I try my best to avoid singing any song from Disney’s High School Musical, but it seems quite appropriate that this particular song keeps resounding in my head as I contemplate the dynamics of what makes great teams. What does it take for a team to be truly successful? Is it possible to have successful teams? I believe truly successful teams are hard find, but as one pointed out, teamwork is the “ultimate competitive advantage.” You can have players on your team that are smart, have killer strategy ideas and instinct about the marketplace, and are the best at what they do. But if they cannot work together as a team, nothing will be accomplished. When people of all types are thrown in together and asked to be a team, most teams don’t stop to analyze if things are working. They just keep pulling along. If they do sense the dynamics of the team are a bit off kilter, they often do not bother to dig deep and discover why.
In his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni presents readers with a fable about a team that is far from functional. Throughout the course of the story, the team, which has been working together for some time and thought they were “successful,” finds out how truly dysfunctional they had been. Lencioni’s main premise is very simple: without trust, teams will have a fear of conflict, which will lead to a lack of commitment, which will lead to an avoidance of accountability, and which will finally lead to an inattention to results. Trust, therefore is the primary foundation on which great teams are formed.
If you are reading this now and know your team is not working as well together as they could be, get them together and ask, “Do you trust the people in this room.” If your hands don’t shoot up, then it’s time to get your shovels out and start digging. I might suggest a team retreat away from your regular meeting time and location. You don’t have to go to Napa Valley to build trust, but it just might help. Don’t be afraid to be creative! Remember…great teams take care and time to build, and trust is not going to form overnight. It is a process that will require many baby steps, and maybe even some adjustment of personnel.
Lencioni’s book is truly an eye-opener for those who have not taken the time to ask the hard questions of their teams and then consequently wondered why things were not working. In the perfect world wouldn’t everyone love a team that could:
- Trust one another
- Engage in unfiltered conflict around ideas
- Commit to decisions and plans of action
- Hold one another accountable for delivering against those plans
- Focus on the achievement of collective results
It does not matter if you are the coach of a basketball team or the CEO of a major corporation. If you have a dysfunctional team, you will be losing more than revenue and points if you don’t invest in your players and teach them the value of teamwork.
My team is working towards these five goals and it will take some time to get there. But, I’m glad we are now asking the hard questions of each other and trying to throw away our own agendas (for more information on this, see Lencioni’s book Silos, Politics, and Turfwars) so that we can align ourselves and forward the mission and values of our company. We are all in this together!