When teams aren’t productive, check to see if they’re aligned…
High performing teams are, unfortunately, rare. Dysfunctional teams are distressingly common. And, even when not dysfunctional, many teams simply are not working together effectively to accomplish results.
Over the years, I’ve found several common threads to this lack of effectiveness:
- lack of trust
- inability to engage in constructive conflict (see above)
- mixed, sometimes conflicting, goals and objectives
With several teams I’ve worked with recently, it has been on this last issue that I’ve found it most productive to engage them.
This last issue is lack of “alignment.” The members of the team do not share the same purpose, the same common goal. With the executive teams, this lack of alignment has its roots in a failure to develop a shared vision around the mission and purpose of the organization. With departmental and cross-functional teams elsewhere in the organization, the roots are typically in a failure of communication from “The Top,” leading to differing perceptions among the team members.
By starting my work with the team on a thoughtful exploration of shared values and shared vision of purpose, many of the derailing factors come into focus and can be resolved. If there are shared values, and if there is a sense of a shared mission (common purpose), then it becomes possible to work on identifying the behaviors to which each member of that team is willing to commit and to which all can agree to hold themselves and each other accountable.
Once the team has identified and agreed on the behaviors they expect of themselves and each other, and once they begin to actually hold each other accountable for those behaviors, then we are on common ground as a team. This sets a foundation for further progress on trust, and as trust builds, candid dialog and constructive conflict become possible. Thus allowing for greater team effectiveness, productivity and performance.
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