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Tips for Managing Dysfunctional Teams

manage dysfunctional teamsThe work of a manager is never done, right? From overseeing processes to overseeing people, it can be tough juggling all the responsibilities that come with management-level work. One of the biggest challenges that can be dealt to a manager is a dysfunctional team. That’s right – it’s your job to take the ‘dys’ out of dysfunction and turn your employees into a happy, harmonious gang that gets along and gets things done.

Kidding aside, managing dysfunctional teams is hard work. Lucky for us, experts from around the globe have analyzed the most common traits of dysfunctional teams, and recommend some common ways to fix them. Here are some valuable insights from one the top experts on the subject.

Patrick Lencioni – The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
Patrick Lencioni is a noted American consultant, speaker and author of books on business and team management. He is best known for his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

Lencioni presents this model of dysfunctional teams in this way:

#1 – Lack of Trust
The fear of being vulnerable with team members prevents the building of trust within the team.

#2 – Fear of Conflict
The desire to preserve artificial harmony stifles the occurrence of productive ideological conflict.

#3 – Inability to Commit
The lack of clarity or buy-in prevents team members from holding one another accountable.

#4 – Avoidance of Accountability
The need to avoid interpersonal discomfort prevents team members from holding one another accountable.

#5 – Inattention to Results
The pursuit of individual goals and personal status erodes the focus on collective success.

Why Teams are Dysfunctional
Lencioni says the reason why so many teams are dysfunctional is because they’re made up of imperfect human beings – all with their own varied interests and frailties.

Lencioni shares, “When you put them together and leave them to their own devices, even the most well-intentioned people will usually deviate toward dysfunctional, unproductive behavior. And because most leaders and managers are not schooled in the art of building teams, small problems are left untreated and spiral further and further into ugliness and politics.”

Breaking Down Dysfunction
To assess just how much dysfunction you’re dealing with, Lencioni suggests asking the following questions. If the answer to many of the questions below is “no” then your team needs some help.

  • Do team members openly and readily disclose their opinions?
  • Are team meetings compelling? Productive?
  • Does the team come to decisions quickly and avoid getting tied down by consensus?
  • Do members confront each other about their shortcomings?
  • Do members sacrifice their own interest for the good of the team?

Goal – Teamwork
The first step towards overcoming dysfunction and achieving teamwork is for managers to take the lead in helping the team address the five dysfunctions head on. Through open communication, individual and team exercises (see Lencioni’s website for details) and goal setting, the team can move towards cohesiveness and improved performance.

Lencioni says the traits of high performing teams are the following:

  • They are comfortable asking for help, admitting mistakes and limitations, taking risks and giving feedback
  • Team members tap into each other’s skills and experiences
  • They avoid wasting time talking about the wrong issues and don’t revisit the same topics because of lack of buy-in
  • The team makes quality decisions and accomplishes more in less time, and with fewer resources
  • They’re not afraid to discuss critical topics and have lively meetings
  • The team aligns itself around common objectives
  • Good teams retain star employees

No Progress?
If you’ve tried everything and progress simply isn’t made, then it might be time for a team change. That could mean reorganizing team members or even letting a team member go, if there is justification to do so. Or, some team members may choose to part ways with your organization.

If your situation results in the need for new employees, there are behavioral assessments that staffing agencies can conduct for employers that help determine if a new hire will fit well with the team dynamic and company culture. These assessments are often completed by candidates online, with minimal time investments for all parties. To learn more about the behavioral assessment tools that we offer, contact us.