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Fixing your dysfunctional teams

Updated: Apr 21, 2020

Building trust is a leader’s primary objective when developing a team or fixing a dysfunctional team.

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, The Neuroscience of Trust, scientist, author and speaker, Paul J Zak found that people employed at high trust companies reported 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives and 40% less burnout.

Leaders can develop trust by respectfully being interested in their team’s long term goals, prioritising face to face communications and providing direct and regular feedback.

In 2002, Paul Lencioni published “The 5 dysfunctions of a team”. In this work he highlights five areas teams struggle with which prevent them from becoming high performing teams. According to Lencioni, if a team is unable to overcome these 5 dysfunctions then confusion, misunderstanding and negative morale will inhabit their culture.

How to overcome the 5 dysfunctions:

Absence of Trust – Show vulnerability by sharing challenges and limitations.

As a people leader you must lead by example. When it comes to developing trust a leader needs to demonstrate that it is safe to be vulnerable within the team. E,g. I’m struggling with “X” and I need support in the form of “Y”. Showing vulnerability encourages others to do the same and develops trust. Without trust, people won’t voice their opinions.

Fear of Conflict – Ensure all team members have a say.

Healthy conflict is constructive. When people agree or avoid committing because their fear it would create conflict, the result is stifled productivity. It’s important to remember that conflict is okay. It's how you deal with conflict that builds strength within the team. The opportunity here is to encourage and embrace diversity of thought, values and ways of operating. One strategy is to demand that everyone weighs into a decision and shares their opinion. Remember to share your opinion last, because when leaders go first, team members may feel obligated to follow suit rather than say what they really think.

Lack of Commitment – Communicate clearly what you expect.

Robust discussion and solid, clear decision-making processes will help the team support commitment. They’re much more likely to buy into a decision when they’ve had their say, but if there’s no debate, their opinions aren’t included in the decision-making process. When everyone is heard and views are respected, transparent decisions are more easily reached.

Avoiding Accountability – Start having the uncomfortable conversations.

The best and most high performing teams possess individuals who hold one another to account. Think about a difficult conversation you're not having? People want to do their best and difficult conversations generally go better than we expect. We need to confront difficult issues, knowing that when built on a foundation of trust, commitment and clarity, holding each other accountable will help everyone and the overall good of the team.

Inattention to Detail – Talk about team goals and give them a focus.

As a leader, you need to be clear about the collective team goals and the importance of achieving team results. Make sure you talk about team goals, measure them, acknowledge and celebrate movement towards them. When there’s trust, discussion and accountability, the team will be strong, motivated and committed to achieving group objectives.

There are many team models and tools for guiding improved communications and performance of a team. Belbin, Myer Briggs, Hogan, DiSC are all worth exploring.

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