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Why Teams Succeed!

Posted Friday, October 23, 2009, at 3:56 PM

We live in a dysfunctional society and it has become the norm for most of us. Most teams, whether it is a family, a business, a church or some other social group learns to embrace and manage their dysfunctions rather than doing the hard work of change. It becomes easy to blame and point fingers instead of taking responsibility and making personal and group adjustments. By embracing dysfunction and practicing blame-shifting they limit their ability to perform at an optimal level and grow.

In the preceding blog I characterized the five dysfunctions of a team. Today I will share with you how overcome those dysfunctions. I hope that you will see the difference and embrace it. The future belongs to those who make the changes. Patrick Lencioni, the author reminds us, "Success is not a matter of mastering subtle, sophisticated theory, but rather of embracing common sense with uncommon levels of discipline and persistence."

Note: As a leader you must understand that you cannot jump over one level to get to the next. You must work through each if you are going to move through your team's dysfunction.

1. Absence of Trust

"The first dysfunction is an absence of trust among team members. Essentially, this stems from their unwillingness to be vulnerable within the group. Team members who are not genuinely open with one another about their mistakes and weaknesses make it impossible to build a foundation for trust."

Members of trusting teams. . .

*Admit weaknesses and mistakes

*Ask for help

*Accept questions and input about their areas of responsibility

*Give one another the benefit of the doubt before arriving at a negative conclusion

*Take risks in offering feedback and assistance

*Appreciate and tap into one another's skills and experiences

*Focus time and energy on important issues, not politics

*Offer and accept apologies without hesitation

*Look forward to meetings and other opportunities to work as a group

The role of the leader is to "demonstrate vulnerability first... What is more, team leaders must create an environment that does not punish honest input and vulnerability."

2. Fear of Conflict

"This failure to build trust is damaging because it sets the tone for the second dysfunction: fear of conflict. Teams that lack trust are incapable of engaging in unfiltered and passionate debate of ideas. Instead, they resort to veiled discussion and guarded comments."

Teams that engage in conflict. . .

*Have lively, interesting meetings

*Extract and exploit the ideas of all team members

*Solve real problems quickly

*Minimize politics

*Put critical topics on the table for discussion

The leaders of teams must overcome the urge to protect team members and allow the conflict to take place. It "is key that leaders demonstrate restraint when their people engage in conflict, and allow resolution to occur naturally." As with overcoming the first dysfunction, "a leader's ability to personally model appropriate conflict behavior is essential."

3. Lack of Commitment

"A lack of healthy conflict is a problem because it ensures the third dysfunction of a team: lack of commitment. Without having aired their opinions in the course of passionate and open debate, team members rarely, if ever, buy in and commit to decisions, though they may feign argument during meetings."

A team that commits. . .

*Creates clarity around direction and priorities

*Aligns the entire team around common objectives

*Develops an ability to learn from mistakes

*Takes advantage of opportunities before competitors do

*Moves forward without hesitation

*Changes direction with hesitation or guilt

The leader,"must be comfortable with the prospect of making a decision that ultimately turns out to be wrong." The leader must also push the team to closure and not allow decisions to be put off indefinitely.

4. Avoidance of Accountability

"Because of this lack of real commitment and buy-in, team members develop an avoidance of accountability, the fourth dysfunction. Without committing to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and driven people often hesitate to call their peers on actions and behaviors that seem counterproductive to the good of the team."

A team that holds one another accountable. . .

*Ensures that poor performers feel pressure to improve

*Identifies potential problems quickly by questioning one another's approaches without hesitation

*Establishes respect among team members who are held to the same high standards

*Avoids excessive bureaucracy around performance management and corrective action

The leader's role in overcoming this dysfunction "is to encourage and allow the team to serve as the first and primary accountability mechanism." But, the leader "must be willing to serve as the ultimate arbiter of discipline when the team itself fails."

5. Inattention to Results

"Failure to hold one another accountable creates an environment where the fifth dysfunction can thrive. Inattention to results occurs when team members put their individual needs (such as ego career development, or recognition) or even the needs of their divisions above the collective goals of the team."

A team that focuses on collective results. . .

*Retains achievement-oriented employees

*Minimizes individualistic behavior

*Enjoys success and suffers failure acutely

*Benefits from individuals who subjugate their own goals/interests for the good of the team

*Avoids distractions

It is the leader who must "set the tone for a focus on results... Team leaders must be selfless and objective, and reserve awards and recognition for those who make real contributions to the achievement of group goals."

I hope that you will look at the many teams that you are a part of and see if you are adding or detracting to that team's success. If you a leader you must have the courage to lead. Leaders understand that they are to serve the group and not the opposite. If you will have the courage to lead and make the necessary changes you can experience success and its rewards. If your group needs help give me a call and we hope to help you become a fully functioning team.

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Phil Warren is a local pastor and has lived in the Dexter community for the last 12 years. He has six children and four grandchildren and his wife Cindy is a local teacher. He enjoys photography, reading, writing and golf. He also loves coaching in the local park leagues. Phil spent his early years growing up in the hills near Wappapello Lake. He moved to Granite City, IL. during his grade school years. Phil worked 13 years at McDonnell Douglas Aircraft in St. Louis and has pastored since 1986. He also served in the U.S. Army as a military policeman and was stationed at Ft. Campbell KY. and Seoul, Korea. He attended college at SIUE and Oakland City College.
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