It’s all about trust
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
We have all had that same thought. “I wish I could just do this by myself.” The same feeling of frustration when you feel that you have the right answer, but people are just not getting it. Still, working in a team is a big trend of today and something that has time and time again shown to be a very effective way of building a successful company. In his book The five dysfunctions of a team Patrick Lencioni talks about the most common issues that occur in teams and how to attempt to solve them.
Trust lies at the heart of a functioning, cohesive team. Without it, teamwork is all but impossible. (Lencioni 2002, 195)
The first described dysfunction and the one all the following ones are essentially based on is absence of trust. When talking about trust in a team it’s important to clarify what exactly is meant by that. The kind of trust that is needed in a team requires vulnerability and the ability from team members to be open about their weaknesses, skill deficiencies or other shortcomings and trust others will not judge them. In a functioning team, teammates have confidence in their peers’ good intentions.
Dysfunction number two is fear of conflict. Productive conflict is something that every relationship needs in order to grow and that is especially true when it comes to business. Unfortunately, in today’s society many of us learn that in order to make it in life you have to be able to fit a mold and please the people around you and through that we learn that conflict is a negative thing. Of course, conflicts can easily turn into something negative too. The distinguishing factor here is to focus on concepts and ideas and to avoid personality-focused, mean-spirited attacks. Teams that engage in positive conflict know that its only purpose is to find the best possible solutions without wasting time. Functioning teams recognize that even when a conflict brings out emotions, passion and even frustrations that doesn’t mean it’s unproductive but just that the topic is important. Teams like these resolve issues quicker and feel more content in their decisions.
When team members fear conflict and because of that are not truly involved in decision making, that can lead to the third dysfunction: lack of commitment. If people don’t feel safe to unload their opinions on an issue, they likely won’t fully commit to it either. As long as everyone’s opinion is heard and considered a team should be fine with not reaching full agreement. A functional team knows that making clear decisions and committing to them, even if they sometimes turn out to be the wrong ones, is the most efficient way to make progress. Many teams will delay decision making until they feel certain that they have the right answer, for example based on data. This might seem ideal but creates paralysis and lack of confidence.
The fourth dysfunction is avoidance of accountability. In the context of a team, this especially means holding each other accountable. We all know how hard it can be to tell a teammate that they haven’t done all that well with a task or to remind them to do it in the first place. It may seem a little cruel, but according to Lencioni peer pressure is the most effective and efficient means of maintaining high performance standards.
The fifth and final dysfunction described is inattention to results. This refers to the tendency of individuals to focus on something else than the collective goals of the team. Often people will focus on enhancing their own career and position and most often this happens at the expense of the team.
So how to actually go about solving these problems? Personally, I believe that it really comes down to one thing, choosing to trust. There are a lot of great exercises to help do this but of course there is no magic trick to make everyone trust each other. In our personal lives we base trust on things that have happened in the past and whether or not someone has earned our trust. In teamwork we have to be prepared to face disappointments and still choose to trust our teammates in the future. Teambuilding exercises can feel a bit silly and even forced sometimes but only through showing real vulnerability in front of our teammates can we build an open and accepting team culture.
Many people seem to think that when a group of strong and talented individuals come together, that alone will make a great team. Of course, individual strengths are important to utilize, but great team members also need to know how to compromise and put their own egos aside. In Proakatemia, we can’t really choose our team. What we can choose, is trust.