determination 2 1200pxIn last week’s blog post I talked about the need for partners to successfully manage and lead their team. However, what happens if you inherit a struggling team? After all, the professions are full of dysfunctional teams and non-team players. In this article, Jon Baker discusses how to fix the struggling team, once and for all.

How to fix the team.

  1. Reflect on anything team members have already told you that they’re unhappy about. In this list is there anything you could/ should have fixed, or (even worse) have already promised to fix? Don’t do anything until you complete promises you’ve already made.
  2. “One To Ones”: Get into a habit of informal “one to one” meetings with team members. Don’t sit at a desk, ideally get out and walk, maybe go next door to the coffee shop, or anything that’s different. Ask, “How do you think we’re doing as a team?”,  “What can we do better?” and one of my favourites “How can I help you to do your job better”. Explain that you’re trying to set a standard for what’s working well, so you can see how you progress.
  3. Share the conclusions with the whole team. Ask them how they’d fix the problem. Those things you can agree to immediately, do so. Reserve the right to consider others, but with a promise to come back to them.
  4. Develop a road-map. Here are things we will do, the processes we’re going to fix and how we’re going to improve things
  5. Make it visual. Put the road-map somewhere in view, update it and refer to it. Even better, get them to update it and ask them how it’s going.


One of the most common problems is that people complain they don’t know what’s going on. Yes, I know you spend ages telling them – but I bet it will be one of the biggest complaints. However the very nature of servicing clients means that fee earners are often out on client business, which means they are not in the office to be communicated to. What this normally means is that they haven’t absorbed all the information, they were not there to absorb the information, they didn’t really read your email, or it didn’t mean anything to them at the time. One simple tactic to help here is to have a weekly 20-minute session with the whole team. Each team member “takes the stage” for a couple of minutes and talk about what they’re working on, new things they’re trying to do (clients, process improvements, staff etc). The reasons this works is because:

  • You’re not doing the talking, they are!
  • It’s repeated regularly, so they get to hear more than once.
  • It is time-limited. It’s not about discussion and fixing things; that can take place out of the meeting. Keep it simple, quick and to the point.
  • It becomes about the whole team, not the leader

The key to improving a struggling team is for the leader to facilitate their improvement, this process allows them to do it. What have you seen work effectively in improving teamwork?  

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