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Overcome These Team Dysfunctions

Writer Leo Tolstoy famously said, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” It could be argued that the same goes for the business world. “Happy” companies can be any size, any industry, any culture, but they do share certain qualities. The most common is there is a sense of trust, a commonality of purpose and a commitment to working as an individual and as part of a team to reach organizational goals. While a company may seem happy there are usually one or two dysfunctions that exist. These dysfunctions are often magnified during times of crisis. The good news, however, is that these dysfunctions can be overcome. 

Here’s a list of team dysfunctions, as discussed by Pat Lencioni, in his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and the antidote to each of those dysfunctions.

Seeing Any of These Dysfunctions Pop Up? 

Absence of trust. 

Unwillingness to be vulnerable within the group. Consider being the first to demonstrate this as a leader and chief motivator. Get to know your team better and work to build credibility with each of them.

Fear of conflict. 

Seeking artificial harmony over constructive passionate debate. Especially during our current situation, your team is seeing issues magnified which then translates to larger amounts of stress on customer and coworker relationships. Remember that healthy conflict is a time saver and can actually make your team stronger.

Lack of commitment. 

Feigning buy-in for group decisions creates ambiguity throughout the organization. How can you meet this challenge head on? Promote clarity and expect buy-in from the whole team to move forward in a unified manner.

Avoidance of accountability. 

Ducking the responsibility to call peers on counterproductive behavior which sets low standards.  Lowering standards or not addressing them leads to resentment. Consider shifting to team metrics which can be a way to encourage a bit of peer pressure to perform.

Inattention to results. 

Focusing on personal success, status and ego before team success. Focus on what really matters. Set goals for the team, real goals that align to the business goals. Then keep the team accountable to those goals, not personal achievement or team status.

How can your organization overcome these dysfunctions?  

An important observation is that many of these behaviors are reactive. That gives you more control as an employer in preventing and repairing these issues than you may expect. If an employee lacks trust, commitment or accountability, chances are they have been “burned” in a previous interaction. For example, avoidance of accountability. If a manager is prone to fly off the handle when a subordinate admits to a mistake, the employee will be less likely to bring a problem to them again. Instead, they may attempt to fix the problem themselves, which they may not have the qualifications to do effectively, or worse, bury the mistake or blame someone else. 

Training is often your most effective tool 

The training that is most important is not training your employees to avoid mistakes or drilling into them the importance of admitting to themit’s teaching managers how to effectively lead their teams. Open lines of communication are the most powerful tools in a manager’s arsenal. Employees who trust management, are not afraid to point out problems and admit to mistakes and are inspired to work toward company goals are essential to the success of the organization. It’s possible to get employees to perform their jobs with a “my way or the highway” attitude, but they will never go above and beyond. They will never make the company’s goals their own.  

There is good news!

During uncertain times, these dysfunctions may become magnified, but it’s also an excellent time to address them, train the team, and unite them around your core values.

Managing a team? We’d love to connect with you!

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