In the age of lean organizations, most work groups in existence today are being pushed to evolve toward a team philosophy as the span of control of management widens. From executive teams and project teams to marketing and sales teams, team structures are vital to the way most organizations organize and deliver their work. However, all teams are not created equal. A key distinguisher among successful companies is their ability to create and maintain high-performing, effective work teams to deploy complex business strategies.
A dysfunctional team simply can’t operate at a high level, and there are several crucial dynamics to establish before the team can be truly effective.
- Clarity of Goals – One of the biggest contributors to a team’s dysfunction can be a lack of focus or failure to define its goals. Ambiguity can quickly erode progress in reaching objectives because it encourages sidebar debates, misaligned direction and ultimately, an endless cycle of stagnation never moving toward the end goals. Furthermore, without a shared sense of purpose, there is little incentive for individuals to work together as a team and a natural tendency to put their own needs ahead of the collective team goals.
- Shared Accountability – Defining clear goals for a team ties directly to shared accountability. On the other hand, lack of accountability can lead to procrastination, pushing back deadlines, or off-task behaviors. Establishing a clear plan of action and holding the team accountable to it will help avoid a loss of focus on the team’s goal.
- Trust – The fastest path to team dysfunctionality is a lack of trust among members, creating an environment where everyone is watching their back, development of cliques within the grout, and secrecy. Simply put, when lack of trust is present among a team, the healthy feelings of competing as a team are turned into detrimental environment where individuals are competing with one another. Without a certain comfort level among team members, trust is hard to achieve and people are unwilling to take responsibility or ask for help.
- Conflict Management – Contrary to popular belief, some of the most successful teams are not those who vehemently agree on topics. Rather, they are often ripe with healthy debate and even arguments. The difference, however, between top teams and toxic teams, is that conflict doesn’t cause them to fall apart or become isolated. Instead, these high-performing teams manage their conflict in such a way that debate and argument leads to greater strength and cohesion among the group.
- Effective Communication – The level of communication among a team can impact a number of other factors which are essential to successful teams, including trust. When lines of communication are closed and/or infrequent, team members lack information to tell them what is working well, or what needs to improve. Without this feedback, members are left to speculate or second-guess, leading to loss of trust. Communication within high-performing teams must include the free flow of information, a shared and trusting agreement that no topic is off-limits, and respectful interaction at all times.