Skill Development: Managing Teams

Shortly after uploading my post about Skill Development: Team Work, I got into a discussion with my friend about the topic and guess what….he emailed me a paper he wrote about Managing Teams
I just had to share this with you all. Excellent stuff, read on..

In today’s business world regardless of the industry,it is evident teamwork plays a vital role in the success of any company. The importance and role of teamwork cannot be overstated as we see that a lot of successful firms lay huge emphasis on teamwork and the ability of any employee to be a great team player is one of the most sought after characteristics that companies look for. 

Using analyses from Patrick Lencioni in his book, The Five dysfunctions of a Team and other scholarly articles on the topic of teamwork, this paper is going to examine in close detail one of the five dysfunctions and develop a brief set of guidelines about how to overcome the dysfunction. In the words of Lencioni, “teamwork remains the ultimate competitive advantage” and he goes on to liken a team to a “fractured/broken arm or leg; fixing it is always painful, and sometimes you have to re-break it to make it heal correctly. The re-break hurts a lot more than the initial break, because you have to do it on purpose”. 

Below are the five dysfunctions of a team as presented by Lencioni:

Absence of Trust: The foundation of real teamwork is trust, teams whose members have trust in each other do not hold back with one another and the only way to build trust is to overcome the need for invulnerability.

Fear of Conflict: Conflict in this sense does not mean being at each other’s throat during brainstorming sessions or meeting but rather engaging in constructive criticism and passionate debates.

Lack of Commitment: This creates a lack of decisiveness among the team and brings about misplaced priorities. It also breeds lack of confidence of fear of failure.

Avoidance of Accountability: Without being accountable for actions of the team, no success can be achieved. Accountability does not only involve the team leader holding his team accountable but also involves team members holding each other accountable.

Inattention to Results: Given that the main objective of any team is to work together and come up with solutions to problems, the yardstick to measure how good they have been able to achieve this objective is by the results. Therefore, not paying sufficient attention to the results makes the whole goal of setting a waste of resources and manpower.

As mentioned earlier, this paper will concentrate on one of the above listed dysfunctions and the dysfunction to be discussed is lack of commitment.

Commitment can be said to be a function of clarity and buy-in. Buy-in is the achievement of honest emotional support and clarity is the removal of assumptions and ambiguity from a situation. Clarity can be further explained to mean that team members know the objectives and chart a clear and concise course to approach the objective and then they are able to move forward with a complete buy-in from every member of the team. The two greatest causes of the lack of commitment are lack of consensus and lack of certainty. Even if there is doubt on the decision taken, it is important for everyone

How to Overcome Lack of Commitment
Set Deadlines: This can serve to be a powerful tool to encourage team members to have more commitment towards the teamwork. Having deadlines makes team members put in their best in their contribution to the team. Using this method not only improves commitment but also affects other dysfunctions such as avoidance of accountability and inattention to results. 

Effective Communication: Whenever team members are kept in the dark, it is a reflection of lack of trust and this discourages team members from committing themselves to the aims of the team. At the same time, it encourages disloyalty since it shows that team members cannot be trusted. Therefore, it is important that team leaders always keep their team members in the light of any updates and information. Team members should also be encouraged to share information among themselves as seeing that one team member is putting so much will also encourage others to emulate him/her. One example of the application of effective communication is Google, which provides a platform through which all employees have access to all information regarding what other teams are involved in. This has contributed in no small way to the enormous success of Google.

Encourage Cooperation not Competition: The team leader should in no way give the impression that his team members are expected to compete against each other. Rather, they should be encouraged to cooperate with one other as cooperation is the foundation on which the team works. Without cooperation, there is no need to set up teams in the first place and one method through which cooperation can be improved is through efficient and effective communication. When team members know that they are all expected to cooperate, it induces commitment as no one would like to be seen as slacking or dragging the team behind. With emphasis on competition, personal success is put in front of team success, which jeopardizes the whole goal of the team, which is working together.

Provide Support: Lastly, team leaders should endeavour to provide support for team members in the sense that whenever any team member has a problem or wishes to discuss any issue; the team leader should be there to provide assistance. As a team leader, being there for the team members signifies that they are valued and this makes them more committed to the team success, as they know that they always have a listening ear. However, it doesn’t mean the team leader has to agree with whatever the team members propose but be able to convey his disagreement in ways that will not affect the morale of the team members. Again, this is all about effective communication.

1.      The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – Patrick Lencioni
2.      The Administrative Team: Dynamism vs. Dysfunction – Nathan Tyson
3.      High-Performing Executive Teams – Lee Ann Runy

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