I have just read a great book written by Patrick Lencioni which provides an insight as to why teams fail to achieve great things.
The book, ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” has been based around an online assessment in which nearly 15000 participants undertook.
The outcome of the assessment was that 68% of teams struggle with accountability ie to confront one another on unproductive actions and behaviours. As a result, team members readily avoid holding their peers accountable for both their performance and behaviours that are detrimental to the team. Or to put it another way, team members have a general tendency to avoid difficult conversations.
Even more interesting was the fact that the assessments indicated that the higher the position in the organisation, the more pronounced the problem. Lencioni found that members of an executive team typically have similar socioeconomic status and, therefore, don’t feel justified commenting on a peer’s performance.
Lencioni concluded that “Great teams do not wait for the leader to remind members when they are not pulling their weight.” To overcome this dysfunction, he suggests leveraging peer pressure on a team by publicly stating the team’s goals and standards, instituting regular progress reviews and rewarding team achievement (rather than individual contribution).
In the book, Lencioni identified five dysfunctions of a team, summarised as follows:
This occurs when team members are reluctant to be vulnerable with one another, and are thus unwilling to admit their mistakes, acknowledge their weaknesses or ask for help. Without a certain comfort level among team members, a foundation of trust is impossible.
Trust is critical because without it, teams are unlikely to engage in unfiltered, passionate debate about key issues. This creates two problems. First, stifling conflict actually increases the likelihood of destructive, back channel sniping. Second, it leads to sub-optimal decision-making because the team is not benefiting from the true ideas and perspectives of its members.
Without conflict, it is extremely difficult for team members to truly commit to decisions because they don’t feel that they are part of the decision. This often creates an environment of ambiguity and confusion in an organisation, leading to frustration among employees, especially top performers.
When teams don’t commit to a clear plan of action, peer-to-peer accountability suffers greatly. Even the most focused and driven individuals will hesitate to call their peers on counterproductive actions and behaviours if they believe those actions and behaviours were never agreed upon in the first place.
When team members are not holding one another accountable, they increase the likelihood that individual ego and recognition will become more important than collective team results. When this occurs, the business suffers and the team starts to unravel.
Striving to create a functional, cohesive team is one of the few remaining competitive advantages available to any organisation looking for a powerful point of differentiation.
Functional teams get more accomplished in less time than other teams because they avoid wasting time on the wrong issues and revisiting the same topics again and again.
They also make higher quality decisions and stick to those decisions by eliminating politics and confusion among themselves and the people they lead.
Finally, functional teams keep their best employees longer because “A” players rarely leave organisations where they are part of, or being led by, a cohesive team.
If you are part of and/or building a team, whether it be in business, sport or community organisation, this book is a must read. I cannot recommend it highly enough.