Managing Team Issues

Even if you have an excellent team plan or operational plan and are working to that plan, things will not always run smoothly. There is that old military truism:

‘No battle plan ever survived first contact with the enemy’ - Helmuth von Moltke

There are likely to be unexpected events, problems or issues which must be addressed by a team leader within the limits of their authority. Issues which cannot be rectified or addressed should be referred to your team or crew leader.

Overcoming Obstacles

We have already explored many ways to resolve issues when managing a team, adaptability, contingency planning, effective communication, appropriate assertiveness and more.

You need to ensure that you have the skills and resources for a task but sometimes there are other influences causing an obstacle

You need to work out what you think the problem really is. Is it a symptom of a different problem? How is it affecting the productivity of the team?

Sometimes we think we have solved a problem when we have really only treated a symptom. To fix a problem we need to remove its cause. Do not jump to conclusions. Study the problem, separate it from its symptoms and gather facts, ideas and opinions that may help in your analysis. If the problem is complex, you may need to break it down into parts and solve each part of the problem separately.

Ask questions and get ‘all sides’ before you decide what needs to be addressed.


Sometimes the problem may be within the team itself and usually comes down to personalities and the way people are working with each other. If the issue stems from team morale or attitudes within the team, try to question team members’ responses further to re-direct the thinking behind the attitude. Turn negative reactions into positive opportunities, for example:

Negative reaction

Positive opportunity

We don’t do it that way

What would happen if we did?

We can’t do that

How can we find ways for it to happen?

We've tried that already

What happened?

This is the only way

Yes, that's an option. What else could we consider?

It will never work

What would it take to make it work?

I won't...

What would make you willing?

It’s a bad idea

What would make it better?

They are useless

What are they doing that is acceptable?

It's impossible

What do we need to make it possible?

I can't          

Is there a way that you would feel you can?

I don't want to

What would you like?

Resolving Issues

You don’t always have to resolve the problem on your own. Your largest resource is the team itself. Get others involved and think outside the box and together consider the options.

Use the following steps to reach a solution:

What Caused the Problem?

Once you have broken down the problem and identified the cause, you can consider your options to a solution. If you can't solve the problem by removing its cause, you will have to work out how to minimise the problem and live with it.

What Do You Want Your Solution to Achieve?

What position do you want to be in after you have taken action? How will you know if your action is working? If the problem is very complex or important, you may think of musts and wants. What must the solution do for you and what would you like it to do for you?

What Are the Options?

Do not decide on the first option that occurs to you and do not stop when you have thought of one or two ideas. Come up with several solutions. Your chances of success will increase if you have a number of alternatives to choose from.

Which Solution Would Work Best?

Look back at your options and then decide which one will best achieve your objectives. How practical is each option? How likely is each to work? What does each one cost? Do the benefits outweigh the costs? Which option fits best with accepted procedures and overall goals? Would it cause alarm? Does it seem feasible?

Do it!

Implement your solution or decision. You may need to plan the tasks required first and then the order in which you will tackle them. Brief anyone who will be involved in the work or affected by it. Team leaders are also usually required to complete specific report forms such as incident reports.


How is the decision or solution working? If it is working, what can you do to keep it working? Perhaps there are some improvements you can add to make it work even better.