Managing Dysfunctional Teams
Building a high-performance team is one of the biggest challenges for new managers. Experience tells you that you will only succeed in such a position if you surround yourself with the right people.
So naturally, you go after highly knowledgeable and skilled people, but that may not be enough. You need to create synergy between team members, so they perform at their best and keep workplace productivity levels high.
However, poor leadership makes even the best teams susceptible to becoming dysfunctional. Patrick Lencioni, an organizational health expert, developed a model to explain how these dysfunctions, as he calls them, cause misunderstandings, create confusion, and impact team morale.
If you want to improve your team's performance, you need to understand the type and level of dysfunction affecting the group. Lencioni establishes five levels, and each must be successfully completed before moving on to the next. You will have created a highly functioning team when all five are sorted out.
Let me show in detail these five levels and how you can overcome the dysfunctions to build your dream team.
Lencioni's 5 Dysfunctions of a Team
1. Absence of trust
This is the main issue to resolve when creating a high-performance team. Lencioni believes that vulnerability is the way to build trust. The lack of trust occurs when team members are unwilling to admit their mistakes, weaknesses, or the need for help. When people feel comfortable sharing anything without fear of retaliation, you will have built a safe place for everyone.
2. Fear of Conflict
When there's no trust, people don't share their opinions for fear of creating conflict. But debating about key issues is healthy and constructive. Avoiding conflict opens the door to misleading conversations, poor decision-making, a lack of innovative ideas, and lower productivity. The problem with conflict is not creating it but how you deal with it and use it to build strength within the team.
3. Lack of Commitment
Ambiguity floats around you when your people agree on the surface but don't really commit to general guidance due to a lack of discussion of ideas. Why? Since they're afraid to voice their opinions, their ideas are not included in the decision-making process, and they don't feel represented. And when people don't follow the same directions, even the best talent will feel disengaged.
4. Avoidance of Accountability
Individuals who hold each other accountable create successful teams. How will you hold your peers accountable when there are no clear directions? Avoiding accountability is the easy way out, even for the most focused and driven employees. The lack of trust makes these conversations uncomfortable, so people don't want to call out team members on certain actions and behaviors.
5. Inattention to Results
It is natural for people to focus on achieving their own needs, but if the group goals are left behind, the team can not be successful. When there's no trust, discussion, clear directions, and accountability, people don't feel motivated and committed to achieving goals. And it's the business that suffers.
How to Overcome Team Dysfunctions?
Lencioni also shares in his book practical, actionable steps to overcome the five dysfunctions or avoid them in the first place. The result: Productive, cohesive, and effective teams.
1. Building Trust
If vulnerability is the way to build trust, leading by example is a good start. Ask for feedback and help, and don't be afraid to share your weaknesses and recognize skill deficiencies because your team is there to support you.
Once everyone feels comfortable sharing their weaknesses and understanding each member's unique strengths, the team will be able to fill in for each other's deficiencies and create the synergy needed to be fully productive and successful. Achieving trust won't happen overnight, so be aware that this is ongoing work.
2. Engage in Constructive Conflict
When leaders admit that constructive conflict is necessary, those who tend to avoid it may share their disagreements, and things get resolved quickly. It's important to share with everyone that the goal is to find the best positive solution for the good of the team.
Taking emotion out of the equation and stating facts helps to move things forward and settle any conflict. But, if you leave unresolved issues, people will get the idea that discussing something out in the open has no point and may cause resentment. Encourage team members to engage rather than retreat from healthy debate.
3. Ensure Commitment
You have built trust among your team so that they positively engage in conflict when they need to, and, in general, you have created a nice work environment. But when looking for a high-performance team, you need total commitment from them. How do you do that? Communicating the business strategy and establishing clear goals ensure everyone makes decisions in the same direction.
Agree on goals, deadlines, deliverables, and milestones and put them in writing. SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound) is a great way to measure progress and commitment from the team. OKRs are another. As the leader, keep track of things, respect dates, and celebrate when the group gives closure to issues.
4. Ensure Accountability
Accountability is not about finger-pointing but expecting high performance from each member of the group to achieve goals. Holding each other accountable improves their relationships and the team's productivity. Once again, this is only possible if concrete objectives have been established and everyone knows what the others are responsible for to get results. That also allows the team leader to quickly notice when something is missing, address the issue and find a solution.
5. Focus on Results
It's easy to lose sight of the big picture when concentrating on specific tasks, so the leader must remind everyone of the business goals and set the tone for a focus on results. If you have addressed or avoided the other dysfunctions, you have built a highly productive and engaged team. But it never hurts to revisit goals, deadlines, and other commitments to keep everyone on track and motivated to produce the best outcomes.
Based on Lencioni's model, if a leader builds trust, encourages healthy debate, creates concrete objectives, holds the team accountable, and keeps the end goal in mind, they will be able to build an effective team. The key to success is acknowledging your team's human nature and addressing issues right away instead of leaving things for later.
The Girard Training Solutions team includes experts in Learning and Development, Management Development, Facilitation, Learning Experience Design, Project Management, and Graphic Design.