it or not, all teams are potentially dysfunctional. This
is inevitable because they are made up of fallible, imperfect
human beings. From the basketball court to the executive
suite, politics and confusion are more the rule than the
exception. However, facing dysfunction and focusing on
teamwork is particularly critical at the top of an organization
because the executive team sets the tone for how all employees
work with one another.
A former client, the founder of a billion dollar company, best expressed the
power of teamwork when he once told me, "If you could get all the
people in the organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate
any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time." Whenever
I repeat this adage to a group of leaders, they immediately nod their heads,
but in a desperate sort of way. They seem to grasp the truth of it while
simultaneously surrendering to the impossibility of actually making it
there is hope. Counter to conventional wisdom, the causes
of dysfunction are both identifiable and curable. However,
they don't die easily. Making a team functional and cohesive
requires levels of courage and discipline that many groups
cannot seem to muster.
To begin improving your team and to better understand the level of dysfunction
you are facing, ask yourself these simple questions:
team members openly and readily disclose their opinions?
team meetings compelling and productive?
the team come to decisions quickly and avoid getting
bogged down by consensus?
team members confront one another about their shortcomings?
team members sacrifice their own interests for the good
of the team?
no team is perfect and even the best teams sometimes struggle
with one or more of these issues, the finest organizations
constantly work to ensure that their answers are "yes." If
you answered "no" to many of these questions,
your team may need some work. The first step toward reducing
politics and confusion within your team is to understand
that there are five dysfunctions to contend with, and address
each that applies, one by one.
Dysfunction #1: Absence of Trust
This occurs when team members are reluctant to be vulnerable with one another
and are unwilling to admit their mistakes, weaknesses or needs for help. Without
a certain comfort level among team members, a foundation of trust is impossible.
#2: Fear of Conflict
Teams that are lacking on trust are incapable of engaging in unfiltered, passionate
debate about key issues, causing situations where team conflict can easily
turn into veiled discussions and back channel comments. In a work setting where
team members do not openly air their opinions, inferior decisions are the result.
#3: Lack of Commitment
Without conflict, it is difficult for team members to commit to decisions,
creating an environment where ambiguity prevails. Lack of direction and commitment
can make employees, particularly star employees, disgruntled.
#4: Avoidance of Accountability
When teams don't commit to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and
driven individuals hesitate to call their peers on actions and behaviors that
may seem counterproductive to the overall good of the team.
#5: Inattention to Results
Team members naturally tend to put their own needs (ego, career development,
recognition, etc.) ahead of the collective goals of the team when individuals
aren't held accountable. If a team has lost sight of the need for achievement,
the business ultimately suffers.
Striving to create a functional, cohesive team is one of the few remaining
competitive advantages available to any organization looking for a powerful
point of differentiation. Functional teams avoid wasting time talking about
the wrong issues and revisiting the same topics over and over again because
of lack of buy-in. Functional teams also make higher quality decisions and
accomplish more in less time and with less distraction and frustration. Additionally, "A" players
rarely leave organizations where they are part of a cohesive team.
teamwork is not about mastering subtle, sophisticated theories,
but rather about embracing common sense with uncommon levels
of discipline and persistence. Ironically, teams Conquer
Team Dysfunction succeed because they are exceedingly human.
By acknowledging the imperfections of their humanity, members
of functional teams overcome the natural tendencies that
make teamwork so elusive.