Kaleidoskope - How to Build High Performing Teams

Building High-Performing TeamsBuilding High-Performing Teams In any organisation, the team is the fundamental unit of work. It’s  where the rubber meets the road — where strategy gets executed and results are achieved. For this reason, team performance is essential to organisational success.

Building High-Performing Teams

In any organisation, the team is the fundamental unit of work. It’s  where the rubber meets the road — where strategy gets executed and results are achieved. For this reason, team performance is essential to organisational success.

There are a number of factors that contribute to team performance, and effective team management is among the most crucial. Managing a team is never easy, but by understanding the dynamics of team performance, leaders can put in place the systems and processes needed to build and sustain formidable teams.

Successful team management spells the difference between average and great results. Great teams are cohesive, focused, and effective. They are also able to overcome obstacles and accomplish their goals. On the other hand, dysfunctional teams are often bogged down by conflict, low morale, and ineffective communication. So how can team managers ensure that their team is functioning at its best?

In our new blog, Paul Stuart, Kaleidoskope Co-founder, Master Facilitator and Senior Director of Client Solutions, gives an insightful discussion on effective, efficient, and exceptional team leadership.

 

Dysfunction # 1: The absence of “Vulnerability-based” trust

“Great teams do not hold back with one another. They are unafraid to air their dirty laundry. They admit their mistakes, their weaknesses, and their concerns without fear of reprisal.” 

– Patrick Lencioni

This quotation from Patrick Lencioni, the author of the “5 Dysfunctions of a Team,” provides a key insight into the first of the 5 Dysfunctions: Absence of trust.

Whilst most leaders and their teams recognise the importance of trust in building a cohesive team, the type of trust which they normally refer to is what is known as “predictive” trust. 

Although this type of trust is of course important, it’s not the type of trust that the 5 Dysfunctions model is based on. Instead, Lencioni terms this type of trust as “vulnerability-based” trust.

So what’s the difference between “Predictive” trust and Lencioni’s “Vulnerability-based” trust?

Kaleidoskope - Patrick Lencioni's Trust Diagram - Dysfunctions of a Team

If “Vulnerability-based” trust is absent in a team, then their chances of reaching a high level of performance are significantly reduced. But, if a team can create this kind of atmosphere and culture, then they will have overcome the first of the 5 Dysfunctions — and the key to achieving this is courage. To encourage this behaviour in others, it first has to be exhibited by the leader.

Dysfunction # 2: The fear of conflict

“Contrary to popular wisdom and behaviour, conflict is not a bad thing for a team.  In fact, the fear of conflict is almost always a sign of problems.”

 – Patrick Lencioni

So, which problem is Lencioni referring to?

“Contrary to popular wisdom and behaviour, conflict is not a bad thing for a team. In fact, the fear of conflict is almost always a sign of problems,” according to Lencioni.

The key problem is fairly straightforward. Unless there is some “conflict” or at least disagreement within a team, it’s unlikely that they are able to engage in the unfiltered and passionate debate that is necessary for all ideas and suggestions to be thoroughly reviewed and ensure that they add value to the business. Instead, teams resort to veiled discussions and guarded comments resulting in less than optimum decisions being made.

Conflict within teams often becomes destructive and personal, but the type of conflict the 5 Dysfunctions model advocates is both productive and ideological. Such conflict is impossible unless the team is comfortable with the concept of vulnerability-based trust (referred to in Dysfunction #1).

Even in the best teams, this type of conflict will sometimes be comfortable, but the fear of occasional personal conflict should not deter the team from regular, productive debate.

Kaleidoskope - Team Management - Singapore

Dysfunction # 3: Lack of Commitment

 “In the context of a team, commitment is a function of two things: clarity and buy-in…. Even from those who voted against the decision.” 

– Patrick Lencioni

Previously, we proposed that if team members do not have the willingness to deal with the conflict that may arise from passionate debate, then they are unlikely to be making optimal decisions. 

There is also a very important knock-on effect, wherein it becomes all too easy for team members to fail to commit to team decisions on the basis that their views were never given due consideration or perhaps even heard. 

This results in “corridor conversations,” which make it clear that the team concerned is not cohesive. Obviously, this has negative connotations in itself. 

But what is often overlooked is that this kind of split is frequently all too apparent to those reporting to the team and so has a damaging impact throughout the organisation. So true buy-in can only be achieved if team members feel that their opinions have been heard and understood.

Kaleidoskope - Commitment and Clarity - Team Management

One of the other key elements Lencioni considers necessary for commitment is clarity

I expect we have all had the experience of happily concluding a meeting thinking that everyone had agreed to a particular action only to find afterwards that there were numerous interpretations of the same agreement! 

To combat this issue, Lencioni proposes a simple tool to ensure that if there are any misunderstandings or differing interpretations, then they should be dealt with before the meeting closes. Yes, the meeting may last a little longer, but this far outweighs the time saved in avoiding future disagreements.

Kaleidoskope - Leadership Principles - Team Management

Great teams operate on the basis that everyone in the team has a responsibility to express their true opinions irrespective of how unpopular they may be or who they are disagreeing with. 

But they also have the equal responsibility to commit to the group decision even when it goes against their own view. This approach is enshrined in one of Amazon’s well-known leadership principles: “Disagree and Commit.”

Dysfunction # 4: Avoidance of Accountability

“To hold someone accountable is to care about them enough to risk having them blame you for pointing out their deficiencies.”

– Patrick Lencioni

Very few people would argue with the concept of holding people accountable for their actions and behaviour. However, Lencioni stresses two important elements that are vital to doing this effectively:

1. It’s impossible to hold people accountable if they haven’t given prior and public commitment to the actions they are supposed to take. Hence, this dysfunction is directly linked to the previous one — Lack of Commitment.

Kaleidoskope - Accountability - Team Management

2. Perhaps more unusually, Lencioni contends that the most effective form of accountability is peer accountability — where peers take it as their responsibility to “call each other out” if they notice colleagues who are not living up to their commitments. More often it is left to the leader of the team to do this, but peer accountability leads to a stronger team, even if there are some uncomfortable moments to be navigated along the way.

Kaleidoskope - Effective form of Accountability

Dysfunction # 5: Inattention to Results

“A functional team must make the collective results of the group more important to each individual than individual members’ goals.”

– Patrick Lencioni

Ultimately, the overall purpose of overcoming the previous four (4) dysfunctions — building greater trust, engaging in healthy conflict, obtaining clear commitment and holding each other accountable is for one reason only — is the achievement of results.

But here, Lencioni again makes a key point: the results everyone should be concerned with are the team’s overall results, NOT each team member’s individual results. This is a common problem in large organisations with reward structures based on individual departmental objectives.

To foster the right environment to achieve this focus on overall results, individual team members must recognize and act in a way that — however loyal they are to the team they serve. Their overriding loyalty is always to the team to which they are a member.

Kaleidoskope - Functional Team - Team Management

In summary, the journey through the 5 Dysfunctions of A Team can at times be challenging. But the overall, long-term improvement in true teamwork and ultimately, better results far outweigh the temporary discomfort.

About The Blog Author

Paul Stuart
Senior Director Client Solutions, Kaleidoskope Pte Ltd

As a consultant operating in four main roles — trainer, facilitator, executive coach and organisational development consultant — Paul has facilitated a wide range of interventions and has trained more than 40 different nationalities in 20 countries.  

He has a special interest in the areas of Project Management and Leadership, Influencing skills and Communication. He is known for delivering programmes that are engaging, practical and fun; with a strong emphasis on “learning by doing” so that the skills and techniques “stick.”

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