How well does your team work together?

Creating Value with People

How well does your team work together?

Are you looking for a way to discuss how the team you work in gets along or would you like your manager to modify how they lead the team?

The chances are you’re spending a lot of time with work colleagues, perhaps more than with your family.

You probably know you work so much better in some situations, and not at all productively in others.

However, as we know, it’s hard to tell the person who pays your salary that you’d like things to be different.

A recent Harvard Business Review article titled "Why start-ups like Uber stumble over problems they could have avoided" (Chris Zook and James Allen) discusses how the barriers to growth in rapidly growing companies are often internal.

They write of the importance of the founder’s mentality and the importance of building a cohesive team, and it’s just as important for a more mature team or organisation.

So whether you’re leading a team or belong to a team here are some thoughts based on the writings of Patrick Lencioni and described in his book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”.

How can I use this to help my team? The Five Behaviours of a Cohesive team diagnostic tool was pivotal in the case of an owner managed company I worked with.

The MD and their team were able to receive anonymous feedback about how they were working together.

They were great on Trust and Conflict, however, they were not so good around Commitment and Accountability.

As a result of a day long workshop they put in place a number of changes, which when reviewed a few weeks later were already paying dividends.

Let’s have a look at Lencioni’s model. The model is used to help you:

• reflect on how your team works together currently

• and then identify how you can develop a more effective way of working together. Lencioni writes that firstly all team success is based on Trust of each other and that ”Trust lies at the heart of a functioning , cohesive team. Without it, teamwork is all but impossible.”

So what does Trust look like and how can you judge the levels of Trust in your team.

One of the indicators is that members of teams with high levels of Trust are comfortable admitting mistakes and weaknesses.

There are good business reasons why this is important.

If you feel able to admit a mistake early on then it’s so much easier and less expensive to deal with.

How many projects hit problems late in the process because people haven’t felt able to raise concerns earlier?

Once Trust is established the focus is on Conflict, or as Lencioni puts it “All great relationships....require productive conflict in order to grow.”

So what might you see and hear if you were part of a team demonstrating productive conflict?

• Lively, passionate discussions

• Mutual respect

• Quick problem solving, based on the contributions of everyone Having debated and explored sometimes conflicting ideas and suggestions team members must feel able to make a Commitment to decisions, even if their proposal isn’t the chosen one.

Lencioni writes that commitment is a function of 2 factors

• clarity

• and buy-in, without a need for complete consensus Lencioni’s 4th attribute is Accountability.

Having agreed and committed to a plan, in an effective team each member is comfortable being both held to account and holding others to account, including the team’s manager.

In the example I gave earlier team members were hesitant to review progress and this went alongside their need to develop their Attention to Results, which is Lencioni’s 5th attribute.

This includes a shared focus on achieving collective results, not individual results.

What can I do? If you want to reflect on how the team you lead or work in is functioning, here are a few questions to think about:

• Do team members acknowledge their weaknesses to each other, including in team meetings?

• Are team members willing to voice their opinions even at the risk of disagreement?

• Do individual team members support group decisions even if they initially disagreed?

• Do team members value collective success over individual achievement?

If you’d like to read more I’d recommend Lencioni’s book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” as easy to read with plenty of useful suggestions.

Thank you for reading this article.