying character is the team. And the sharks below are the top 3 problems they see.

We typically hear 10+ problems people see.
We write only 3 problems on the whiteboard.
We focus on solving 1.

I can’t share you the picture of the whiteboard this startup had.
But let me show you a snapshot of a team scan we did with another team.

Strong teams work on their top 1 issue

This yellow-orange picture could be overwhelming.

The TReE Team Scan tool we developed after working with 300+ teams in tech does an amazing job to quickly reveal both the big picture of your team and in-depth details.

But seeing this could be too much for some teams and for some managers.

In this scan, you see a lot of orange. We use an extended traffic-light system to indicate the team’s health: green is great, yellow is acceptable, orange is needs improvement, and red is immediate attention.

I’ve seen a lot of green scans.
And I’ve seen a few orange scans like this.
In this case, we worked with the team, so I have more insights about the dynamics under the hood.

But the point is that seeing this big picture could stress people.

Similar to the startup leadership team situation, this team faced a lot of issues.

To manage the feeling that you’re under water and you can’t breathe, you should focus only on your top problem.

Using our findings and the model for high-performing teams we developed, you should start from the “roots” of your team – the Trust. It includes communication, conflicts and belonging.

In the case of the orange team above, the biggest issue was that discussions in this team were not healthy at all. Team debates turned into ugly conflicts.

/* If you have bad team discussions – check out the previous tale on how to turn bad team conflicts into great team debates */

Solving 1 issue as a team will resolve other issues as well

So, what happens when team their top problem?

You see, problems are interconnected.
When you solve your top 1 problem.
It will automatically resolve a few others.

Moreover, just openly talking about some minor issues will resolve the issues.

/* Check out the previous tale on how to help people on your team to speak up */

This happens in our Deep Dive discussions.
This happens after using the team scan tool.
This will happen if you talk about the tough issues openly on your team.

Don’t try to solve all issues.
Solve only 1.

How to handle too many team issues
(the checklist)

  1. Visualize all problems openly to see the big picture and make it psychologically safe to talk about tough issues.
  2. Choose your top 3 problems to manage the overwhelming feeling you get when you have too many problems.
  3. Work on your top 1 problem as a team for a few months to resolve a pain point and see the big list shrinking.
  4. Breathe.


Solving your biggest problem as a team could be a big challenge.
Instead, you could solve something quickly as a leader.

If you’ve seen the first season of Ted Lasso, the practice of immediately resolving a team problem (the water pressure of showers in the series), could open up people on being collaborative on solving bigger issues.

… and the team lived happily ever after.

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