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6 Surprising Ways Teams Fail

Some of the dysfunctions you have to avoid.
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Patrick Lencioni has written a bible on why teams fail (The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable), and the book is wildly popular: Of its 670 reviews on Amazon.com, a whopping 602 awarded four or five stars.

Naturally, many consultants appreciate this book. And one of them--Deborah Mackin of New Directions Consulting in North Bennington, Vt.--has even developed a list of six additional dysfunctions, complementing Lencioni's five (absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results).

Here's Mackin's list:

1. Wanting team-based results without constructing a team-based structure. "What does a team-based structure look like?" she asks. "There is a gelling that happens when teams define their own goals and approach, pitch in to share roles and responsibilities, commit to core values and beliefs that reinforce the importance of every member, and demonstrate a willingness to hold each other accountable for results."

2. Overestimating the importance of the task focus and underestimating process and relationship. "In any team functioning, there are actually three things going on: task/content, processes and relationships. When project teams or cross-functional teams are formed, the emphasis is too often put on getting the tasks done (the 'what') and not enough attention is paid to the 'how.' As a consequence, the team never discusses how they'll communicate, run their meetings, make decisions, solve problems, or assign responsibilities."

3. The culture doesn't really encourage collaboration and cooperation. "Sometimes, people will ask us to come in and do a half-day workshop on team-building. Exactly what can be accomplished in 3.5 hours that will significantly change behaviors that have existed and been tolerated in organizations for years?"

4. Still believing in the 'lone star' myth. "Despite the fact that we know the world is getting increasingly complicated and change is happening at the speed of light, we persist in believing we can do it better ourselves."

5. Neglecting the talent pool that resides in a team. "When we ask people in training if they feel that their organization taps into all their skills and experiences, no one raises his or her hand. So much knowledge is getting left on the table. Without a process for scanning the skills existing in the team, too many members simply show up to meetings and contribute only when solicited. They bring a functional mentality that limits contribution to those things that closely align with their job description. We have yet to figure out in organizations how to extract the sum total of talent on a team."

6. Insufficient training prior to launching the team's work. "Start-up teams need to be trained in the definition of a team, the behaviors associated with high performance teams, how to structure the team's meetings and processes, how to resolve conflicts and personality differences, when and how to use consensus, and how to share roles and responsibilities. The list goes on and on. Our modern culture does not teach these competencies as a matter of course. As a consequence, when a team experiences the first member who is bossy or doesn't pull his/her weight, no one knows what to do, other than talking behind the person's back or acting out in passive-aggressive behaviors."

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IMAGE: Official US Navy Page/Flickr
Last updated: Dec 30, 2013

THE BUILD NETWORK STAFF

The Build Network staff curates provocative, actionable leadership advice for executive teams running sustained-growth companies.




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