I just completed a retreat weekend with an organization/team that labeled themselves as dysfunctional. I decided I would use a Friday night after dinner presentation to set the stage for a Saturday facilitation where they would examine their current practices and decide on what commitments for change they were willing to make.
I began the presentation with an explanation of Margaret Wheatley’s focus points for effective organizations: (A Simpler Way)
Flow of information throughout the team
Rich and diverse relationships among the team and with the broader community
A common vision that unites the team
I then explored the items found in Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Lencioni describes the elements:
Absence of Trust
Fear of Conflict
Lack of Commitment
Avoidance of Accountability
Inattention to Results
Several years ago I saw a cartoon and it changed my definition of dysfunctional. Dysfunction is pretty normal.
It’s probably safe to say that all teams have dysfunctional times. So I rephrased the elements to focus on what needs to be done to build increased team effectiveness.
Building Trust– I think knowing each other is the initial step in building trust into a team, Structuring purposeful opportunities for sharing oneself and listening to others is a start. If trust is present, team members will ask for help, accept questions from each other, and risk offering feedback to colleagues.
Work through Conflicts—Communications skills are needed for working through conflicts. Listening to each other and informing people with differing opinions that you have heard and understand their views is helpful. I recommend practicing open questions and paraphrasing in structured ways. A facilitator can remind teams to consciously use these skills when conflicting views emerge.
Establishing Willingness to Make Commitments— When trust has been built through knowing each other’s commitment to the team’s vision and when communication has caused all options to be explored, members are willing to commit to a plan even when it is not their personal first choice. “They can support a decision without knowing for sure it will work, because it represents the group’s best thinking.” (Lencioni -209)
Building in Accountability—“Members of great teams improve their relationships by holding one another accountable, thus demonstrating that they respect each other and have high expectations for one another’s performance.”(Lencioni-213) I recommend that a recorder keep track of tasks that individuals agree to carry out and that the meeting end with a review or notes be sent out as a follow up.
Staying Focused on Results— Teams frequently find that the urgent and “not so important to our results” issues can fill a meeting’s agenda rather quickly. It’s critical that team leaders find opportunities to bring reminders about our results into the conversation often. A school leader in a workshop with me this week shared his realization that by the middle of October, he and his leadership team had drifted away from a results focus that they had set in August. Day to day demands had clouded the focus.
The Friday night presentation along with the practice activities I started with the next morning moved their team in the direction. I got this feedback:
“The activity was excellent for getting this dysfunctional group to sit and have decent, productive discussion about their state of affairs. For the first time in many years, these individuals actually listened to each other!”