1. The first challenge is an absence of trust among team members. Essentially, this stems from their unwillingness to be vulnerable within the group. Team members who are not genuinely open with one another about their mistakes and weaknesses make it impossible to build a foundation for trust.
2. This failure to build trust is damaging because it sets the tone for the second challenge: fear of conflict. Teams that lack trust are incapable of engaging in an unfiltered and passionate debate of ideas. Instead, they resort to veiled discussions and guarded comments.
3. A lack of healthy conflict is a problem because it ensures the third challenge of a team: lack of commitment. Without having aired their opinions in the course of the passionate and open debate, team members rarely, if ever, buy in and commit to decisions, though they may feign agreement during meetings.
4. Because of this lack of real commitment and buy-in, team members develop an avoidance of accountability, the fourth challenge. Without committing to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and driven people often hesitate to call their peers on actions and behaviors that seem counterproductive to the good of the team.
5. Failure to hold one another accountable creates an environment where the fifth challenge can thrive. Inattention to results occurs when team members put their individual needs (such as ego, career development or recognition), or even the needs of their divisions, above the collective goals of the team. And so, like a chain with just one link broken, teamwork deteriorates if even a single dysfunction is allowed to flourish.
Team Building Challenge #1
How does a team go about building trust? Unfortunately, vulnerability-based trust cannot be achieved overnight. It requires shared experiences over time, multiple instances of follow-through and credibility, and an in-depth understanding of the unique attributes of team members. However, by taking a focused approach, a team can dramatically accelerate the process and achieve trust in relatively short order. Here are a few tools that can bring this about:
Personality and Behavioral Preferences Profiles
Effective and lasting tools for building trust on a team are profiles of team members’ behavioral preferences and personality styles. DISC Profiles are very effective and we have used them for over 13 years successfully.
These tools call for peers to make specific judgments and provide one another with constructive criticism.
Team Building Challenge #2
Fear of Conflict
Teams that engage in productive conflict know that its only purpose is to produce the best possible solution in the shortest period of time. They discuss and resolve issues more quickly and completely than other teams do, and they emerge from heated debates with no residual feelings or collateral damage, but with an eagerness and readiness to take on the next important issue.
Team Building Challenge #3
Lack of Commitment
In the context of a team, commitment is a function of two things: clarity and buy-in. Great teams make clear and timely decisions and move forward with complete buy-in from every member of the team, even those who voted against the decision. They leave meetings confident that no one on the team is quietly harboring doubts about whether to support the actions agreed on. The two greatest causes of a lack of commitment are the desire for consensus and the need for certainty.
Team Building Challenge #4
Avoidance of Accountability
In the context of teamwork, accountability refers specifically to the willingness of team members to call their peers on performance or behaviors that might hurt the team.
The essence of this challenge is unwillingness by team members to tolerate the interpersonal discomfort that accompanies calling a peer on his or her behavior and the more general tendency to avoid difficult conversations. Members of great teams overcome these natural inclinations, opting instead to “enter the danger” with one another. Members of great teams improve their relationships by
holding one another accountable, thus demonstrating that they respect each other and have high expectations for one another’s performance. The most effective and efficient means of maintaining high standards of performance on a team is peer pressure. More than any policy or system, there is nothing like the fear of letting down respected teammates to motivate people to improve their performance.
Team Building Challenge #5
Inattention to Results
The ultimate challenge of a team is the tendency of members to care about something other than the collective goals of the group. Results are not limited to financial measures, like profit, revenue or shareholder returns. This challenge refers to a far broader definition of results, one that is related to outcome-based performance.
Every good organization specifies what it plans to achieve in a given period, and these goals, more than the financial metrics that they drive, make up the majority of near-term, controllable results. Ultimately, these goals drive profit. But what would a team be focused on other than results? Team status and individual status are the prime candidates.
The reality remains that teamwork ultimately comes down to practicing a small set of principles over a long period of time. Success is not a matter of mastering subtle, sophisticated theory, but rather of embracing common sense with uncommon levels of discipline and persistence.