A few weeks ago, I ran into a client who was really struggling with a project that he’s sponsoring. To say that the project was in total disarray was an understatement – they had some significant team issues that were preventing any kind of success and, unless fixed, the project itself would be in jeopardy of being shut down. As we shared ideas and possible solutions, I realized just how many other broken teams & organizations that I’ve seen recently. I’ve also been part of a dysfunctional team myself and can really relate to how frustrating that experience can be!
Are you a leader or member of a team/organization that’s broken – or maybe starting to unravel?
If you’ve been part of a group in need of serious repair for a long time or you’re feeling like you’re just starting to spiral downward, here are six key things to think about to get back on track:
- Identify the root cause of the problem. In the book “5 Dysfunctions of a Team,” author Pat Lencioni outlines five of the most common issues that teams experience, including Absence of Trust, Fear of Conflict, Lack of Commitment, Avoidance of Accountability and Inattention to Results. In my experience, many teams experience more than one of these issues – so getting to the real source of what’s causing the issue is usually a huge step toward the solution.
- Don’t focus just on the team. Most organizations have inherent processes, standard operating procedures and systems that can sometimes be a huge part of the problem. Don’t ignore the infrastructure around the way people work – it can set the team up for success or be a huge obstacle in the way.
- Seek to understand. The most important step after you’ve identified the root cause of the problem is to understand the various issues around it. I’ve found that many kinds of assessment tools – such as Shadowmatch, Extraordinary Groups, the Myers-Briggs test and DISC assessments – can give us insights about ourselves and the teams we work with every day. These insights can be profoundly impactful to both individuals AND teams and can provide another set of solutions to fix what’s broken.
- Be honest and transparent about the issues. Don’t try to move forward as quickly as possible without giving people a “say.” That doesn’t mean you have to dwell in the negative, but sometimes hearing directly from frustrated team members themselves will help you move forward more quickly.
- Create a tactical action plan. Don’t leave any discussion, workshop or alignment session without it. Each individual and team should have a list of things they will do differently and an understanding of how they will demonstrate their commitment to making the change.
- Follow-up and hold people accountable. Make sure you follow-up and revisit how well things are going a few months after your team alignment work is complete. Did the team change the things they said they were going to do? You should expect some adjustments but also plan for some of the issues and obstacles to be out of the way.
Sheri Browning is a Partner at PeopleResults and loves helping leaders and teams go from dysfunctional to success. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @sbPResults.