A business succeeds when its leadership works as a team. However, when office politics, varying agendas, unclear goals and bad behaviors go unaddressed, the business will inevitably stagnate or decline in the results it achieves because of the unproductive environment. By recognizing and addressing five common conditions found in dysfunctional teams, identified by Patrick Lenconi in “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” you can attend to these issues and lead your organization to realize successful and formerly unattainable achievements.
So, what are signs to look for in your team’s dynamics? How strongly held are the following beliefs in your team? (3=Usually; 2=Sometimes; 1=Rarely)
Here is what we learn from Lenconi’s fable about dysfunctional teams:
As “soft” as this might sound, it’s only when team members are truly comfortable being exposed to one another that they begin to act without concern for protecting themselves. As a result, they can focus their energy and attention completely on the job at hand, rather than on being strategically disingenuous or political with one another.
But teams that engage in productive conflict know that the underlying purpose of pushing differing points of view is to produce the best possible solution in the shortest period of time. They discuss and resolve issues more quickly and completely than others, and they emerge from heated debates with no residual feelings or collateral damage, but with an eagerness and readiness to take on the next important issue.
Great teams also pride themselves on being able to unite behind decisions and commit to clear courses of action even when there is little assurance about whether the decision is correct. They understand the old military axiom, that clear decisive action is infinitely better than no decision at all. They also realize that it is better to make a decision boldly and be wrong, and then change direction with equal boldness than it is to waffle or postpone indefinitely. Contrast this with the behavior of dysfunctional teams that try to hedge their bets and delay important decisions until they have enough data to feel certain that they are making the right decision. The paralysis and lack of confidence it breeds is counterproductive and inherently damaging to the culture of the team and larger organization.
As counter-intuitive as it sounds, the most effective and efficient means of maintaining high standards of performance on a team is peer pressure…not bullying. More than any bureaucratic performance management system, there is nothing like the fear of letting down respected teammates that motivates people to improve their performance.
For members of some teams, merely being part of the group is enough to keep them satisfied. For them, the achievement of specific results might be desirable, but not necessarily worthy of great sacrifice or inconvenience. For other people, their focus is on enhancing their own positions or career prospects even at the expense of their team. While self-preservations is an innate tendency for most human beings, a functional team must make the collective results of the group more important to each individual than individual members’ goals.
Lenconi reminds us that “teams succeed because they are exceedingly human. By acknowledging the imperfections of their humanity, members of functional teams overcome the natural tendencies that make trust, conflict, commitment, accountability and a focus on results so elusive.”
By: Megan Davis Lightman, founder of Davis Consulting Group