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The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team - What We Can Do To Avoid It

In Patrick Lencioni’s book, The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, it dives into why effective teams are precious and provides specific recommendations for eliminating any barriers that lead to dysfunctional teams. The five dysfunctions are: Absence of Trust, Fear of Conflict, Lack of Commitment, Avoidance of Accountability and Inattention to Result. Absence of Trust being at the bottom of the pyramid indicates that organizations cannot resolve higher level issues without addressing the lower levels first and the launchpad for all five dysfunctions.

Teams who lack trust conceal weaknesses and mistakes, hesitate to ask for help, jump to conclusions regarding the intentions of others, hold grudges and dread meetings. This lack of trust is about the fear of being vulnerable to one another; by protecting one’s sense of invulnerability, these individuals prevent the team from developing and engaging in meaningful work conflict to reach better outcomes. To overcome this dysfunction, organizations can help team members focus on strengths rather than weaknesses in other members and themselves; having knowledge of one’s strengths builds confidence and can free individuals from the fear to show their weaknesses. Therefore, having a discussion of individual strengths can inspire team members to recognize and appreciate the skills of their teammates and offer assistance related to what they are good at in times of need.

Workplace diversity contributes to better results with the premise of people having different and opposing ideas about work and decisions, yet with a fear of conflict, organizations will not be able to benefit from diversity if opposing ideas are held back for fear of conflict. Teams that fear conflict hesitate to voice opinions and concerns, ignore controversial topics even if they have the potential to determine the team’s success, have more interpersonal conflicts and have backchannel communication coupled with politics. Suggest an inherently bad idea in a team meeting and if the team accepts your idea without any attempts to oppose it, the team suffers from this dysfunction. To resolve this, assign a ‘devil’s advocate’ who finds fault with suggestions by voicing out his opinions which will encourage other members to defend their point, training the team to find faults with ideas and not the people that voice them out.

Team members who avoid open discussion of controversial topics fail to commit to the adopted course of action or team goals overall. Teams that lack commitment lack confidence and are in fear of failure, make ambiguity and second-guessing thrive and fail to seize opportunity by spending too much time on making decisions. Organizations can make it a rule to summarize all key decisions made during meetings and the rationale behind, clarifying what should and should not be communicated. Organizations can also facilitate commitment by encouraging the team to discuss possible pitfalls and worst-case scenarios and define clear deadlines for actions and decisions themselves. Team members will assume responsibility to arrive at the best possible solution and commit to it rather than postponing the solution.

People are used to emphasizing personal responsibility for one’s actions, hence individuals do not like to interfere with what others do or don’t do. However, this is counterproductive to the team’s success which is reliant on members’ ability to hold each other accountable for personal decisions and actions. Teams that avoid accountability make high performers discouraged, miss deadlines, make team leaders overwhelmed and remain mediocre. Resolving this dysfunction can be done through holding regular progress reviews and rewarding team achievements.

Inattention to results stems from an individual’s focus on their own achievements or status at the expense of collective results. This makes team members do things that do not promote collective goals just to obtain individual recognition or enhance their ego. Teams that are not focused on collective results loose achievement-oriented team members, get easily distracted from collective goals easily, fail to develop and lose market competition. It is vital to have clear metrics in place to assess results and make sure that an individual’s zeal aligns well with common goals.

Great teams are made and it needs to be recognized, and discover what dysfunction prevents the team from achieving common goals and tackle it with definite managerial decisions. Once this is done, the team will feel comfortable working towards a common goal, leverages diversity and exploits the ideas of everyone on the team, share common goals and objectives, quickly identify potential problems questioning each other’s actions and approaches and lastly minimize individualistic behavior in order to enjoy success and development. AwanTunai constantly observes and rectifies any of these dysfunctions that might be present to ensure its success. If you want to work in a great team, come join us today!

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