Managers tend to share one big concern and frustration; the inability of a team to accomplish the results that they set out to achieve. In Patrick Lencioni’s book, Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, he identifies four distractions that must be managed in order to keep a team focused on achieving the collective results.
Distraction #1: The Ego
Everyone has an ego, but when individuals’ egos become more important than the team’s goal, big problems arise. In high school, I played on the basketball team. We didn’t win many games, and in hindsight, it is easy to see why. There were a couple of players on the team who wanted the game to be all about them and their personal stats.
When one of these individuals miscalculated where to throw the ball, they didn’t take ownership of their mistake. Instead, they would yell at their teammate for not catching it. (It would have taken superhuman strength to get to some of those balls.) The inability of these players to acknowledge their mess ups ate away at the core trust of the team. As trust eroded, other things continued to break down until playing on the team was not much fun at all.
The coach did not call these individual’s out on their blaming of others for poor performance; instead, it was ignored. Had the coach addressed these issues and held everyone accountable for their individual, as well as the collective performance of the team, we would have played more cohesively and the probability of winning more games would have increased.
Lesson: Both leaders and team members must be willing to address when teammates’ egos are out of line. If the leader models that behavior, team members will follow suit. If the leader ignores the behaviors, team members will, too. Resentment will build and trust will erode, thus breaking down the team.
Distraction #2 and #3: Career Development and Money
Another aspect of ego is that we all have the desire to grow and make sure our financial needs are met. Being aware of team members’ needs in these two areas is critical to maintaining trust.
An office manager had been working at the same company for many years and was well liked and respected for her performance, but she was frustrated and felt resentful. Team members on the sales side of the organization who worked less years were making as much, if not more, money than her. Although, she understood sales works off of commission and not salary, she could not shake the feeling of resentment that newer hires were able to make more income.
I encouraged her to speak to her boss and share her concerns. Her initial response was, “It won’t do any good, because management will point out that the others are in sales and work off of commission.” I encouraged her to speak to her manager anyway, noting, “It is good to put your concerns on the table, because you never know what might happen”. She shared her frustrations and the company implemented a bonus structure to award salaried employees for reaching certain performance goals. What a great response from management to show how much they value and appreciate her loyalty and commitment!
Lesson: Create a safe space to discuss employee’s needs in career development and salary areas. Companies may not be able to meet all the needs, but being aware of the concerns is critical to maintaining trust and keeping a pulse on how employees are feeling about their jobs.
Distraction #4: My Department…The Whole Team
This distraction is tricky. This occurs when the team you lead becomes more important than the larger team…the company as a whole.
Think of the old saying, “A house divided cannot stand”…so true!
A manager personally picked the people on his team. He created a very high performing team, and the team got results. The problem was…this manager did not play well with other managers cross functionally.
When he was approached by his boss to work better with his peers, his response was that he led his team well, and it was not his problem to pick up where the other managers failed. In his mind, he was doing his job, but he had forgotten about the bigger picture…the company as a whole.
Through coaching, we were able to reestablish this awareness, and now he works better cross functionally…always keeping in mind that he has the team he leads and that team is part of a larger team.
Lesson: Keep the picture of the collective goals of an organization tied to the performance of the individual teams. It is often assumed everyone ‘knows’ this and that it does not need to be repeated. Everyone does ’know’ it, but like the mission statement on the wall, it becomes part of the background and we lose awareness of it. The goals of the organization as a whole needs to be shared on a regular basis.
This concludes the series on the Five Dysfunctions of a Team. I strongly recommend reading Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni if you want further ideas and information.
Dedicated to raising your consciousness!