3 typical team development ‘Yeah, but’ challenges and how to respond to them

3 typical team development yeah but challenges and how to respond to them TalentGrow blog by Halelly Azulay

During a recent delivery of one of my popular client workshops, Team Power, about how to develop high performing teams, we discussed seven common team development stages (I am partial to using the Drexler/Sibbert model). We also identified structural supports that help teams function optimally, reviewed the importance of trust in teams and ways to build it, discussed important team communication dynamics, and practiced applying this team development knowledge in a simulated team work situation, culminating with each learner creating an action plan for applying team dynamic best practices within their own team.

As usual, the learners were highly engaged and interested.

Also as usual, they still had some challenges they were grappling with, which came out in the form of what I call “’Yeah, but’s”.

What are “yeah, but’s”?

A ‘yeah, but’ is when you provide a new idea or suggest a way of making a change, and someone responds with some statement that begins with the words, “Yeah, but…”

They’re objections, challenges, and obstacles. They represent reasons to resist the suggested change and ‘devil’s advocate’ counter-arguments for suggested ideas.

Early in my talent development and training career I felt intimidated or flustered by the yeah buts – I felt they were challenging me, personally. But I’ve learned over the years that it’s a totally natural and normal human reaction to new information or unfamiliar ways of thinking. We come up with devil’s advocate reasons why something won’t work or try to poke skeptical holes in a theory or concept because it helps us ensure it fits and helps us process our learning.

That’s why I now try to bring out and respond to all the yeah buts during my workshops rather than avoid them or brush them under the proverbial rug. And in this article, I thought I’d share three of the recent yeah buts in this team development workshop (in no particular order) and how I responded, in case it helps you with your own team development yeah buts. As always, I’d love to read your reactions, ideas, and input in the comments below!

“Yeah, but what if I’m not the team leader? How can I apply these team development ideas to the team when I’m just one of the team members?”

Change is never easy, even if you are the team leader. But it is certainly even more challenging to initiate change when you’re not at the helm. Still, there is a way to do it.

You can educate. You can advocate. And you can volunteer.

  • Educate: your team leader and team mates may not have had a chance to learn about best practices or new developments and ideas for building better teams. And if you just participated in a workshop, read a book, watched a YouTube video, or listened to a podcast that gave you great new ideas, you can share those new insights with your colleagues and educate them. There’s a good chance that they’ll be equally inspired to try them out once they learn about them from you.
  • Advocate: Related to educate, advocating means that you take a point of view and try to convince others to agree with you. It’s a step beyond educating, which consists merely of sharing information. You’re suggesting that there’s a better way, and trying to influence others to make a change.
  • Volunteer: One step further than both educate and advocate, volunteering means that you offer to take on a specific (and hopefully significant) role in making the change for which you’re advocating. Instead of just critiquing from the sidelines, you can step up and offer your help in acting to make an improvement. Your team leader will appreciate your initiative and your help in implementing the change, which might be what held them back from agreeing or taking the first step toward this step in the first place – they had too much on their plate and it was more than they could handle. You can take a load off their back and help ensure that the change is implemented.

“Yeah, but what should I do if the team I’m on is broken – it’s really dysfunctional?”

That certainly poses a bigger obstacle to make a positive change. Sometimes you just have to focus on small changes that can create a positive momentum in the right direction. They often create a virtuous cycle of positive, incremental change, like ripples in a pond created by a single small pebble tossed into it.

My biggest suggestion is trying to communicate with your team mates about your vision and figuring out what baby-steps you can take in the right direction. And then, take action and track progress, celebrating even the smallest of improvements and effort along the way. When your team is dysfunctional you have nothing to lose and everything to gain from even small improvements.

“Yeah, trust is important and all, but what if on our team we don’t have time to devote to building trust among the team members?"

"We have to move really fast and have pressing deadlines and objectives to accomplish. Isn’t this idea too utopian for real teams?”

Very simply: no, it’s not.

Trust is the glue of relationships and teams. Without trust, your team will fall into dysfunction sooner than later. Especially if you’re moving very fast. I suggest you slow down just a little bit to tend to trust-building and it will yield major dividends in speed and agility down the road.

In addition, building trust doesn’t have to be something that takes up a lot of time. It just needs intentional, deliberate, mindful attention. For example, people often trust each other more when they feel like they share things in common. How will your team members know if they have anything in common? Just encourage incremental, small conversations that allow them to discover commonalities. For example, start every team meeting with a ‘Take 5’ activity – for the first five minutes, everyone responds to a question like, “what’s got you most excited today/this week?” or “what was something fun or happy that you did last weekend?”. There are a million other small ways to let people see glimpses into each other’s lives and passions that can breed similarities. Kind of like the ‘Me too! Moments’ I’ve written about previously. The more you understand about the neuroscience behind trust (definitely listen to THE expert on it, Dr. Paul Zak, on episode 56 of the TalentGrow Show podcast), the more you’ll see that trust-building is something you can continuously pursue without it slowing you down.

Your turn

What do you think – did I do a sufficient job addressing these yeah buts? Do you have any other ones or additional ways to react to them? Chime in below in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts!


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