“The 5 frustrations of teamwork”: how do you make your team even stronger?

Ahhhh, organizational politics. Who doesn’t recognize it? Leading a team often brings challenges. Infighting, power games, lack of accountability, lax attitudes, you name it. But rest assured; these scenes are not unique. Patrick Lencioni wrote a book about it, which has since become a bestseller and has been translated into more than 30 languages. Today I will take you through his research and conclusions.

His book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” was first released in 2002. It describes Lencioni’s search for the root causes of organizational politics and team failures. As a coat rack, he uses five fundamental dysfunctions that teams often struggle with.

5 key questions

Lencioni has a rich experience in observing and coaching teams. He helped many CEOs and Fortune 500 management teams, recognizing very clear patterns of behavior. Specific behaviors caused the biggest disruptions. Based on the following five questions, he advises you to analyze your own team:

  1. Do your team members openly and easily express their opinions?
  2. Are your team meetings engaging and productive?
  3. Does your team come to decisions quickly and not get bogged down in its search for consensus?
  4. Do your team members talk to each other about their shortcomings?
  5. Are your team members sacrificing their own interests for the good of the team?

If you can answer “yes” to all five questions, then stop reading now. You have passed, and are part of a “dream team”. Have you answered one or more questions with “no”? Then there is work to be done.

The 5 dysfunctions

Why are teams dysfunctional in the first place? The answer is simple: each team is composed of individuals with different interests, norms, values, qualities and flaws. Lencioni’s model explains why the dynamics between these different individuals are so important. According to him, there are five frustrations that teams often struggle with and can cause confusion, misunderstandings or negative morale. I start at the bottom of the pyramid (at the most essential level) and then explain each level.

1. Lack of trust

At the foot of the pyramid is the lack of trust. His cause lies in the fact that team members are unable to be vulnerable and open with each other. They are not willing to admit their mistakes, weaknesses, or need for help. Without a certain level of comfort among team members, a foundation of trust is not possible. In practice, this leads to a huge waste of time and energy, as team members fall back into defensive behavior.

How do you recognize a team where mutual trust is lacking?

  • Weaknesses are hidden from each other;
  • Conclusions are drawn too quickly about intentions and tendencies of others;
  • There is an aversion to team meetings or occasions where one acts as a team;
  • They do not give each other the benefit of the doubt;

How do you promote mutual trust?

Take the lead in this change process. If you show good behavior, others will follow. Let your team members get to know each other better. Schedule a meeting and let everyone tell something about themselves. By sharing innocent information, team members quickly gain a more personal connection with each other. This promotes empathy and mutual understanding. It can be the first step towards better mutual trust. Be vulnerable: identify your own weaknesses and limitations and be the first to admit mistakes. Slowly but surely, these kinds of customs will become culture.

2. Fear of conflict

Teams that don’t have confidence are unable to debate important issues unfiltered, passionately. This creates situations in which team conflicts easily turn into disguised discussions and where “backchannel” behavior arises. A so-called “artificial harmony”. In a work environment where team members do not openly express their opinions, valuable time is wasted.

How do you recognize a team that is afraid of internal conflicts?

  • These types of teams have tedious meetings;
  • Members sinacum on discussing critical or controversial topics;
  • A lot of time and energy is wasted with keeping up appearances;
  • Real problems are not solved.

How do you prevent this fear?

Define what a healthy conflict looks like by praising healthy examples or providing corrective feedback if the conflict tends to be unhealthy. As soon as team members “conflict” with each other, you as a team leader are reluctant. Recognize it when someone starts to feel uncomfortable with the onset of a conflict. Remind him/her that the conflict is necessary to grow. So encourage it.

Solutions must be given the opportunity to arise naturally. If it all doesn’t get off the ground, you can also take the following test: open a meeting with a bad idea to see if everyone agrees (and thus avoids a conflict). You can use this to start a healthy discussion.

3. Lack of dedication

Without conflict, it’s difficult for team members to commit and commit to certain goals. Lack of direction and commitment can make employees, especially high potentials, dissatisfied.

How do you recognize a team that doesn’t have enough dedication?

  • There is a continuous lack of clarity within the team about the direction and priorities;
  • Time and time again, discussions and decisions are returned to;
  • Criticism of others is mainly expressed afterwards;
  • They act with hesitation and change direction.

How do you create commitment?

Clarity and closure are of utmost importance to overcome this dysfunction and move to the next level. Therefore, set clear deadlines. It is simple (but efficient) to show and go through the decision list at the end of a meeting. In this way, the team once again gets to see in black and white what has been decided and what their involvement is expected for. It also prevents ambiguity about the decision taken. Determine together what is and is not communicated to other staff. Set up an emergency plan. These are all tools that ensure that your team overcomes their fears and everyone can commit.

4. Avoiding accountability

The consequence of teams not committing to a clear action plan is bigger than you expect. You’ll find that over time, this will affect even the most focused and driven team members. Where these leaders used to point out their actions and behaviors to others, this will also disappear in the long run with a general lack of accountability.

How do you recognize a team that avoids responsibilities?

  • Mediocrity is encouraged;
  • Deadlines and important appointments are regularly missed;
  • The team leader is unnecessarily burdened, as he/she is the only source of discipline;
  • Potential problems are not (or too late) detected.

How do you encourage responsibility?

As a team leader, you should point out to the team a common team responsibility. Publish internally (or even externally if the subject allows) your objectives and standards on which everyone can be addressed. Offer rewards for performance of the entire team, rather than to individual members. The latter will encourage team members to address others when they are not taking up their duties.

Realize, if teams already master the first 3 levels, then they already have confidence and dedication and dare to enter into conflicts. This enables team members to tackle difficult problems more quickly and to hold each other accountable.

5. Inattention to results

People naturally tend to put their own needs (think ego, career development, and recognition) above the team’s collective goals. This happens especially when individuals are not held accountable. If a team has lost sight of the need for performance, the company ultimately suffers. A team can only become result-oriented if all team members put the results of the team first.

How do you recognize a team where results don’t come first?

  • These types of teams tend to stagnate and fail to develop;
  • Performance-oriented team members drop out;
  • Distractions are quick to deflect.

How do you focus on collective goals?

A team leader must take the lead in focusing on the intended results. As soon as team members notice that their leader values something other than results, the group members will take over. A proven tip is to make results public. Teams that are willing to publicly commit to certain objectives are likely to work passionately to achieve results.

The effect of a dream team

High performance teams have a solid foundation of trust, healthy conflict, dedication and team responsibility. These types of teams are often recognized within the company for their achievements through praise or rewards. This often makes it easier for team members to set aside their own needs in the best interests of the team. With these qualities, teams can retain top performers, failures can be tackled resiliently, and focus can be maintained.

I wish you the best of luck in understanding, discussing and tackling the challenges in your team!

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