BOOK REVIEW: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Have you wondered why is it so hard to build and maintain a great team? We deal with this a lot as part of our leadership programs and I found the framework of Patrick Lencioni very simple and effective. Given that teams are inherently dysfunctional, below are the 5 dysfunctions to watch our for any team leader and practical practical steps how to address them.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni

DYSFUNCTION #1 – ABSENCE OF TRUST

The first step towards trust is a team leader who is vulnerable and admits their own mistakes and weaknesses.

As most people know, trust and respect are the foundation of any relationship. But they’re also the basis of great teamwork. Why? For a team to perform well, members must trust one another. When this is the case, they will communicate in a healthy, open way even when discussing tough or touchy topics. This allows them to find the best solutions quickly. Without trust, important issues may be avoided and left undebated, which results in poor decisions. Put simply, team members need to willingly make themselves vulnerable to one another. This is not easy to do, as in today’s cut-throat world people learn to be competitive and protective of their own interests.But for trust to be built, everyone must see that there is no reason to be protective or careful in the team. This means team members must make a deliberate effort to quash their basic caution, and instead share their vulnerabilities and mistakes openly. This way everyone will quickly be able to see that their peers’ intentions toward them are good, and trust will develop.

At ATAIRU we like to use Talent Dynamics tool as a good way to start teams thinking about everyone’s strengths and weaknesses and also seeing where everyone can contribute the most value with greatest ease.

DYSFUNCTION #2 – FEAR OF CONFLICT

If people trust each other, they engage in constructive conflicts and make better decisions.

Most people think of conflict as an inherently negative thing, but constructive conflict is in fact important for any team to make the best possible decisions.This is because decision making benefits from having varied, often clashing perspectives. Open and free debate on the merits and faults of every idea results in a better outcome. So, in this sense, some conflict is beneficial, but it must be constructive in nature – meaning everyone should be focused on the topic at hand, rather than on their own agenda or intra-team politics. If a team lacks trust, this often means that they will want to avoid any and all conflict, so they shy away from discussing controversial topics. They hold back their opinions and honest concerns, preferring not to challenge one another, because they are trying to uphold some kind of pseudo-harmony within the team.

For example, when Kathryn first arrived at DecisionTech, she found that there was hardly any debate in the leadership team’s meetings. This is because they did not trust each other enough to discuss difficult yet vital topics.So if constructive conflict is crucial for making the best decisions, and trust is crucial for conflict, it becomes clear that a team must build trust if they’re to find the best possible solutions to any challenges.

Building trust enables conflict, because team members who trust each other will be comfortable even when engaging in a passionate and emotional debate over a tricky issue, because they know that nothing they say will be interpreted as destructive.

DYSFUNCTION #3 – LACK OF COMMITMENT

Everybody has to be committed to a decision, even if there is no consensus or certainty about its correctness.

Most people have, at some point in their lives, been unfortunate enough to sit in a meeting where decisions have been made, only for people to keep second-guessing the decisions so that nothing actually gets done.

One of the key traits of great teams is that they are able to make decisions and then stand by them. This is because they know that any decision is better than no decision at all, especially when it comes to important ones. They commit to the decisions they make, because they know that lack of commitment creates ambiguity. In the leadership team of a company, this results in misaligned goals and priorities, and these misalignments become even more extreme as they trickle down to employee level. In a great team, decisions are made so that everyone can buy into them. How can this be achieved?It is very difficult to find consensus in any team setting, as different perspectives and opinions will always prevail. Forcing a consensus in such a setting would mean finding a solution that pleases everyone, and this is rarely productive. Instead, great teams understand consensus to mean that everyone is committed and understands the greater goal, even if the decision made is not the one they voiced. To get there, great teams ensure everyone has a chance to express their opinion. This lets everyone feel that they have been heard, and often this is already enough. Most reasonable people do not insist on their opinion always prevailing, but are satisfied when their input has been considered and addressed. When everyone’s ideas are given genuine thought, the team is then more willing to rally around team decisions. This is why in great teams you’ll often find people committing fully to the group’s decisions, even if they had argued passionately against that very decision earlier.

DYSFUNCTION #4 – AVOIDANCE OF ACCOUNTABILITY

Great teams have peer-to-peer accountability, meaning everyone’s performance is transparent.

One of the most uncomfortable moments imaginable in any team occurs when you have to point out to a peer that he or she is performing below expectations or behaving inappropriately. This is awkward because most people feel like they are sticking their nose into someone else’s business, or artificially elevating themselves above their supposed peer.Unfortunately, if team members do not call each other out in such cases, it will make everyone feel less accountable, which in turn results in missed deadlines, mediocre results and poor team performance. The team leader is then burdened with being the sole source of discipline in the team, as there is no peer-to-peer accountability. In some teams, when members have developed good rapport, they are then reluctant to hold one another accountable, because they fear their valuable personal relationships will be jeopardized. Ironically, this reluctance can and will damage those personal relationships, because the team members will begin to resent each other for not living up to expectations and for slipping from the team’s performance standards. However, members of great teams do hold one another accountable and this actually improves their relationships, because they develop respect for each other for adhering to the same high standards. When there is trust in a team, the members who are pushed to perform better will understand that it is being done for the common good, and not take it personally. At the end of the day, peer pressure is by far the most efficient and effective means of maintaining high standards of performance. Individuals who fear letting down teammates they respect will naturally feel pressure to work hard and improve their performance. This is why peer-to-peer accountability is a key component in enhancing team performance

DYSFUNCTION #5 – INATTENTION TO RESULTS

Great teams spend a lot of time together, which results in them saving a lot of time.

Much as a rowing boat will go nowhere if every oarsman rows in a different direction, a team will go nowhere if they don’t agree on where they are going. So what can be done to resolve such ambiguity or indecision?

The key is for teams to meet regularly, as there are multiple benefits to this. Firstly, it helps members develop good rapport and trust, which already helps them resolve any issues quickly and effectively. Secondly, conflicts are easier to resolve face-to-face, and it is far easier to gather arguments and counterarguments from all team members in real time when they are all situated in the same space. Thirdly, in face-to-face meetings, team members have better insight into what each of them is doing and how their skills might be leveraged in other areas as well, so there is less risk of redundant work. When a team has developed good rapport, they are better positioned to work in sync. For example, overlapping work is avoided when each team member sees what the others are up to. Also, resources are allocated smartly, because team members immediately see where their skills and knowledge could be used to help each other. So in conclusion, regular meetings and touch points help great teams be coordinated and efficient, and this saves a lot of time, even if much time needs to be invested at first.

Datum konani 10.7.2018

Radka Dohnalová

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