5 signs that you have a dysfunctional team (And what to do about it)

27th April 2018

It’s great if your employees all get on and work well together, but if they don’t, it can be tricky to know what to do to fix it. Here we look at what makes a team dysfunctional and what you can do about it.

What makes a team dysfunctional?

Getting to grips with your team dynamics is about delving below the surface and working out what’s really going on with your people. There are lots of reasons why some teams don’t work well, and often the reasons can be something other than what they first appear to be on the outside. It’s all about people at the end of the day. We all come with our own little habits and different ways of seeing and doing things, and we bring all of our unique characteristics with us to our jobs – which can be good or bad depending on your experiences!

So, how do you know if your team is actually dysfunctional, or whether it’s just going through a normal blip of bad feeling amongst a couple of people in the team? After all, we’re all human and sometimes people don’t always see eye to eye all of the time.

In his book The five dysfunctions of a team, author and speaker Patrick Lencioni delves into this and highlights the main reasons why teams don’t succeed in working effectively. See how many of his causes you find yourself nodding away in agreement with.

 

The five dysfunctions of a team (according to Patrick Lencioni):

  1. ‘Absence of Trust’

This is usually when people don’t feel able to let their guard down with each other and aren’t open to admitting failures or weaknesses with each other.

  1. ‘Fear of conflict’

When people are scared to upset someone else in the team, they often feel unable to disagree with each other or have healthy debate.

  1. ‘Lack of commitment’

If there is no clear direction in the team then no-one will feel strongly enough about working to meet the team goals.

  1. ‘Avoidance of accountability’

This is when no-one in the team feels able to hold their co-workers to account on their actions -perhaps to avoid an uncomfortable situation – even when it’s clear that the actions of others within the team are detrimental to the success of the team.

  1. ‘Inattention to results’

Have you heard that often repeated gem ‘there’s no ‘i’ n team’? This is when your people are so focused on their own individual successes that they don’t behave as one united team.

 

So, what does a successful team dynamic look like? 

Think of the most successful sports teams you know and what makes them behave as one united force. The same principles apply to workplace teams.

Ideally what you’re aiming to encourage is for all members to understand the overall goals and how their individual roles fit in to that; where people are motivated to work hard and achieve the team goals, more so than for their own personal success; and where there’s genuine trust, loyalty, honesty and constructive debate. Not much to ask eh?

 

How to turn around a bad team dynamic

Like Lencioni explains, it is possible to turn a badly performing team into a successful one, but it doesn’t just happen magically on its own.

It’s really worth putting in the work though, and these are my top tips for creating teams that will have the right kind of behaviours and attributes to smash any goals you set them:

  • Develop strong leadership at the top

Your directors and senior managers need to be acting as strong leaders who give clear direction and inspire their teams to achieve big things. They should also act as role models; practicing the workplace behaviours and ways of working together that you want to encourage amongst your people.

  • Empower your people

Give your people more autonomy and you’ll probably find that they thrive and step up to meet the increased expectations on them.

  • Encourage openness and honesty

Again, it starts with your leaders. If it’s seen to be ok to own up to mistakes and have weaknesses as well as strengths, then your team members will start to let down the guard with each other and communicate in a much more honest way with each other.

  • Be clear on your vision and values

Ensure that all your people, regardless of their roles, really understand your direction. Include them in strategy sessions and encourage ideas and suggestions from all of your people.

If your team members can see where and how their roles fit in with the bigger vision, they are more likely to feel committed in helping to achieve the team goals and ultimately drive the business forward.

  • Up-skill your line-managers

Train line-managers in the art of adapting their style to suit different personalities within their team; how to get the best out of their people, and how to support, encourage, motivate and challenge each of their people.

  • Introduce 360-degree feedback

 Encourage a culture where people feel comfortable to give and receive constructive feedback from their peers. This needs to be handled well though, so make sure that you run some training for your people.

  • Encourage a ‘we’re all in it together’ attitude 

Most performance related bonuses or incentives tend to be based on individual successes, but consider having rewards for team successes; a fun day out, or going out for dinner together at the end of a successful project.

If Lencioni’s ‘five dysfunctions of a team’ struck a chord with you, then I hope that armed with some determination and my suggestions, you’ll be able turn around any dysfunctional team behaviour that you face.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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