Developing High Performing Teams

Aug 24, 2021

To achieve results in business you need a great team led by skilled leaders. Frustratingly, leadership is a complex and difficult art, and being a great leader is often mistakenly viewed as an innate skill. However, leadership, like any skill, can be improved and refined with conscious effort and time. 

The reason many teams fail is because of relationship issues between team members. Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is an insightful perspective on the fundamental causes of team failure and a useful guide to leading a successful team.

 

The Five Dysfunctions 

 
Mistrust

Lencioni notes how at the heart of most dysfunctional teams is a lack of trust and he theorises that without trust a team cannot be successful no matter how much talent lies within it. An atmosphere of mistrust discourages team members from admitting to their weaknesses and mistakes, and consequently hinders their learning. Mistake learning has been proven to be one of the quickest ways to learn and develop new skills, so teams where mistrust is present fail to grow as individuals and as a collective. As a leader, you need to set an example for the rest of the team by being open and breeding trust within others.

 

Avoidance of Conflict

When the lack of trust within a team is severe it leads to an atmosphere of suspicion, leading to a lack of healthy conflict. Disagreements and debates that are conducted with respect and consideration are essential within the workplace and people who do not trust each other are incapable of this type of sincere, open discussion. 

A facade of harmony is present when there are high levels of mistrust within a team. This facade is extremely dangerous to a team’s success as it prevents issues from being truly resolved. As a leader, you should be looking out for a false sense of harmony within your team and you should also encourage healthy conflict.

 

Flagging Commitment Levels

When team members trust each other and contribute to business decisions without apprehension they buy-in to the business’ aims and ambitions. This buy-in and the sense of moving towards a common goal is often the main driving force behind individuals’ motivations. So without this buy-in, there will be low commitment levels across the team and alternative attempts to motivate staff such as monetary benefits will not change this. As a leader, you should recognise the importance of buy-in when attempting to motivate your staff.

 

Lack of Accountability 

Accountability hinges on commitment and thus without commitment team members will not hold themselves accountable for their actions nor their results. Individuals who lack commitment are unlikely to hold others accountable. Societal pressure to perform and to work to the best of your ability is a trait of truly successful teams. These teams will demand constant excellence of themselves and of each other. As a leader, you should look to promote high levels of accountability within your team.

 

Disinterest in Outcomes

A lack of personal and group accountability leads to a disinterest in the performance of the business, and a sense of indifference permeates the group. Consequently, team members put their personal needs (ambition, career, recognition) or the needs of their individual departments ahead of the overall goals of the team or company. This atmosphere of disinterest becomes even more prominent when individuals feel that their effort is not rewarded or recognised by the group. As a leader, you should always look to positively recognise the contributions of your team members and stress the importance of the business’ goals.

 
Lencioni’s five factor theory can be used to analyse and improve your team’s specific weaknesses. Now, consider your own work team, or the team of an adjacent department, is there a lack of healthy disagreements, a sense of mistrust, or a general dissatisfaction over performance? If yes, then it is time for you to reconsider the team’s culture.

 

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