Overcoming the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team

5 dysfunctions of a team

In his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, Pat Lencioni identified team behaviors that reduce positive results in an organization. In my opinion, this book is a must-read for all managers and C-level leaders.

As the company leader, you are the core of your team. Your primary responsibility is to motivate and use the team to create customer loyalty; deliver products and services; execute the company strategy and anything else required to achieve goals. Some teams are big, and some employees may have to play on more than one team. This is where problems could arise.

Lencioni identified the most common problems that arise in teams and how to overcome them. I’m summarizing here, but seriously recommend reading the whole book. It’s a great read and worth every penny.

Absence of Trust

Absence of trust is the hardest dysfunction to overcome and it can be a killer. In some teams, too much time, energy and good ideas are wasted trying to protect reputation. Employees are reluctant to ask for help and to offer assistance to others, causing lower morale and unwanted turnover. As a leader, you can prevent this dysfunction by encouraging open dialogue in meetings. Then, work with your managers to identify situations where employees demonstrate lack of trust and bring it out in the open through discussions that focus on the strength of each team member, and address behaviors that lead to mistrust.

Fear of Conflict

If you’ve overcome the absence of trust dysfunction, your team is now mentally prepared to engage in passionate discussion without the fear of judgment. They know that while their idea may not be accepted, at least it will be heard. What is important here is to focus on discussion and resolving issues quickly without resorting to personal attacks. That being said, healthy conflict saves time and results in better decisions. Practice restraint and allow conflicts to resolve naturally. But as the company leader you must set the expectation that personal attacks will not be tolerated. Wipe out this dysfunction by looking for passive-aggressive behavior behind the scenes or back-channel attacks and calling it out.

Lack of Commitment

Is commitment lacking in your organization? It may have resulted from a lack of healthy debate in meetings, which led to false consensus and no buy-in. Productive conflict taps into everyone’s perspectives, which allows everyone to confidently buy in and commit to decisions. Build commitment in your company by demonstrating decisiveness, and communicating awareness and acceptance of the fact that some decisions may turn out wrong. Then, cascade messaging to key people in your organization to support follow-through on decisions and ensure that everyone is aligned.

Avoidance of Accountability

Accountability is a team effort. Team members need to hold each other accountable when behaviors and actions do not support team goals. Peer pressure is the most effective means of producing performance. Foster accountability by creating clear standards with defined indicators that enable each team member to know that they are doing their part. The more detailed the action plans and the more specific the performance metrics are, the easier it will be to hold people accountable. However, there should be an external fail-safe measure in place so that the team cannot run too far off course.

Inattention to Results

Sometimes ego and self-preservation get in the way of company goals, and that results in inattention to results. If teammates are not being held accountable for their contributions to the collective results, they will likely look to their own personal interests. You can avoid this trap by having good measures in place that align an individual’s incentives with that of their team. Set the tone to focus on results and make sure your conversations with individuals are consistent with focusing on organizational results and not encouraging selfish behaviors.

You can significantly increase your team results by improving their performance by nipping these dysfunctions in the bud.

What other dysfunctions would you add to Lencioni’s list?

Howard Shore is a business growth expert and business coach who works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To learn more about him or his firm please visit his website at activategroupinc.com or contact Howard Shore at (305) 722-7216 or email him.

Adapting for Success – Change Management

Have you ever wondered why some companies are more successful than others in similar circumstances? What are these people doing right? What do the winners do differently? Only 2 companies out of 10 survive the first 3 years in business. Some of the survivors are doing business in a very competitive market; however they have acquired specific habits and have established winning strategies which make them successful.

Are you looking for answers to these questions? A survey by Professor Colin Coulson-Thomas, a specialist in corporate transformation, shows the experiences from over 2000 companies. The outcomes achieved by survey participants are ranked from the most to the least successful, and the approaches of the “winners” or “most successful” are compared with the “losers” or “less successful” to isolate the factors that make a difference. The results suggest that most of the critical success factors are attitudinal and behavioral.

Let’s look at some overall differences between the attitudes and behaviors of those people in key positions who fail and succeed at bringing about a fundamental transformation in their organizations.

First, let’s examine the most prominent characteristic attitudes and behaviors of “less successful” companies. They are unsure and unaware of the needs of others. They are cautious and fail to inspire and motivate. Losers are also reactive. They respond to events and often fail to anticipate the need for change. They confuse operational with strategic business issues. They fail to notice what is important and the biggest opportunities for performance improvement.

Next, let’s examine the most prominent characteristic attitudes and behaviors of “winners.” Winners tend to have a longer-term perspective. They are confident, positive and pro-active. They create compelling visions. They encourage innovation, trust other people, and share information and opportunities with them. They understand their customers and concern themselves with increasing customer retention. Winners value relationships, empathize, ask for feedback, and are good listeners.

Winners have a plan. Winners, in the challenge to change transform and re-invent, are very different. They recognize that change can be stressful and can disrupt valued relationships. They only change what they need to change. They communicate why change is necessary.

Conclusion

In a changing environment, in order to be a winner, management’s first responsibility is to identify processes or behaviors that are inhibiting productivity and replace them with more effective one’s. Once changes are identified, it is important for managers to estimate the organizational and individual employee impact on many levels including technology, employee attitude and behavior, organizational processes, etc.

At this point, management should assess the employee’s anticipated reaction to the desired changes as they are being implemented. In many cases, change can be extremely beneficial with lots of positives; however certain changes do sometimes produce a tremendous amount of resistance. It is the job of management to provide support to their team through the process of these changes, which sometimes are very difficult. Management must help employees accept change and help them become well adjusted and effective once these changes have been implemented.

If you want more information on this topic please call [phone link=”true”], or you may also send me an e-mail at pjperez@activategroupinc.com.

Delusion of Trust is Compromising Growth

Do you have absolute trust among your ownership and leadership teams? Do not answer yes too quickly. Every organization tells me they have trust, yet most do not. There has been no research around how much money lack of trust costs organizations every year, but I am confident that you can increase your revenue and profits substantially by facing this issue. If you have cracks in trust you are missing the foundation to teamwork and will find it impossible to achieve peak performance in your organization.

Ironically, many owners will tell me they have trust among themselves that breaks down below that level, but they are just fooling themselves, which is why they have such a problem with the rest of their organization. This exact situation exists now with one of my client companies. Each of the owners has confided in me the concerns they have about the others. However, they have told me that I cannot bring the issues out in the open.

“George” (who is CEO) thinks his partner is not competent enough to do his job or committed enough to the organization. He has been disappointed that “John” (VP of Sales) has not taken more initiative and in 7 years of business has not brought in a single new client. John, on the other hand, thinks George needs to be right about everything all the time and that discussing anything with him is futile. George becomes verbally abusive and impossible to work with if you disagree with him, so John has decided to just go along with the status quo since the company is doing well anyways. At this point they go week to week doing whatever the other wants, neither holding the other accountable. Luckily, they have a good (not great) business model, and the company has done well. In my experience, should the company face challenges the partnership will fail fast.

In his book Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Pat Lencioni points out that “trust” is the foundation to a strong team. He lists the five dysfunctions in a pyramid in the following order: 1) trust, 2) fear of conflict, 3) lack of commitment 4) avoidance of accountability, and 5) inattention to results. One way to find out if your group has a problem with trust and teamwork is to watch your meetings and ask yourself these questions:

  • Does everyone on the team look forward to these meetings?
  • Is everyone actively engaged in the meetings?
  • Is there a healthy debate on the issues brought up, or are people just being told what to do?
  • Are people really committed to decisions, or do you find yourself asking people over and over again to follow through on the decisions made?
  • Are team members holding each other accountable?
  • Is there a clear plan of action and scorecard created to hold each other accountable?
  • How much attention is paid to individual needs (ego, recognition, etc) as opposed to the goals of the team?

Going back to my example above, I spent 6 hours with George and John talking about major issues I’d found within their business. John barely spoke. George disagreed with all of my findings, deciding in advance that none of the suggested remedies would work in his business or his industry, etc. These are common answers from people who do not trust and need to be right. However, when a recommendation was consistent with his opinion or something he had already concluded, he agreed. While all this was going on (for 6 hours) his partner almost never spoke. This is when you know for sure there is a major trust issue among your partners.

Whenever George wanted to disagree with me, he would hammer me. If arguing from a weak position, he would turn to John and say, “Don’t you agree with me?” With weak conviction and eyes averted, John would say yes. They are not willing to be vulnerable in front of each other. The clincher, at the end of the meeting, the CEO called me aside to ask for some additional information, which I agreed to deliver the following week. Before exiting, I went to John’s office to see if he could be available for next week’s meeting, and he asked, “What could he possibly want to do with that information?” When I pointed out that this was the list of accountabilities that George is going to agree to commit to assign to John, he murmured under his breath “that will never happen. He is a control freak and will never give anything up.”

According to Pat Lencioni, you know you have a good team when:

  1. Everyone says they “unequivocally trust one another.”
  2. They engage in unfiltered, healthy conflict around ideas
  3. They commit to decisions and plans of actions.
  4. They hold one another accountable for those actions and plans.
  5. They focus on achievement of collective results.

Review our website to understand how an executive coach or business coach can help you increase the success of your career and business, or contact Howard Shore at [phone link=”true”] or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

How To Improve Your Team

Millions of dollars are misspent every year on team-building exercises and programs that do not get to the core of unlocking the potential of team performance. Teams are sent to exotic places to participate in fancy programs and fun activities that fail to help them achieve peak performance. This article explores why team-building programs fail and recommends ways to improve your team’s performance.

A significant reason that team-building initiatives fail is that too much emphasis is placed on the misconception that team-building should be fun. The purpose of team-building is to improve the performance of a work group, thereby creating better outcomes. This requires change, and for most people change is not fun … it is hard work. To drive change, team members must develop skills and gather information connected to the critical business outcomes they must produce. Team-building can be fun… if the members of the work group enjoy the learning process and relish the opportunities that change will bring. Sometimes the most trying struggles produce the most satisfying lessons.

If you want to improve teamwork and performance in your organization you have to look at the four core elements to driving team performance: relationships, goals, roles, and rules. All four of these elements must be executed well for the organization to flourish.

Relationships

Ironically, improving relationships is probably the last area you should focus on. Yes, the area that most leaders spend most of their time addressing is usually the symptom, not the problem. Almost every organization that has team-building issues will find their root of their problems in goals, roles, and rules. In my experience, when we address goals, roles, and/or rules, many of the relationship problems disappear.

Once you are comfortable with goals, roles, and rules, you are then ready to tackle relationships. Many of these relationship issues usually stem from different behavioral styles and people not appreciating and knowing how to deal with people whose styles differ from their own. I recommend engaging a Certified Behavioral Analyst (such as myself) to help iron out the rest.

Goals

The first step toward achieving success as a team is to state your goals properly. You know your goal is well stated when anyone who reads it knows exactly what you are trying to accomplish and in what time frame. The better a person states the goal, the easier it is to create the action plan. An acronym commonly used for stating a goal properly is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realisticly High, and Time-based). In my experience, most goals to not properly meet these criteria and thus diminish the success of teams.

The other Issue that dooms many teams is improper alignment of goals. On an individual basis, each goal may be SMART. However, when you add up all the goals, or look at them on a system-wide basis, they may conflict with each other. These conflicts distract the team as they spend more time dealing with the lack of alignment than actually working on achieving the goal. It is for this reason that an ongoing system for goal alignment needs to be established in your organization.

For a comprehensive discussion on goals please see my article “State Your Goals in a SMART WAY” to learn more on the subject of goals.

Roles

In order for a team to function properly it is important that every member of the team understands specifically the actions and/or activities assigned to them. This is not as simple as some make it out to be, which is why this is usually an issue for team. There are two different types of roles: task and maintenance. The “task” roles relate to driving the desired outcome of a team. The “maintenance” roles relate to managing team processes and relationships among people on the team. Many organizations take the latter for granted, as if processes and relationships will automatically fall into place, or underestimate the time required to do it well.

With regard to task roles it is important to break down the tasks required to produce the outcomes you want, and how much time each task will take. Many organizations only think about the big things and take the little tasks for granted. Those many little time-consuming tasks are what throw teams off course. Once all the tasks have been identified, roles can be identified and assigned to the appropriate people.

Rules

Rules are a very important component of teamwork. This is one of those areas many leaders, particularly in entrepreneurial and family-owned businesses have the biggest concern with. Everyone is fine with rules as long as they apply to others.  You cannot have one set of rules for some people and another set for others. Owners are particularly vulnerable to this one. They love to pull out the old trump card, “Well it’s my business, so I can do whatever I want!” While this is true, they also must realize that the “need to be me” costs them a lot of money in worker productivity every year. People do as you do, not as you say.

When you have people playing by different rules, it creates conflict and problems, causing your organization to spend valuable time discussing and dealing with conflict rather than achieving goals. By making uniform rules one can eliminate unnecessary conflict and wasted gossip around the office. Let’s use the stop sign as an example. Imagine an intersection where there is a stop sign for drivers going north and south, but not for drivers going east and west. If you can trust that when you are traveling east or west that people traveling north and south will stop, you can drive full speed through the intersection with nothing to worry about. However, if you can’t be sure that the north-south drivers will follow the rules, then you need to slow down or stop at that intersection to prevent serious consequences.

The same thing is true of your organizations. If people are not all playing by the same rules, it breaks trust. People feel the need to be cautious and slow down.

Conclusion

Next time you think you are not getting maximum productivity out of your team, do not assume it is a relationship issue. Do not assume that one of those fun one-day or half-day team-building exercises will change your results. Instead, hire someone who can help you take a more systemic approach to help drive the results you are looking for.

If you want to achieve more goals, make sure that you state them in a SMART WAY! Review our website to understand how an executive coach or business coach can help you increase the success of your career and business or contact Howard Shore at [phone link=”true”] or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

Is Your Company Flying in V Formation?

Geese fly in V-formation for aerodynamic efficiency. Are management and staff focused on reaching a common goal through teamwork? How do you know if your teams are staying focused and flying in a V-formation to generate customer retention and loyalty?

Why do geese fly in V-Formation? A goose’s eyes are set in the sides of its head, giving good all-round vision but leaving a small blind spot directly ahead and behind. If a goose were to follow directly behind the one in front, it would have to turn its head slightly to see it clearly and would have to resort to asymmetrical flapping to maintain a straight course, reducing its aerodynamic efficiency and wasting energy. Experiments have shown 25 geese flying in a V can travel 70 percent further than solo birds. The birds function more efficiently in a group working together.
The same should be said for your organization. Every employee should be focused on reaching a common goal through teamwork and collaboration. Team responsibilities should be clearly defined, and management should provide strategy and support by identifying the strengths of each team member. Team members should be selected to complement one another by utilizing their differing skills and experience.

Jim Collins, in his best-selling book Good to Great asks the question: Do you have the right people on the bus? In this regard, Collins says that the executives who ignited the transformations from good to great did not first figure out where to drive the bus and then get people to take it there. No, they first got the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figured out where to drive it.

In my experience as an Executive and Corporate Team Coach, the initial steps to increase team performance and global organizational productivity are:

  1. Have a clear understanding of the skills and behavioral profiles of each team member. Forthis purpose we have been successfully applying personal and professional assessment tools that have given us the opportunity to help our clients make a better decision at the moment of hiring a new employee or building a team for a specific strategic purpose.
  2. Evaluate the organizational “flying formation”. Two critical questions that are often asked by senior management are, “How do we know that resources have been properly allocated, and how can we better utilize our limited resources?” The use of organizational assessments has given our clients the opportunity to answer both questions, providing information as to how well critical elements are working together to achieve business and strategic goals.

Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, but working together is success.” For a thousand years, humanity has proven that working together generates an energy so powerful that is able to create unimaginable things. The Great Wall of China and the Pyramids in Egypt are just examples of teamwork and collaboration.

Teams that have fun and enjoy their work will focus on even higher goals and be more willing to get the job done, as opposed to employees that commit only to a boring existence of working their shift each day with no incentives.
If you are the leader of an organization or a head of a department or division, it is your responsibility to:

  1. Create the strategy to enforce teamwork in the organization or division.
  2. Provide positive reinforcement. If at all possible, throw a party, have an outing or invite your team for an informal get-together after work. Even if you can celebrate a team’s success with pizza for lunch or a cake during a break, it is another positive reinforcement of the team effort and a building block to future successes.
  3. Provide support and improve the teamwork processes.
  4. Recognize and regard excellence in teamwork.

If you think 1+2=5 is a miscalculation, think again. Teamwork and collaboration, just like the geese flying in V-formation can take you 70% beyond your goals.

If you want more information or you are interested on implementing a V-formation for your organization, please call [phone link=”true”], or you may also send me an e-mail at pjperez@activategroupinc.com.

STOP! Change Perspective and Start Leading

During the last weeks, our economy has been facing a great challenge which has affected our thought process about the future. We have been surrounded by bad news and negative thoughts, feeding the fear of the unknown, which could inhibit leadership behavior. Our need to be safe causes us to be fearful in those uncertain situations. This is the right time to make a pit stop, refuel, and clean the windshield to get our business or career ready for the next race.

A classic characterization depicting our current situation is a drawing by Dr. Scott Simmerman (www.squarewheels.com). The drawing shows a man pulling a big heavy wagon by a rope from the front. In the back of the wagon there are a couple of guys pushing as hard as possible to help from behind.

If we take a look at the picture from a different perspective, from the viewpoint of where we are, we see that there is a significant impediment. The wagon has square wheels. Unfortunately, from the leader’s location, at the front of the wagon, he or she can’t see the square wheels. Likewise, the people in the back who are pushing the wagon can’t see the square wheels either. Ironically, in this drawing, the wagon is loaded with round wheels. If they discover those round wheels, they will be able to take those wheels out of the wagon and replace the square ones.

Stopping our daily activities and changing our perspective allows us to have a different view of problems. Consequently, the new perspective presents a chance for a wider array of potential solutions, usually better ones than our originals.

When I say you should change perspective from time to time, I am not suggesting you should reinvent your business or your career. You need to assess and maximize your strengths in order to take advantage of the opportunities that are present. Part of my mission as a coach is to help clients embrace change, and to use the resources they already have inside the organization to produce a higher quality of results. In doing so, we work on improving teamwork and aligning everyone to mutually committed goals. However, I cannot command my clients to change. I only provide a proven process that provides a path toward change. The process not only positively affects the individuals involved, it improves organizational results.

Most people avoid change because they don’t like being changed. When change comes into view, fear and resistance come along, often despite the change’s obvious benefits. People fight change because they:

  • Fear losing something they value, or
  • Don’t understand the change and its implications, or
  • Don’t think that the change makes sense.

Some people believe that no change = security.  I would say that no change = no potential.

As Albert Einstein said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”  And if you do what you’ve always done, you will get the same results!!

It is a great time to STOP and take another look at your organization or career. A pause in your daily activities to recognize the impediments is the first step in addressing them.  Once you acknowledge the impediments, you can create a new roadmap to your success.

Contact me today to learn how Activate Group helps individuals to increase their success and works with organizations to attain consistent revenue and profit growth rates of at least 20% annually. Call [phone link=”true”] or e-mail me at pjperez@activategroupinc.com.

Building A Winning Team – Making Decisions Stick

Many leaders complain that they hate to go to meetings because they are non-productive. It is common to find that decisions taken at meetings do not stick.

Instead, group decisions at meetings become the subjects of post-meeting lobbying. Some team members call separate meetings to try to filibuster the decision. Others take a passive-aggressive approach, deciding to hope the decision goes away. In most organizations the latter approach works best because accountability is limited – by not doing your part, you might get a slap on the wrist in the worst-case scenario. In the end, the company loses precious time and money.

The above issues are found in varying degrees in every organization. Pat Lencioni has really captured this well in his book, “Five Dysfunctions of A Team”. This leadership fable identifies team behavioral factors that will reduce the results in your company. I think the book is a must-read for any organization that depends on teamwork to make money.

Company teams come in various forms. It starts with an executive team to run the company. Then it takes teamwork to: create loyal customers; deliver your product or service; manufacture your products; ship your products; execute a special project; and so on. The more employees and customers you have, the more complicated this gets because you need more teams, and each employee may have to play on more than one team.

I will give you a snapshot of the key issues I took away from the book, and then I want to encourage you to read the book for yourself. I believe that by addressing the five dysfunctions Pat Lencioni identifies, you will find that the decisions you make in your company will stick. The dysfunctions work in a pyramid, just like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If you have not addressed lower level need with an individual, it is futile to address the next level need. Pat’s five dysfunctions are as follows:

  1. Absence of Trust
  2. Fear of Conflict
  3. Lack of Commitment
  4. Avoidance of Accountability
  5. Inattention to Results

Absence of trust, the first dysfunction, is the hardest to overcome. It starts with the premise that one must have confidence among team members, believe that one’s peers’ intentions are good, and that there is no reason to be careful around group members. In most teams, too much time and energy, and too many good ideas are wasted trying to protect one’s reputation by managing behaviors, comments, and interactions because of a lack of trust that was created in previous interactions. People are reluctant to ask for help and to offer assistance to others, causing lower morale and unwanted turnover. To address this dysfunction, a leader must demonstrate vulnerability first, and make sure this is genuine. Leaders must encourage open dialogue in meetings, look for situations where people engage in behavior that demonstrates lack of trust, and bring it out in the open. They need to have everyone openly discuss the strength each team member brings to the team. They also need to describe the behaviors that lead them to be distrustful and get them to address those behaviors. No one, including the CEO, is immune from this exercise. One bad apple will spoil the batch.

Fear of conflict is the second dysfunction. Addressing the first dysfunction makes it much easier to address the second. If the first exercise succeeded, team members are mentally prepared to engage in passionate discussion without the fear of being perceived as vulnerable or the fear of reprisal. It means that one can speak up and not worry that someone is going to judge them, question their worth to the team if a particular comment is not one of their best, or interrupt them until they finish their thought. They know that while their idea may not be accepted, at least it will be heard. What is important here is to focus on discussion and resolving issues more quickly while avoiding personality-focused and mean-spirited attacks.

Many people have been trained to launch personal attacks when they are not getting their way. The leader has to make sure that this behavior is not tolerated, and that topics focus on the issues that need to be resolved. If everyone is not weighing in and openly debating and disagreeing on important ideas at your meetings, look for passive-aggressive behavior behind the scenes or back-channel attacks. What organizations find is that healthy conflict saves them a lot of time and leads to much better decisions. The role of the leader is to practice restraint and to allow for conflict and resolution to occur naturally.

The third dysfunction, commitment, is often missing in many organizations. As you can now see, it likely resulted from a lack of healthy debate in meetings, which led to false consensus and weak buy-in to the decisions. By having productive conflict and tapping into everyone’s perspectives and opinions, everyone can confidently buy in and commit. Even those who voted against the matter at least know their issues have been heard and considered. Now commitment is required.

Great teams know the danger of seeking consensus and certainty and find ways to achieve buy-in from the rest of the team. The leader’s role is to demonstrate decisiveness and to communicate awareness and acceptance of the fact that some decisions may turn out wrong. He or she must push decisions around issues, as well as adherence to schedules that the team has set. The leader must cascade messaging to key people in the organization to support follow-through on decisions so that everyone is clearly aligned.

The fourth dysfunction, accountability is also a team effort. Team members need to hold each other accountable in daily, weekly and monthly meetings when their behaviors and actions do not support the goals set by the team. Peer pressure is the most effective and efficient means of producing performance. A team should create clear standards, using leading indicators to enable each team member to know that they are doing their part. The more detailed the actions plans and the more specific the leading and lagging performance measures are, the easier it will be to hold people accountable. This is where many teams fall down. It is the leader’s role to demand these details and to allow the team to serve as the primary accountability mechanism. However, when the team does not serve this function well, there should be an external measure so that they team cannot run too far off course and eventually fail to achieve its goal(s).

The last dysfunction, inattention to results, seems obvious but is very hard to manage. This is where ego and self-preservation get in the way of company goals. If teammates are not being held accountable for their contributions to the collective results, they will likely look to their own personal or departmental interests and advancement. By having good measures in place to align an individual’s incentives with that of their team goals rather than their personal performance, an organization can produce better results. The role of the leader is to set the tone to focus on results. A problem will arise if team members sense that the leader values anything other than team results or demonstrates anything different in their own behaviors than what is expected of the team. It is important that a leader’s conversations with individuals are consistent with focusing on organizational results and not encouraging selfish behaviors.

Many organizations will find that they can significantly increase their results by improving the performance of their teams. Pat Lencioni has done a wonderful job of identifying these five areas that clearly compromise the efforts of most teams.

Howard Shore is a business growth expert that works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To contact Howard Shore please call [phone link=”true”] or email him at shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

Used the “Synopsis of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Randy Mayeax, of Creative Communication Network for www.15MinuteBusinessBooks.com as additional reference material.

4 Ways to Create Linsanity on Your Team

Do you have a Jeremy Lin on your team? You might. You may think you understand the potential of every person on your team but the truth is, you could have unbelievable, untapped talent sitting “on the bench” just waiting to be discovered by you—or your competitor. As company leadership we must think like championship coaches and learn to recognize and develop game-changing talent.

Jeremy Lin had been passed over, cut and underutilized his entire career. Yet, he quietly kept practicing and getting better. When the NBA lockout was going on, he used that time to practice harder and get better. When the season started, they kept him on the bench, and he kept practicing and getting better. And when they had no one else to put in, they put in Jeremy…and he blew everyone away. But what if he never had the chance to play? He would have been one of the best talents in the NBA, gone to waste.

So how do you identify your hidden Jeremy Lin? And when you find raw talent on your team, how do you develop it?

1. Use Talent Assessment Tools

Having great talent on your team starts with the hiring process, and that process should start with using assessment tools early in the candidate screening process. Talent assessment tools are keys to understanding the natural talents of your candidates. You can also use them post-hire to identify employees’ hidden qualities and talents that may have gone unnoticed. Every person has natural abilities—skills that cannot be taught—and areas that they have the capacity to develop. Things like strategic thinking, vision and data analysis capabilities cannot be taught but are an enormous asset to the team. Folks with these abilities should be coached and put into a leadership development track that builds on those talents. Assessment tools like the OMG Assessment and TopGrading are extremely effective in discovering these traits.

2. Ask the Right Interview Questions

Again, having great talent means finding great talent during the hiring process. After you have the results of your assessment tools and begin to understand what the natural talents of the candidates are, you need to make sure your hiring managers are asking the right questions to identify the people who are best suited for the team and the company’s strategy. As experienced leadership development coaches, we recommend asking the following about the candidate’s key past job experiences:

  • What were you hired to do?
  • What were your accomplishments?
  • What were your low points?
  • Tell me about your team…
  • Who was your boss and what would they say about you?
  • What were they like to work with?
  • When I talk to him/her what will they say were your greatest strengths and your areas for improvement back then?
  • Why did you leave?
  • What are your future goals?

3. Manage by Walking Around

Are you really noticing people for who they are or are you judging them with personal bias? The goal of executive leadership should be to capture all the positive energy that occurs when someone is working at high levels of performance. When employees are in the right role for their talents, performing work that is satisfying, they are happy and energetic, and it’s infectious. Learn to spot this energy, develop it and use it to motivate others. People who are challenged with tasks they enjoy breed positivity.

So how do you encourage this energy?

4. Assign Special Projects

As you are walking around and noticing your energetic employees, ask them questions and try to get a sense of what they want and love to do. Then give them opportunities to excel at those things. All leaders, from executives to managers, need to do this.

Jeremy’s special project was to play point guard when there wasn’t anyone else to jump in. He excelled and he became the “A” player that changed the team.

Howard Shore is an executive leadership coach who works with companies that need leadership development and business management coaching. Based in Miami, Florida, Howard’s firm, Activate Group, Inc. provides strategic planning and management coaching to businesses across the country. To learn more about executive leadership development coaching through AGI, please visit activategroupinc.com, contact Howard at (305) 722-7216 or email him.

How Conflict Can Help Your Team

A great way to tell if you have a strong team is by examining the amount of regular, healthy conflicts that occur in meetings. Conflict is actually good. It’s natural and it can result in powerful ideas that save or make the company significant dollars. If you aren’t seeing healthy debate in your meetings, the dynamics of your team may be broken. This breakage may be causing “A” players to stop contributing.

The bad news is the problem might be you. Executive leaders destroy teamwork by encouraging conflict avoidance.

Some examples of how leaders destroy healthy conflict:

  • Stop being curious and don’t listen to people when issues are raised in meetings.
  • Be intimidating or threatening so subordinates have fear of reprisal if they speak up.
  • Be vocally judgmental towards people in the room when opinions differ.
  • Appear to only be interested in your own ideas.
  • Interrupt other team members before their idea may be completed.
  • Make personal attacks.

According to Pat Lencioni’s book Five Dysfunction of Team, “fear of conflict” is one of the five dysfunctions that are detrimental to great teamwork. As executive leaders we have to make sure that this behavior is not tolerated. If everyone is not weighing in and openly debating and disagreeing on important ideas at your meetings, look for passive-aggressive behavior behind the scenes or back-channel attacks.

Healthy conflict saves time and leads to better decisions. The role of the executive coach is to practice restraint, and to allow for conflict and resolution to occur naturally.

Have you encouraged or discouraged healthy debate on your team? How?

Howard Shore is an executive leadership coach who works with companies that need leadership development and business management coaching. Based in Miami, Florida, Howard’s firm, Activate Group, Inc. provides strategic planning and management coaching to businesses across the country. To learn more about leadership development through AGI, please visit activategroupinc.com, contact Howard at (305) 722-7216 or email him.