In the past, I’ve written about the importance of building a great team if you really want to fly as a business.
Suggesting you need a good team in place is not controversial. However, what allows a team to really perform just might be.
In his book, The Five Dysfunctions of A Team, Patrick Lencioni explores what he believes to be the five main issues that prevent teams from performing. It’s an easy and awesome read.
The first dysfunction is an absence of trust. While that sounds pretty obvious, Lencioni is talking about seriously high trust levels. Team members are expected to be open with one another about their mistakes and weaknesses.
“Great teams don’t hold back with one another. They are unafraid to air their dirty laundry. They admit their mistakes, their weaknesses, their concerns, without fear of reprisal.”
I do see this behaviour in some businesses. However, I also see plenty of firms where this level of openness just isn’t possible and that’s a real shame. Everyone’s trying to pretend they’ve got it all going on, rather than facing up to the real issues.
If a team can’t build genuine trust with each other, they then fall victim to the second dysfunction of a team, fear of conflict. If you can’t trust your teammates you can’t engage in “unfiltered and passionate debate of ideas.” You are more likely to try to preserve an artificial harmony between each other, which is totally counter-productive for you and your business.
You might be thinking how is conflict constructive? If we’re at each other’s throats, how does that lead to superior performance? But there’s a difference between tension, caused by passive or sarcastic comments and healthy ideological conflict through the discussion of different ideas.
It’s why the modern push for more diversity in businesses is so valuable when it occurs; we know that with more diverse perspectives, better solutions can be found.
Do you foster that environment in your business?
A lack of healthy ideological conflict is a big problem because it leads to the third dysfunction, lack of commitment. If you don’t have the full and frank discussions in the previous step, you can’t have total buy-in to the leadership group or team decisions.
Commitment isn’t consensus. Consensus is horrible unless it happens quickly and naturally.
If you’ve had a full discussion and allowed conflict and disagreement to occur in a high-trust environment, then if the team leader or business owner has to make a call with incomplete information (and isn’t that what we’re usually facing as business leaders?), they can do so.
If there isn’t the full and frank conversation first, it’s just seen as an autocratic decree, and no one buys in.
“The point here is that most reasonable people don’t have to get their way in a discussion. They just need to be heard, and to know that their input was considered and responded to.”
If there is a lack of commitment and buy-in, your team can develop an avoidance of accountability, the fourth dysfunction.
Lencioni’s version of accountability is where peers hold each other accountable for doing what they said they would do, and doing what is required to achieve the collective goal.
“Once we achieve clarity and buy-in, it is then that we have to hold each other accountable for what we sign up to do, for high standards of performance and behaviour. And as simple as that sounds, most executives hate to do it, especially when it comes to a peer’s behaviour because they want to avoid interpersonal discomfort.”
Do you and your peers hold each other accountable like that in your company? Or is everyone terrified of pissing off the other partners, directors or team members?
And if you can’t hold each other accountable, the seeds are sown for the fifth dysfunction, inattention to results.
“Inattention to results occurs when team members put their individual needs (such as ego, career development, or recognition) or even the needs of their division, above the collective goals of the team.”
You can see this one in a lot of advisory firms. The salespeople run around telling themselves that if they don’t sell anything, there would be no business and everyone else would be out of a job. So everyone else on the team better be grateful and pick up the slack on all the mistakes and lack of follow-through from the advisers.
The back office are treated like second-class citizens, and then advisers have the hide to complain about how long it takes to get reports out to clients. Not cool at all.
It’s All Connected
You can see that if any one of these dysfunctions are allowed to persist, the whole chain becomes broken, and your team can’t function effectively. You can’t be doing well in three out of five of these issues, can you?
If we turn it on its head, the opposite, positive traits of a functioning team are:
- They trust one another
- They engage in unfiltered conflict around ideas
- They commit to decisions and plans of action
- They hold one another accountable for delivering against those plans
- They focus on the achievement of collective results
If your team isn’t quite performing as you would like, The Five Dysfunctions Of A Team might be a good place to start in finding a solution.
Let me know how you go.