How to build an effective team

Posted On 03 Nov 2017
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Jim Rathbone of Rathbone Results continues his look at team performance and this month reveals his tips for building an effective and cohesive team

In my previous article, I shared “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by renowned author Patrick Lencioni. I mentioned a list of five behaviours that left uncorrected lead to team under-performance. These five factors, which if we are honest we have seen at  times in our different teams, are (1) absence of trust, (2) fear of conflict, (3) lack of commitment, (4) avoidance of accountability and (5) inattention to results.

Lencioni outlines a powerful model and practical actionable steps that can be used to overcome these common hurdles and build cohesive, effective teams.

Build trust

How does a team go about building trust? The kind of trust that is characteristic of a great team requires team members to make themselves vulnerable to one another. This in turn requires team members to be confident that their respective vulnerabilities will not be used against them. Vulnerabilities include weaknesses, skill deficiencies, mistakes and personal recognition of the need for help. Unfortunately, trust cannot be achieved overnight. For trust to develop the team must invest in shared experiences and an in-depth understanding of the unique strengths and weaknesses of each team members. However, by taking a focused approach, a team can accelerate the process towards high team performance. Lencioni suggests the following:

  • Organise a team-effectiveness exercise. As part of this exercise, ask each team member to identify the single most important contribution that each of their fellow team-members makes to the team, and the one area in which they must personally improve or eliminate for the good of the team.
  • Use a personality and behavioral-preference profiler such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to increase personal self-awareness and understanding of the impact each has on others.
  • Encourage the leader to “go first”, to demonstrate vulnerability in a way that is authentic. In so doing, team leaders create an environment that recognises without punishing vulnerability.

Engage in constructive conflict

Teams that engage in productive conflict around ideas know that the most positive purpose of conflict is to produce the best possible solution in the shortest period of time. Teams that engage in productive conflict discuss and resolve issues more quickly and completely than other teams do, and they emerge from heated debates without collateral damage, with readiness to take on the next important issue.

How does a team go about developing this ability and willingness to engage in healthy conflict?

  • The leader must acknowledge that conflict is productive and that many teams have a tendency to avoid it. As long as some team members believe that conflict is unnecessary, there is little chance that conflict will be engaged with positively.
  • Members of teams that tend to avoid conflict must surface buried disagreements with the team to shed light on and resolve them.
  • Team members need to be encouraged to engage, not retreat, from healthy debate.
  • Team leaders need to demonstrate restraint when their people engage in conflict, and allow resolution to occur naturally, as messy as this can sometimes be.

Read the full article in the November 2017 edition of PSI magazine here