Cats, Ghosts and Other Scary Stuff

In true Halloween fashion I could not resist using the title to represent the different type of individuals that make a team function (or not function) as the case may be for some of you reading this.

In Patrick Lencioni’s best-selling book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, he tells us a story about one firm’s executive team struggling with utter dysfunction. Ineffective communication, multiple egos, fear, office politics and judgmental attitudes were all contributing to the absence of dynamics and poor performance. (Sounds like cats, ghosts, well you get the picture)

Have you ever experienced a dysfunctional team in your career?

If yes, you are not alone. Most everyone has either been a part of observed or even faced the challenge of leading a dysfunctional team like the one Lencioni describes. In fact, he says, “Teams, because they are made up of imperfect human beings, are inherently dysfunctional.”

Lencioni’s interrelated model of team dysfunction outlines five areas that prevent success in every team:
• Absence of trust
• Fear of conflict
• Lack of commitment
• Avoidance of accountability
• Inattention to results

But don’t be discouraged. There is hope for all of us experiencing a dysfunctional team. As Lencioni states, “Team building is both possible and remarkably simple. But can also be very painful.” By using assessments as part of your talent management strategy, team leaders can help teams overcome each of these dysfunctions: awareness and communication.

Awareness is more than observation; it is an understanding of what is going on around you. In this case, it is important to be aware of and appreciate the different viewpoints of team members and their work habits, motivators, areas of expertise, mastery in personal skills and motives. Doing so will not only help you build team dynamics, but more importantly increase personal effectiveness so you can accomplish more as a team.

Communication is where it all starts. The importance of open communication simply cannot be overstated as it is fundamental in building trust, managing conflict, gaining commitment, holding accountability and identifying team results. Effective communication involves first understanding your own communication style, understanding others’ communication style and appreciating the differences everyone brings to a team environment.

Teams are, essentially, what drive results. Take a look at the teams you are either in, leading or observing and identify the five areas of dysfunction within your team. What can you do to focus on team building? Whatever the strategy, as Lencioni warns, it will be painful. But the ultimate results will be well worth the challenge.