Increasing Team Effectiveness

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


oct 20 bookI 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.


oct 20

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!”

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3 Responses to “ Increasing Team Effectiveness ”

  1. Willie Nelson Says:


    You always have a way to frame my thinking! One point that really jumps out is the day to day tasks can easily cloud meeting agendas.

    This really gives me many things to ponder! Thanks once again!


  2. Michael Says:

    I just returned from facilitating two days of professional learning for principals in Kentucky. Our second day was focused on the role of principal as architect. Through a simulation, we unpacked the essential elements for highly effective teams. I included Lencioni’s triangle but like negating the assumptions and presenting a positive spin. Thanks for the insight.

  3. Steve Says:

    Willie and Michael….. thanks for the reinforcement 🙂

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