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Unlocking Successful Team Collaboration: Avoiding Eight Common Leadership Mistakes

Effective team collaboration is essential for long-term organizational success in today’s rapidly changing world. It is the team leader's responsibility to foster a collaborative environment in order to harness the collective intelligence within teams.

Unfortunately, team leaders across a wide range of experience and roles often make cultural and working norm team leadership mistakes. These mistakes directly hinder collaboration and impede productive discussions which all teams must have in order to achieve their missions.

This blog presents the eight familiar team leadership mistakes that are proven to reduce team collaboration. Recommendations on how to avoid or overcome each error are offered. The blog concludes with a self-assessment to see how well you, as the team leader, create a collaborative team culture.

Lack of Clear Communication and Expectations

One of the most significant mistakes a team leader can make is failing to establish clear communication channels and expectations. Unclear instructions, ambiguous goals, and insufficient feedback can lead to confusion and frustration among team members, ultimately hampering collaboration. Team leaders should articulate their expectations, provide regular updates, and encourage open communication while inviting team members' feedback and concerns.


Micromanagement is a leadership mistake demonstrating a lack of trust between the team leader and each team member. It demotivates team members and stifles collaboration.

Constantly monitoring and controlling every aspect of your team's work reduces their feeling of being empowered. Further, team members are prevented from taking ownership and self-accountability to accomplish their tasks.

Team leaders who want to stop micromanaging realize it is their responsibility to provide better guidance and ensure that the skill set required to accomplish a clear goal sits within the team. One way to avoid micromanaging is short drop-in sessions with the group, designed to listen, advise and coach the team, (not to tell the team how to do their jobs). Transition from watching every move, empowering team members to make decisions while contributing their unique perspectives during team discussion to foster more collaboration and innovation.

Lack of Trust and Psychological Safety

Trust is the bedrock of effective collaboration within a team. Let me repeat this, given its massive importance: Trust is the bedrock of effective teamwork and positive team dynamics within any group. Patrick Lencioni and the team development program by Wiley called the Five Behaviors of Cohesive Teams describe trust as vulnerability-based. Not "trust" that you will do what you say. But, "trust" that a team member can ask for help, say they made a mistake, or request more clarification without judgment or retribution.

Many team members hesitate to share their ideas, express concerns, or take risks due to lack of trust. In order to build trust, team leaders are responsible for demonstrating integrity, and honoring their commitments to the team, and vice versa. Most importantly, creating a psychologically safe environment encourages open dialogue where team members feel comfortable speaking up, debating issues, or disagreeing with ideas. A positive team culture values diverse opinions, suggestions, and counter viewpoints.

Inadequate Recognition and Rewards

Failure to acknowledge and appreciate team members' contributions diminishes their motivation, ultimately hindering collaboration. Low passion and engagement lead to silence, quiet disengagement, and lack of caring about accomplishing team goals.

Recognizing, appreciating, and rewarding individual and collective achievements boosts morale, encourages a sense of belonging, and fosters a collaborative spirit. A reward can be as simple as showing appreciation by simply saying thank you. (find a link to an article on preference). Most effective tips are emotive, aligned to a team member's values rather than monetary rewards.

Influential team leaders make it a habit to acknowledge and celebrate successes, big and small. They provide positive, constructive feedback and coaching in the moment. They also ensure that they have created opportunities for skill growth and personal development.

Ignoring Conflict Resolution

Conflict is inevitable within any team. However, avoiding or mishandling disputes has a detrimental impact on collaboration. Not addressing a match or a toxic workmate are examples of uncaring leadership. Highly effective leaders have difficult conversations which address conflicts promptly and constructively.

Conflicts can be reduced and healing can occur by actively listening to conflicting viewpoints and facilitating discussions to find mutually agreeable solutions. A crucial aspect of conflict resolution involves utilizing Wiley's Everything DISC personality assessments to highlight the diverse communication styles of team members. By demonstrating communication approaches that better align with each team member's unique interaction preferences, team members will learn to resolve and diminish conflicts in the future.

When vulnerability-based trust is at the heart of a team’s culture, leaders can promote healthy, constructive conflict resolution, which turns disagreements into opportunities for growth to enhance team collaboration.

Neglecting Team Culture Development Activities

Team building activities are not mere frivolities; they play a vital role in strengthening team relationships, improving communication, and fostering a positive team culture of collaboration.

Unfortunately, many leaders overlook the importance of team building and solely focus on task completion because they don’t understand that human connections are powerful and integral in successfully building trust and safety between team members.

Leaders Investing in team development and culture create cohesive and collaborative units. Effective team leaders integrate both formal and informal team development programs, exercises, and simulations into their team's routine. These include team lunches, well-facilitated collaborative problem-solving sessions and formal team development trainings.

Lack of Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion are crucial for team collaboration, as they bring together different perspectives and ideas. Leaders who don’t value or are overlooking or fail to create a diverse and inclusive environment can limit collaboration and stifle innovation.

Embracing diversity in all its forms, including gender, race, age, and background, fosters an inclusive culture where every team member feels valued and heard. Encouragement of diverse viewpoints promotes creativity, innovation, and respect between all team members.

Neglecting Job Performance Skills Development

Leaders assume that team members will effectively learn the skills to success within the team just by being on the job. This assumes that team members are expected to be effective at teaching, training and supporting newly hired team members while continuing to perform their own day-to-day tasks. When leaders neglect investing the time and resources in professional development of their team members based on their work roles and requirements, they create a team environment with skill gaps and frustrations between team members, contributing to reduced motivation for innovative, effective collaboration.

The quickest way to know how well you are avoiding these mistakes is to do a quick self-assessment using the table below. Score yourself on a scale of 1-3, with "1" being "you never make this mistake" to "3" being "you are currently making this mistake". Just like in golf, the lower your score the better.

The Eight Big Mistakes Leaders Make That Hurt Team Collaboration Self Assessment

Score Yourself

1 = No

2 = Maybe

3 = Yes

​The Eight Big Mistakes Leaders Make That Hurt Team Collaboration

Score Yourself

There is a lack of clear communication and performance expectations

There is a micromanagement of the team

There is a lack of trust and psychological safety within my team

There is an inadequate amount of recognition and rewards as part of team culture

There are unresolved conflict issues within the team

There is a neglect of investment in team culture development

There is a lack of diversity and inclusion withnin the team

There is lack of job performance skills development

Total Score

10 or less – Excellent

11 to 16 – Good

16 or more -- Room for Improvement

For Further reading:

Kern and Partners is committed to supporting the development of positive, productive, and innovative leaders. Our development programs and consulting services are designed to help managers and leaders tap into the natural strengths of their employees to build stronger, more engaged teams. We look forward to hearing from you. Please call me at 818-264-8480 or click here to schedule a call.


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