Monday, January 3, 2011

Five Indicators of Great Teams

Have you read Patrick Lencioni’s best-seller The Five Dysfunctions of a Team? I find it to be a terrific guide for creating great leadership, teamwork, and group cohesion, but I also imagine where the most doubts are raised. Below are some of the more controversial behaviors that Lencioni encourages – along with my brief explanation about its purpose, value and importance.

1. Team members are passionate and unguarded in their discussion of issues.
We think we want and encourage this, but how often do your meetings instead involve polite exchanges, quiet attention, and cautious questioning? A truly provocative and open discussion makes it possible to learn about problems, ask for details, offer ideas, and present challenges. All of which ultimately improve decision making and problem resolution. If your meetings are ruled by polite behavior, chances are your team is not fully engaged.

2. Morale is significantly affected by the failure to achieve team goals.
High-morale is the workplace equivalent of high self –esteem. In neither arena can the sense of worth be given. Morale must be achieved. While we want our teams to experience high morale – lowered morale due to problems or failures is not only normal, but healthy. It pushes teams to work harder to create a successful outcome. Morale is affected by our sense of purpose and remains high when we feel we are on the right path and making progress.

3. Team members are deeply concerned about the prospect of letting down their peers.
Consider this as a healthy form of peer pressure. When staff feels compelled to prove themselves to their team, they work harder to achieve. This sense of connectivity and interpersonal responsibility also lends itself to a shared appreciation for the efforts and attention each person puts into the project, ultimately creating a stronger and more cohesive team.

4. Team members know about one another’s personal lives and are comfortable discussing them.
First, a disclaimer for those concerned about HIPAA and other legislative mandates: The openness this refers to is not artificial or required, but occurs naturally and is an indication of trust and respect.
The healthiest of teams are aware of each others’ strengths and weaknesses – both within and beyond the office setting. They share important details about an ailing parent, a health condition, or even a pending adoption. Through sharing they create an otherwise unattainable level of understanding, allowing them to graciously pitch in or ask for help when a personal challenge interferes with their professional efforts.

5. Team members challenge one another about their plans and approaches.
While many teams have members who operate with “Mind your own business” independence, truly successful teams have members who welcome the broader attention of the group. Such teams are apt to consider divergent points of view, and to expect discussion before decision making. The result is clear - Mistakes are often avoided, good plans become better, and all participants become active stakeholders in the decision making process.

Creating healthy teams takes time. Developing trust and a willingness to engage in constructive conflict and communication are important steps along that path.