Killing High-Performance Teams, Part One (AKA the clarity problem)

Bad teamingIf you or your team struggle with stress, you have a clarity problem.

If you or your team struggle with conflict, you have a clarity problem.

If you or your team struggle with broken processes, you have a clarity problem.

If you or your team struggle with consistent underperformance, you have a clarity problem.

Why do I say these things are all clarity problems? Let me explain it this way.

Suppose your team has a stress problem. If you paused long enough to analyze the situation, you’ll probably find the cause of that stress to be that things aren’t going the way they are supposed to go. The flow – dare I say process – that your team is relying on to get stuff done is most likely broken. In fact, if that flow/process could get on track, the stress would likely go away.

BUT before you put your energy into fixing that process (or worse, forcing everyone to follow it dogmatically), pause and think a bit more. Are all of the roles that drive the flow/process working as they are supposed to? Are people clear on what they are responsible for? And more importantly, can everyone on the team accurately recite what everyone else’s roles are? Do people know who has veto authority and the boundaries of that authority? Because if people aren’t clear on what their role is – AND what their team mates’ roles are – not a single process will work as planned. There will be no handoffs, no teaming, no support, and ultimately no accountability to execute the process.

ClarityBUT before you put your energy into driving role clarity for everyone, pause and think a bit more. Are the goals that this team is pursuing clear? Are they aligned? Are they even the right goals? (Side thought: don’t tell me that your goal is to hit a number. Ever. That is not a goal. That is just a metric for your goal. Period.) Because if your team does not have goal clarity – the kind that drives real alignment in roles and processes – the resulting stress is not only understandable but to be expected.

And here’s the rub.


I see people pursuing the wrong goals and stressed out of their minds. I see people pursuing competing goals (and don’t even get me started on the impact of personal agendas) while consistently underperforming in unfathomable ways. I see broken processes and broken relationships – and if we can pause long enough to think about “why” – we find that a lack of clarity around goals and roles lie at the heart of pretty much all of it. Noel Tichy goes as far as saying 96% of all of this junk is created by unclear goals and unclear roles.

GrowthSo, certainly, there will be outliers that exist. But that’s irrelevant. Hypothetical what-ifs are less valuable to you than taking a hard look at the goals and roles that everyone needs to make success happen. My belief is that if you focus on clarity at this level, the stress/conflict/underperformance/etc. will go away. It will literally evaporate. Processes magically start working – and even improve. Relationships and communication breakdowns clean up. Personality wars become minimized. And you can then focus on the things that everyone truly want – high performance teaming and healthy growth.

Mirror moment: 

  1. When you look at your situation, where is the biggest root cause of malfunction? Broken processes, unclear roles, or unclear goals?
  2. If you could create massive clarity around goals (to drive alignment) and roles (to drive accountability), how much of the stress/conflict/underperformance/garbage would go away?
  3. What does this tell you?

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

Published by timohai

Father, widower, leader, sales enablement pro

4 thoughts on “Killing High-Performance Teams, Part One (AKA the clarity problem)

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