If you want your team to perform at the top of their game then a must-read for any business owner or leader is Patrick Lencioni’s 5 Dysfunctions of a Team.
So, if any of the following statements below sound familiar then you’ll do well sitting down for 5 minutes to read this quick overview of the main points of the book.
- My team aren’t operating like a team should
- People are talking behind one another’s backs
- Everyone (including me) aren’t really saying what they actually want to say
- Why isn’t everyone on board with what we’re trying to do?
- Why is it always me who has to deal with team issues? Can’t they sort it out themselves?
If any of the above resonates with you then read on because for a team to become effective it must overcome these 5 Dysfunctions:
ABSENCE OF TRUST
Members of effective teams trust each other at an emotional level and are comfortable sharing fears, weaknesses and behaviours.
The foundation of teamwork is all about vulnerability-based trust.
Great team members will say things like “I don’t know the answer”, “I need help”, “I think I messed this up”, “You are better at this than I am, can you teach me?” or “I’m sorry”. When we can be that open on a team, it massively changes the dynamics of how the team works.
If you’re not convinced by this, try looking at it from the other way. Have you ever been on a team where a team member (and I include the leader of the team in this) won’t demonstrate any vulnerability? – they know it all, they don’t acknowledge their weaknesses, they never ask for help, they never accept responsibility for stuff when it goes wrong? Pretty horrible isn’t it…and totally unproductive!
The very best way of encouraging trust at this level is for the leader to demonstrate his or her vulnerability, thereby giving permission for others to reciprocate. But what about those people who say “don’t let them see you sweat?” Well, the truth is, you can’t really hide it. They know you’re sweating before you do! And so the best leaders are the ones who are honest about their faults. They’re human! They know who they are and they are comfortable in their own skin. That’s what breeds trust in an individual…and in a team.
FEAR OF CONFLICT
With trust team members can argue passionately and disagree, question and challenge each other for the good of the organisation.
To engage in productive conflict requires trust, otherwise it becomes about politics and manipulation. It gets messy very quickly and ultimately leads to the team imploding. Because we trust each other, conflict becomes about getting to the truth of the matter or the best possible solution as we engage in passionate debate around issues.
So it’s important to know that people on your team are not holding back. That they’re not calculating the cost of disagreeing. If there’s something important to say, it gets said. Think of a strong marriage in a family context. You don’t hold back in disagreeing with your spouse if you genuinely believe that there is a better way forward do you? You both know that your views are ultimately coming from a good place and that at the heart of it, you trust each other and there’s no point-scoring at play.
But businesses tend not to create the environment for healthy, open conflict. Why? For fear of upsetting people! And what happens then? People start to engage in private, more discreet and destructive conflict. When we think we are preserving a relationship by not disagreeing we are actually dooming that relationship to failure in a hurtful way later.
Jack Welch, hailed as CEO of The Century, created a culture where candor was one of the key values in his company GE. It’s one of the things he claims helped GE become one of the most successful companies in the world. There’s no point in saying one thing and thinking another. Say it with positive intent and from a position of trust and get to the better outcome and move on. We owe it to each other to disagree.
LACK OF COMMITMENT
Teams that handle conflict well find it easier to get buy-in even when there was initial disagreement. Team members are confident that every option has been explored.
When people don’t weigh in on a subject….they don’t buy in to the decision! As a leader of people it’s important to encourage people to express their opinion because the more they contribute to the discussion and feel they’ve shaped the outcome, the more they’ll feel commitment to making things happen afterwards.
Now, don’t be mistaken. This is not about finding consensus in the group. It’s about finding the best possible way forward and to get there we need to be comfortable to allow a healthy discussion to happen. But when the decision is made, one way or the other, the team need to support it. The reason we want this type of conversation to happen here…is that we don’t want anyone on the team to walk away with only a passive commitment. You know those people….the ones that leave the meeting nodding but then (at worst) start sabotaging the decision and (at best) just stand by and watch things go off track without doing anything to help. To avoid this we must demand conflict to get real commitment.
AVOIDANCE OF ACCOUNTABILITY
Once teams have committed to a decision they don’t hesitate to hold each other accountable for those decisions and standards without reference necessarily to the leader.
If we don’t get commitment, we won’t get accountability. What this means is, if people haven’t committed to a decision…they won’t have the courage to hold one another to account for the behaviour and actions that goes with it. This is a really important point to understand. You see, accountability should happen between peers. It’s not just the leader’s job to hold people accountable. The team need to do it for and with one another! On a strong team accountability occurs directly among peers.
If someone’s not doing their bit, how much better is it for another team member to pull them up and say “Hey, come on, this isn’t what we agreed. What’s happened? How can we get things back on track?”. Better that than having to run to the leader to ‘tell tales’. What does this do anyway? It just gives the leader another thing to do AND raises suspicion in the other guy who now feels someone’s ratted on her!
So, as a leader, the only way to create peer-to-peer accountability in the team is to be willing to confront difficult issues. Think about it. If you are willing to confront people then the team know that you’re going to do it anyway so they might as well do it for each other. But if as a leader you don’t feel comfortable with holding people accountable then your team will see this and think “well if he’s not going to hold anyone to account, neither will I!”
Don’t be a woose….and don’t say you don’t have the time or energy to do your bit and hold people accountable (either for their results and/or their behaviours) ….it’ll only end up costing you more time and energy in the long run when focus drifts and deadlines and results are missed.
So, the reason we need to hold people to account is that if we don’t they’ll think the results don’t matter….and they do!
INATTENTION TO RESULTS
Teams which trust each other, engage in conflict, commit to decisions and hold one another accountable, are most likely to put aside their personal agendas for the good of the team and the organisation.
The most important point here is that it’s about the TEAM’s results. As soon as we see behaviours that are about the individual we need to put things in check. To coin the clichéd phrased “there’s no I in team” and there’s nowhere better to illustrate the point than on the football field.
Arguably one of the best teams of any sort, anywhere in the world, Barcelona FC believe this and believe it so much that it’s written as 3 simple points in their Club Philosophy as follows:
- the Team is most important
- the Team is more important than any player
- the players have the obligation to meet and defend the idea of the Club
And with this kind of culture established, it creates the kind of team member that we’d all aspire to have. Take Ronaldinho – one of the greatest players ever – who in answer to the question “what is your role on the team?” answered as follows….
“My role in the team is to create plays, to provide the last pass before a goal is scored. To assist: this is my role. To put a team-mate in a position to score. That is my biggest concern”.
Think about that. One of the world’s greatest players – who could let ego get in the way – instead chooses to see his role as to assist. The team’s result is the only result he’s interested in.
A great team accomplishes the results it sets out to achieve.
SO, HOW DOES THE TEAM YOU LEAD FAIR ON THESE 5 ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS?
The thing I personally like about a simple framework like this is that it’s easy to self-assess.
Why not take 5 minutes to look again at each level and rate your team Red-Amber-Green.
Red = needs urgent attention, Amber = could be improved, Green = all good!
If you need any help then get in touch.