Thanks to Wendy Francois for her incredible insights during her Women Lift Women session, Talent Wins Games; Teamwork Wins Championships. Watch Wendy’s webinar here.
Many of us may be working remotely, but we’re all still part of a team. The move to remote and hybrid working actually makes teamwork even more important and as the African proverb goes: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.”
Building effective teams is key to success for any organization, as these teams drive innovation, increase productivity and revenue, and improve employee retention. Anyone who’s ever worked in a team that just ‘clicked’ understands the power of an effective team, but the opposite is also true. A dysfunctional team can drain its members, resulting in sub-standard performances all round.
There are a number of elements that can create dysfunctional teams, but three things that you should watch out for are:
- Artificial harmony: Is everyone “always great”? This may be a sign that team members don’t feel comfortable sharing issues they’re experiencing.
- Is there a HiPPO in the room: HiPPO stands for “Highest Paid Person’s Opinion”. If you find that your bosses opinion is the only one that counts, you may have a problem.
- Too many silos: Are decisions being made without the affected people being consulted or even informed? This is an indicator of a fundamental communications breakdown.
This isn’t a comprehensive list of what makes a team dysfunctional, but they are indicators you should be looking out for.
But if that’s what makes a team bad, what makes a team good?
There are many characteristics of a great team, including open communication, clear purpose, participation and shared leadership. All of these are critical to creating a great team. At the end of the day, however, a team is only as good as the people in it.
For a team to succeed there are specific roles that need to be filled. If you’re in a team, or you’re trying to build a team, then you should be asking yourself: “Do we have these four types of team members?”
- Collaborator: These are people who are focused on the goal. They understand the big picture and how your projects fit into other activities in the organization. They’re flexible and open to new ideas, and willing to jump in and help out, even if it’s not their responsibility. The collaborator always pays attention to the basic team tasks while not overlooking the individual needs of other team members.
- Contributor: A contributor is focused on the task at hand, they know how to get things done. They’re the worker bees of the team. If you want something done, and done right then you’ll give it to a contributor.
- Communicator: Open communication is a critical part of a successful team and this is why a communicator is a vital role. The communicator is focused on the process and is able to listen effectively to everyone in the team. They’re responsible for identifying problems, resolving conflicts and building consensus in the team. If you want to know what the status of any task is, then the communicator is your first stop.
- Challenger: The last thing an effective team needs is to be full of “yes” people. A challenger is someone who questions the goals, methods, work, and even, if necessary, the ethics of the team. As a challenger, you’re willing to disagree openly with leadership or higher authority and encourage the team to take well-conceived and well planned risks.
As people who work in teams, it’s helpful to understand what role you play. Maybe you’re taking on more than one role and this is making it hard for you to get your work done. Sometimes filling multiple roles is necessary, but it’s not something that’s indefinitely sustainable.
Conflict isn’t something that we should shy away from either. But you need to know how to address issues in a way that builds the team and doesn’t break it down.
Resolving conflict is about preserving relationships, and being able to move forward together. So keep this in mind as you think through and evaluate your options, and how to communicate them with your team members.
Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, and working together is success. Remember that while dysfunctional teams can cripple an entire organization, successful teamwork helps you to get work done efficiently and effectively while meeting your goals.
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