Monday, April 16, 2007

Five Characteristics Of A Functional Team

In an attempt to figure out how libraries can become more innovative much or my reading and postings of late have focused on the characteristics of innovative organizations. I have come across several works detailing the characteristics of unhealthy and dysfunctional organizations as a way to uncover those traits we do want.

To this end, I recently had the chance to read The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni. Now, I have the tendency to avoid non-fiction works that have titles with numbers in them since they are generally of the self help variety. So, I read it against my better judgement. I skipped over the fictional leadership story at first and went right to page 187 to get the message:

"building an innovative organization is possible, but very difficult since human behavior tendencies corrupt and breed dysfunctional politics within them. "

If you scan your environment you may find one or all of five following characteristics of a functional team at work:

- Focus on the achievement of collective results. In a functional team the team results are the most important goals. Successful leaders will focus on the results and make them clear for all to see, rewarding only the behaviors that contribute to the team and correcting those that don't. There will be problems when individual needs (ego, career development, or recognition) are put above the collective team goals. When team members focus on individual needs there is often a failure to:

- Hold one another accountable for delivering those plans of action. Team members that are close to one another will also hesitate to make them accountable since they do not want to risk personal relationships. The failure to call their peers out on actions and behaviors that seem counterproductive to the good of the team leads to a lack of accountability. The enemy of accountability is ambiguity.Leaders need to make it clear what the standards are, what needs to get done, by who and by when. The lack of accountability results in a lack of:

- Commitment to decisions and plans of actions. Teams that do not have accountability spend much time “off-line” making decisions that the group does not commit to. Many times team members will feign agreement in meetings or creating ambiguity about their particular direction and priorities. Leaders can facilitate building commitment by reviewing all key decisions and making responsibilities and deadlines clear. There can be no commitment if team members do not:

- Engage in unfiltered conflict around ideas. One can tell how healthy an organization is simply by attending a meeting and observing how open the debate is (or isn't). Healthy and productive teams accept that conflict is a normal part of being in a team to learn to deal with it productively. All meaningful relationships require productive conflict for them to grow. Teams become dysfunctional when they are unable to productively deal with conflict or replace conflict with an artificial harmony. Leaders need to understand the importance of conflict and help team members learn about and develop positive conflict resolution skills. There can not be open conflict if team members do not:

- Trust one another. The key to overcoming a lack of trust is through shared experiences. Yet, too often team members are simply not genuinely open with one another and so not open up since doing so may result in the loss of some political advantage or being as seen as vulnerable. The primary role of the leader in building trust is to lead by example and create an environment where it’s safe to be vulnerable.

So, in summary, when team members make decisions based on their own interests there grows a lack of accountability. When there is a lack of accountability for decisions it is difficult for team members to become committed to those decisions. Without commitment team members may be unwilling to engage in honest debate and compromise. Without open debate it is almost impossible to build trust; the foundation on which all functional groups are built. Sphere: Related Content

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