Successful Teams

A strong team is the foundation of a high-performing business. If team members do not work well together, problems can arise and cause conflict within the workplace. Building strong teams takes work and leadership. Peter Lencioni wrote the book “5 Dysfunctions of a Team” and he outlines how to identify the dysfunctions and the tools needed to create successful high performing teams.

  1. Absence of Trust
  2. Fear of Conflict
  3. Lack of Commitment
  4. Avoidance of Accountability
  5. Inattention to Results

You might be wondering how does this apply if you are a small office of one or you work with volunteers. Dysfunctions outlined by Lencioni can be found in all our relationships, professional and personal. We all have our various traits and idiosyncrasies that make us unique and it is wonderful. The best thing about the dysfunctions is that we have the opportunity to recognize them and turn them into strengths.

#1.         Absence of Trust

Absence of Trust is the fear of being vulnerable to team members.

We have this crazy notion that we have to do our jobs perfectly all the time. There is no learning without mistakes. We gain trust with our teams when we admit to vulnerabilities, this means being open about mistakes and weaknesses in team meetings. The open dialogue and being vulnerable with each other helps to build trust among the team. To be successful we cannot do it alone, we need the skills and experiences of others.

#2.         Fear of Conflict

According to Lencioni, teams need to have conflict. It is through good and passionate debate that ideas and solutions occur. Ed Catmull President of Pixar agrees that by having trust in a team that allows for good debate helps with creativity and drives growth. When team members are guarded and are afraid to say what they really think team meetings can become dull, stale and lack creativity. Businesses need to encourage team members to share ideas without fear of being passed over or mocked at ideas. Team members need to be respectful; a good discussion can occur and achieve good outcomes and goals even when everyone doesn’t agree.

Encouraging a healthy debate can be tricky, team members need to remember to listen to others’ opinions and thoughts without feeling attacked. This includes nonverbal cues such as rolling eyes, talking over someone else and giving cutting remarks. A team that does not have a fear of conflict will be in harmony and be able to have a good debate, knowing that their thoughts and opinions are heard and considered.

#3.         Lack of Commitment

This dysfunction coincides with fear of conflict. If a team does not have clarity or buy-in, team members will not commit to decisions and direction.

Have you ever worked with a team where not everyone agreed with the goal and thus one or more team member continued to put the project on the backburner and missed deadlines? Even if a team member doesn’t agree with the decision, if there is buy-in with respect everyone will work towards the goal.

#4.         Avoidance of Accountability

When we avoid personal discomfort that comes from conflict, we do not hold other team members accountable. This comes from hesitating to call out peers on actions or behaviors.

As a leader, there will be times that we will need to call out a team member when a deadline was not met, or their behavior was disrespectful to another team member. I have had a situation where a team member often was not ready for the weekly team meeting. The team member expected everyone to wait on them. This was disrespectful to the entire team and left unchecked allowed this behavior to continue. We are all human, we make mistakes, each team member needs to be accountable, team members need to feel comfortable to speak up to their team members.  We each need to own and be responsible for our own mistakes. By having accountability in teams, it will create harmony and help build and keep trust.

#5.         Inattention to Results

Inattention to results is when individuals put their own egos, career development or recognition ahead of the needs and decision of the collective goals of the team. This behavior can tear down harmony and break trust. It is important for teams to recognize and acknowledge that it takes everyone to be successful. It is never the result of one person that a goal is reached.

Lencioni discusses the lack of attention to results comes from a team member who may be bad at delegating because they think no one else can the job as well as they can. This can also be the team member who takes credit for work or decisions of the entire team. One of the traits Lencioni mentions team members need humility. Being humble to share the success with the entire team, admit to mistakes and humble enough to ask for assistance.

Creating and cultivating a successful team does not happen immediately, sometimes it means replacing team members that may not fit the culture or team well. The goal of all teams is to retain star employees, attract new team members and work together to drive the business to further growth.

Cheryl Viola, Executive Director