5 signs your team is dysfunctional (and what to do about it)


Patrick Lencioni in his work “The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team” outlined the key things that contribute to ineffective team outcomes. Let’s explore those and what you, the leader, can do to create a fully functional team.

1 – Lack of trust

Do people do and say things that damage the team? Do people try to look good and refuse to admit mistakes or weaknesses? Do people keep it strictly business and would know nothing about each other outside of the workplace? Is everyone in it only for themselves?

This is a team building basic. People need to get to know each other to build trust. Start by building a shared purpose and vision for the team. Defining the shared values for the team creates a sense of “we are alike”. Encourage sharing and connection. Arrange some social time – a lunch, or drinks after work where people can talk about their lives. Shared team goals are important, create opportunities for people to work together where they need each other’s expertise to deliver. Create opportunities for people to understand each other’s skills and preferences.

2 – Fear of Conflict

Do people avoid having difficult conversations? Do we all skirt around obvious issues and change the subject if they are brought up? Do people insist everything is fine, but complain behind others backs? Are we just super nice to each other?

Effective teams recognise that disagreement and difference of opinion is healthy and they deal with it in a safe and supportive manner. Conflict isn’t necessarily scary, it is the behaviour people usually associate with conflict and the resulting outcomes that people fear. As the leader you can role model constructive ways to get issues on the table. Encourage team members to express the differences of opinion, ideas and feelings and make it safe for people to do so. Make connections between divergent perspectives, acknowledge where there are differences and encourage healthy debate. Build a set of operating behaviours (rules for team behaviour).

3 – Lack of Commitment

Do people work on their own projects and not on team deliverables? Do people directly or indirectly not support team decisions? Do we avoid resolutions and actions in our meetings? Do we have talkfests with no outcomes?

Keep referring to the shared purpose/mission and continually clarify team outcomes, then translate that common purpose and team expectations into performance goals that are specific and measurable. Create a sense of urgency and rationale for the purpose. Build consensus on overarching goals and approaches.

4 – Avoidance of Accountability

Are we not setting deadlines and team performance measures? Do we avoid giving each other constructive feedback? Do we ignore it when a team member is letting the side down? Do we avoid debating ideas and challenging the team status quo? Do we not seem to care when we let people down?

Get focused on deadlines and deliverables. Create accountability and coach non deliverers. Formally give and receive feedback within the team. Maintain the focus on the external relationships, commitments, requirements, feedback and competitive reality. Take risks by setting stretch performance goals.

5 – Inattention to Results

Is everyone working hard, but we are not measuring the collective impact of what we do? Are we letting important milestones go by without celebrating our achievements? Are we missing opportunities to highlight the importance of our work?

This is a step that a lot of teams miss. It is really easy to get busy and churn out the work, without stopping to appreciate just how much is being achieved. Make it a habit to evaluate team against team performance goals and celebrate success, share rewards, recognise team and individual achievements.

photo credit: dr.snitch via photopin cc

Rosalind Cardinal

Ros is The Leadership Alchemist and Principal Consultant of Shaping Change, an Australian consultancy, specialising in improving business outcomes by developing individuals, teams and organisations.

Ros is a solutions and results oriented facilitator and coach, with a career in the Human Resources and Organisational Development field spanning more than 25 years. She brings an energetic and proactive approach combined with a wealth of knowledge and experience. Her expertise spans leadership development, organisational culture, team building, change and transition management, organisational behaviour, employee engagement and motivation, strategic direction and management.

Visit www.shapingchange.com.au to pick up your complimentary copy of Ros’ e-guide to Leading Change. Written for managers who are tasked with leading organisational change, the guide presents practical steps to leading successful change.