It’s not surprising that teamwork is a consistent challenge for many companies. With different personalities and different backgrounds, team members can have difficulty finding common ground. Even small organizations can face challenges and disagreements—but if there isn’t any conflict on your team, that could create problems as well.
Ultimately, you want your team to be harmonious, but there should also be a balance of conflicting viewpoints or ideas that allows perspectives to change and your team to grow. To help you strengthen your MSP team, we read The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. Here, we examine the top pitfalls that dysfunctional teams face and share Lencioni’s advice on how you can overcome them.
Fixing a broken team is like fixing a broken limb — It can be painful
Repairing an unharmonious team isn’t easy, and often you have to deconstruct your team in order to put it back together. Creating a cohesive team can be time-consuming at first, but once a common goal is introduced, they’ll be able to achieve success and surpass previous expectations.
Even the best teams struggle, but being able to understand and recognize the following pitfalls can help your team persevere and move forward.
1. Absence of trust. One of the most important things your team needs to have is trust because a lack of trust can cause chaos between team members, explains Lencioni. Without trust, team members will be unwilling to speak up and talk about new ideas or persisting problems. In comparison, when a problem arises in an open and trusting environment multiple individuals can help address it. For example, a trusting environment allows your technicians to ask for help from their peers when they’re stuck in a situation where they might not know the next step. But, if your team doesn’t trust each other that technician might try to solve the problem alone and end up creating more headaches down the road.
Trust isn’t built overnight, though. It can take time build correctly. Lencioni suggests that one way to accomplish this is by a having a 60-minute team effectiveness assessment. The exercise has each member of the team give one example of a positive team contribution and one area that individual needs to work on. This goes around the table until each individual receives both positive feedback and constructive feedback, and it allows people to see how other team members see them. Perhaps one team member is very good at accomplishing tasks, but when they’re overwhelmed they’re hesitant to ask for help. Completing this verbal assessment can uncover where potential trust issues lie and give your team the opportunity to move forward.
2. Fear of conflict. This dysfunction can really hurt a team, especially in terms of productivity. Whether team members are afraid to speak up when they see someone doing something wrong or reluctant to speak up when they disagree, fear of conflict can really hold a team back. Every productive team needs a little bit of conflict to help them work through pressing issues.
One way to overcome this dysfunction is to have one member of the team responsible for calling out the buried issues, says Lencioni. Addressing the issues individually will help your team work together to come up with a solution and be more likely to speak up about issues in the future.
3. Lack of commitment. Have you ever been on a team, and someone just fails to show up? While we must recognize and understand that things do happen, according to the book all team players should “buy in.” This means that they believe in the business model, believe that their role contributes to the success of the company, and—most importantly—work in collaboration with other team members to achieve common goals.
This dysfunction is a little harder to spot. You might have an executive that shows up every day but simply isn’t bought in—instead they’re going through the motions without any urgency. The best way to address this is by setting clear deadlines. What is expected of this team member, and are they focusing on accomplishing those goals? Some deadlines are too rigid to miss and could cause you to lose out on a business opportunity—such as bringing on a new small business customer.
4. Avoidance of accountability. All teams want to achieve maximum results, but it takes effort from every member to get there. A great team encourages members to not only pull their own weight, but to push themselves to produce their best work—instead of putting them down when a goal isn’t reached.
While every team member is important to achieving the goal, it takes a team effort to get there. If one member fails, the entire team fails. To create more accountability within your team, pick one or two measurable goals that you would like to focus on, and plan how each team member will execute to make this happen. Would you like to obtain four new clients this quarter? What will this mean for your marketing team, your sales team, or even your technicians? Create one goal that allows your team to rally together to achieve success.
5. Inattention to results. Whether your goals were achieved or not, results need to be considered—and shared. Without proper recognition for their efforts, your team may lose the drive to continue forward. The whole purpose of creating a harmonious team is to successfully grow together.
To create this environment, host a meeting where individual results are shared. If the goal was not achieved, what are some solutions to overcome this in the future? If the goal was achieved, give team members personal recognition for their hard work and effort.
An effective team isn’t built overnight, and even the best ones can struggle sometimes. But, understanding where you can improve collaboratively to achieve more success is vital to growing your business. Whether your MSP is a team of two or a team of two hundred, it is essential that every individual is working toward a shared goal. "Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success."—Henry Ford.
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
By Patrick Lencioni
224 pages. Jossey-Bass. $15.29.
Have suggestions for what we should read next? Tell us which book we should read next on our MSP's book shelf.