Removing the ‘Diss’ from Dysfunction
The dysfunctional team. I was on my first one in 3rd grade. Each day at recess we put together dodge ball teams and then took turns pounding each other with gigantic red rubber orbs. We operated as all grade schoolers do – ‘picking teams’ so that the geeky, nerdy and non-athletic kids (yup – that would be me) were always picked last. This was super serious business as these games were the yardstick for measuring dominance on the Kosciuszko Elementary School
battlefield playground (Go Kozy!).
So each day we raced around the playground without any specific goals or strategies. We had yet to develop any skills at working out conflict so tears and hurt feelings were a regular occurrence. And we were chock-full of personal animosities towards each other – “Barbara looked at me funny in Reading Class yesterday; I don’t like her! Wham!”
Thankfully, in the world of adult-work, we don’t stand around and get
judged picked in quite the same way – although a grown-up version may occur when project teams are assembled. But usually our de-facto teams are assembled merely by virtue of our being employed. Larry Leader hires his staff and voila – a ready-made team.
But much like on that long ago school playground, there can be an element of
disrespecting dissing going on in our workplace teams. So how do we fix that? Frankly, I think it’s a matter of making sure these elements are present:
Trust and Respect – each team member needs to believe that the other gals/guys have got their back and reciprocate by demonstrating belief in the abilities of others. My dodge ball teammates realized I didn’t have the greatest eye-hand coordination (c’mon people – I was 8!) so sadly they were loathe to choose me even though I brought the team spirit in spades!
Shared Goal(s) – to stay motivated and focused, an effective team should have specific and measurable goals on which all members agree. Personal agendas can possibly get in the way of collective goals and if team members are unclear on purpose or direction, the team may go nowhere. Now certainly my dodge ball team had a daily goal of winning … but we had no defined strategy or way to truly measure our accomplishments and often individual players were usually interested in just one thing – their own personal glory.
Communication – to truly be effective there needs to be information sharing with listening, attempts at understanding, and opportunities/mechanisms for gaining clarification. Issues may arise when individual team members’ personal beliefs, mental barriers and/or opinions get in the way of the message. But a highly functioning team will have an understanding of the why/how/when to work through those issues – and can wisely capitalize on the diversity that varied opinions and input can generate.
Attentiveness – every team member owes it to the others to be involved, invested and focused on success. A dodge ball player must be ever vigilant and can’t take her eyes off the ball lest she get taken-out-of-play to the detriment of her team. (And yes, I speak to this from personal experience…)
Commitment – all members of the team must stay the course and remain fully committed to the goals and to each other. Players may come and go (much as in a game of dodge ball), but trust, communication and attentiveness need to be present until the game comes to an end.
Not necessarily easy to fix. It can be incredibly hard work to build a functioning effective team. But I’m all for removing the DISS/DYS and working to insert the FUN back into Functional.