Last week’s expert blog focused on investing in corporate culture. That’s a big corporate kind of question. This week, let’s look at your own team? Is it getting the job done or is it more like today’s “Modern Family” and just a little bit dysfunctional?
I wonder. I’ve worked with many leaders and their teams over the past 20 years and learned some real “truisms” and alt-“truisms” about what makes a team functional or dys (not) functional. It almost doesn’t even matter what kind of team it is. I’ve worked with dysfunctional Boards of Directors, CEOs and their VPs and front-line customer service providers. There are some great ones and some awfully bad ones.
Basically, a team is a group of people that share a level of interdependence with each other in order to be both individually and collectively successful. It’s easy to find the lists and articles about what makes a great team, but do you see any of the following signs of dysfunction in your team?
1. What’s the Purpose of this Meeting Anyway?
Do we hold meetings with the purpose of improving communications across the team? It starts with one person describing what he is working on and then goes around the table. The manager thinks this is great stuff. Everyone else is either thinking about what they are going to say or is day dreaming if their turn has passed. Team processes need to be productive with formal and defined processes for planning, decision making and problem solving.
2. I Thought You Were Supposed to Do That?
Whether critical tasks fall through the cracks or are done twice by different team members, clear mapping and awareness of each other’s roles and responsibilities is essential. Just like a hockey team, there is a role for the forward, defenceman, coach and trainer. Respect for the contribution that each role makes is essential.
3. That’s a Great Idea, But What Does That Have to Do with Anything?
It’s always a plus to have keeners and stars on your team. However, the pursuit of goals that aren’t aligned with the team’s overall purpose can be a big problem. Often these individual initiatives are guarded with one’s life and are often rewarding the individual, but not the team. A clear and common team goal that is aligned with the interdependent goals of each team member will be important guideposts along the road to productivity and successful outcomes.
4. Is This Survival of the Fittest Where only the Strong Survive and the Weak Perish?
Many people bring a competitive nature to the work place. It’s not a surprise when we learn at a young age that it’s important to win at sports, get good grades for the best college or university and compete for limited jobs and promotions. Why do we wonder when people play win lose in the workplace with their colleagues? It’s part of our culture to be competitive. Unfortunately, competition among team players often results in not sharing information, unnecessary conflict and mistrust. It’s necessary to demonstrate valued team behaviours and management processes that support them. Don’t reward the competitive behaviour if it is not supporting the team!
5. Funny how the more things change, the more things stay the same!
Teams that stay together have the potential to end up in a performance rut. How often does the team ask itself, “how are we doing as a team?”, “where can we be even better?”, “What one thing can we do that will positively affect team performance?” It seems so simple, yet, seldom gets done. Continuous improvement is a concept that applies equally well to team performance and setting the bar higher each year can only bring good things.
Speaking of continuous improvement, have you ever thought of doing a team self-assessment? There are tools available that your team can participate in constructively. And because it is continuous improvement, it’s not a matter of being a dysfunctional team, but any kind of team, because there are always ways to step it up.
If you are interested in finding ways to increase your team’s performance, give me a shout!
Frank Van Gool, CMC, MBA
Next Week’s blog we shift to technology. There are more and more tools becoming available that enhance virtual collaboration across the time space continuum. Stay tuned for an interesting article on how online tools can change the way your teams work.