A poor performing team can cause a considerable amount of stress for everyone. Problems like infighting, back stabbing, miscommunication, and a lack of accountability are commonplace. When a team member stops playing ball it’s time to show them the yellow card. It’s like being in a dysfunctional family – the only problem is you probably spend more time with your team than your own family!
To get the whole team playing on the same side you need to leave the traditional models like the situational leadership model to one side for the time being. You need to lay down foundations of trust to evolve a high performing team.
Patrick Lencioni’s model for teamwork is my ‘go to’. He suggests starting with asking these five questions about your team:
1. Do your team members openly and readily disclose their opinions?
2. Are your team meetings compelling and productive?
3. Does your team come to decisions quickly and avoid getting bogged down by consensus?
4. Do your team members confront one another about their shortcomings?
5. Do your team members sacrifice their own interests for the good of the team?
If you have answered yes to all of these questions you get top marks. If you haven’t you know what areas you need to start working on!
He believes most teams are dysfunctional because of these five elements.
1. Absence of trust
2. Fear of conflict
3. Lack of commitment
4. Avoidance of accountability
5. Inattention to results
If teams are willing to address these issues, they can become high-performing, cohesive teams. As a leader you need to be patient, empathetic and tenacious. When trust is re-established in your team you can start to have the conversations that count. You can create a more open environment for you and your team to operate in.
Here are some tips on how to do it.
1. Create a safe space. Your team needs an environment where people feel safe enough to disclose what is really going on for them. This doesn’t mean disclosing your private life or the skeletons in your closet! You need an environment where your team can share their worries and fears and disclose what they need help with.
2. Really Listen. People need to be seen and heard and know that what they say matters. As a leader you need to have empathy and be curious. If people know you care they will disclose more and say what is on their mind.
3. Banish blame culture. If people make mistakes ask them what they learnt from the experience. By installing an ethos of learning rather than blame, people will be keen to try out new ideas and ways of working. Leaders also need to watch out for their own bias and judgments when dealing with mistakes.
4. It’s ok to be uncomfortable. Be prepared to sit with discomfort and don’t avoid the difficult conversations. When people are expressing something they are finding difficult, we all tend to have a natural tendency to want to fix and not allow them to feel it but this can inadvertently close down a conversation. Often people just need to process what they are feeling and need it to be really heard.
5. Actively listen. Nancy Kline says presence and listening can ignite thinking. When we are stuck we need to access a different way of thinking, so ‘being with’ the people in the room is critical. Having the conversations that count will stop the blocks that are preventing the team working cohesively.
When teams can ask for help, admit mistakes and freely give feedback in a safe environment they can grow and learn from each other.
I work with individuals and teams so they can have conversations that count, get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org if you want some help.