Executive Coaching & Development, Leadership Training, Strategic Planning & More | Chicago, IL | Primer Michaels
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Team Dysfunction

There are several causes of team dysfunction.

One is a lack of leadership courage. The leader decides which hard issues need to be addressed. The classic example is when there is a personnel issue. There is a person either on the leadership team or in the ranks that is not a good fit, but the organization does not deal with that issue.

Another is a lack of safety and security. We say that we want to share our points of view and that we encourage a diversity of points of view, but the reality is that we have seen our cohorts actually being asked off the team when they have spoken their minds. So, we go into a meeting organized around the right issues, but it is not safe to speak.

A third is simply too much stress. We have taken on too much. We are trying to do too much with the resources we have, and we are trying to move too fast. That stress, that piling-on, if you will, results in changing the subject too often. We do not stay with the subject long enough or go deeply enough to get to a satisfactory conclusion. We start to feel like we are running in place. There is a sense of being stuck or being in an eddy current, and we do not have the momentum that we would like to have because we are not concentrating on the few most important things.

There are three primary practices for addressing team dysfunction.

The first is a discovery phase. Everybody knows there are issues and problems. However, there often has not been a true revealing of everybody’s perceptions and perspectives with regard to what is really happening. That discovery phase has two pieces. One is one-on-one discussion that gives each individual on the team the opportunity to share his or her perspective and be heard.

The second component of the discovery piece is a team assessment. Having the team say together what they feel is going well, what is not going well and what their concerns are so that you can see across the spectrum to what degree there is consensus regarding the issues and potential solutions.

The third component to addressing team dysfunction is to seriously consider outside facilitation. An outside facilitator can organize a process and ensure that the process is completed. An outside facilitator can say things that other people will hesitate to say. He or she can listen to the different points of view, help to crystallize them and move the group succinctly to conclusion. The facilitator takes a lot of pressure off the senior leader who is then able to become part of the group instead of watching both the content of the discussion and the process of the meeting. The down side to outside facilitation is that almost all leaders have had an unsatisfactory consultant experience. Doing the due diligence to find the person with the right fit is an important part of the equation.

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