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Dysfunction Junction

Broken down at the side of the road?

Talking cars is easier than talking people. They work or they don’t. They can be fixed or not. It might need this part, but if not, try this one. If they’re not in decent shape, they can cost more to keep on the road, and eventually, they just might have to be replaced. No hurt feelings. No feelings at all, nice and simple.

But, people. We work well together, or we don’t. We can improve our team function, or break down completely. We can try different strategies to get better together. When we don’t work well together, we aren’t efficient with resources. And sometimes, it doesn’t seem a group might ever get it together. Lots of feelings. Not just at the inevitable breakdown, but Every. Single. Day.

How did we get here from there?

Most of us were, at one time, a shiny, brand-new employee or manager, who couldn’t wait to make our contribution to the collective goals of our organization. We learned, we listened, we shared what we knew. Where did we go wrong? When did all these great people stop functioning as a team?

Author Patrick Lencioni’s book of the same name lays out Five Dysfunctions of the Team. Left unchecked, they’ll eventually impact the bottom line, not to mention the lives of the individual team players.

Five Dysfunctions of the Team

  1. Absence of Trust
  2. Fear of Conflict
  3. Lack of Commitment
  4. Avoidance of Accountability
  5. Inattention to Results

Does it matter if the team doesn’t play nice, as long as the work gets done? Yes! Besides the obvious benefit of having a pleasant place to spend 40+ hours each week, there are serious business consequences to dysfunctional teams. When teams aren’t working together towards shared goals (i.e. the goals of the business), those goals will not be reached.

Consider a frequent symptom of dysfunctional teams: the “meeting after the meeting.” These “unofficial” discussions often hold the strong opinions not shared in the real meetings, with little (or no) intent to solve problems. For all the conversation happening between team members during these chats, what’s not happening? Work. And what about that talented employee who is frustrated by unproductive meetings and unable to move their own projects forward? Resigned. And now you’re on the hook for the cost to replace a senior team member, never mind fix the morale of the remaining staff.

Ridiculously in Charge

How does a team get dysfunctional? Leadership let them. As Henry Cloud says in Boundaries for Leaders: “Leaders must own what they create or allow to exist. You are ridiculously in charge.”

The next series of Smart, Savvy + Associates’ blog posts are set to work through the five healthy functions of a high performing team:

  • Trust
  • Healthy Conflict
  • Commitment
  • Accountability
  • Focusing on Results

Give us a read over the next few weeks, and we’ll share some great ideas to transform team dysfunction into high-function!


thepeter.jpgPeter Reek is the Founder and President of Smart, Savvy + Associates. We find high-calibre marketing, communications, creative and sales professionals with proven track records and in-demand skills for companies who need them, across the Pacific Northwest and in Toronto. We also provide leadership and training development programs for workplace programs, corporate retreats and individual growth opportunities. Contact Peter to discuss your organization's training needs.

Peter Reek

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