Building Teams & Avoiding Dysfunctions

Growing strong teams is my passion. I believe that we can deliver more value to our clients, and have a more enjoyable time working together, if we function as a team.

To be clear, there is a sharp distinction to be made between a group of people working on the same project, and a team working toward a common result. A team is attentive to its common goal, and sacrifices self-ego for team-ego.

This morning, I finished reading The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, by Patrick M. Lencioni. In this popular leadership book, Lencioni uses a fictional narrative to describe what he understands to be the five key dysfunctions most commonly experienced by teams. In the last chapter the dysfunctions are summarized in a non-fiction format, with clear connections between each.

The five dysfunctions, and their connections are:

  1. Absence of trust By building trust, a team makes conflict possible because team members do not hesitate to engage in passionate and sometimes emotional debate, knowing that they will not be punished for saying something that might otherwise be interpreted as destructive or critical.
  2. Fear of conflict By engaging in productive conflict and tapping into team members' perspectives and opinions, a team can confidently commit and buy in to a decision knowing that they have benefited from everyone's ideas.
  3. Lack of commitment and failure to buy into decisions In order for teammates to call each other on their behaviors and actions, they must have a clear sense of what is expected. Even the most ardent believers in accountability usually balk at having to hold someone accountable for something that was never bought in to or made clear in the first place.
  4. Avoidance of accountability If teammates are not being held accountable for their contributions, they will be more likely to turn their attention to their own needs, and to the advancement of themselves or their departments. An absence of accountability is an invitation to team members to shift their attention to areas other than collective results.
  5. Inattention to collective results I want the teams that we build at Myplanet to be highly attentive to collective results. In order to do this, team members need to be empowered to hold one another to account for their actions and decisions. Lencioni suggests that one of the first steps down this road is a culture that incubates true trust, the willingness to be vulnerable, between the members of a team. For most of us, being vulnerable with those we work with is challenging, but it can become easier over time, as we get to know those with whom we work.

Recently we have adopted the goal of “stable” teams. This does not mean teams that never shift or change, but it does mean that we are paying attention to changes in the size and composition of our teams. Along with other potential benefits, I believe that stability is an important part of building teams that have the ability to be attentive to collective results.

Written by

Everett Zufelt

Everett Zufelt

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