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Lead Your Team To Greater Heights

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Posted by steve on June 17, 2011 at 9:59 am

Steering clear of the 5 dysfunctions of a losing team and encouraging the four distinctions in your teams

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Not too long ago, the entire team at OpenView was introduced to the idea of the five dysfunctions of a team via the book of the very same name written by Patrick Lencioni. We talked over the ideas in depth, and also put ourselves through an thorough training session with team building consultants to enable us to identify symptoms of these dysfunctions within our team and tackle them. While team building is undoubtedly always a work in progress for all management teams, this one session was a key to helping us jump ahead in our ability to perform together. So what are the 5 dysfunctions? They are:
 - Lack of Trust  - Lack of Open Communication  - Lack of Commitment  - Lack of Accountability  - Lack of Focus/Aspirations to Results

These are self explanatory, but the important idea is that they are based upon each other, from Lack of Trust to Lack of Results. A team needs to focus on developing mutual trust so that everyone is certain they are in the exact same boat and have practically nothing to hide from each other. This establishes the basis for open communication, the thriving of straight talk, constructive criticism and healthy debate within a team. This is essential for a team’s constant improvement and allows everyone to voice their opinion. With the ability to say their opinions, team members are more enthusiastic about committing to the team’s goals and action plan, even if they disagree with some aspects of it, since it is the team’s consensus that steers these choices. With commitment out in th open, it is then feasible to ensure accountability in each team member’s work, so in the end, reaching the goal is truly just dependent on the team member’s capability and perseverance, which then contributes to the entire team’s final results.

The 4 Distinctions

However, over time, we find that while the team’s optimistic dynamism achieved through this method is incredibly effective, it can be improved in various orthogonal aspects, which I shall humbly call the four distinctions of a great team. They are:

 - Innate Agility: This is the attribute found in teams using agile development methods. They are structured in a way that optimizes the team’s ability to act on changing project requirements and capacity, by means of encouraging the team to self-organize and optimize for every new challenge or project

  - Out of the box element: The most effective team embraces and fosters thinking out of the box. Their quick-thinking structure, as mentioned, makes it possible for them to be flexible enough to accept ground breaking, potentially controversial ideas, while their dedication keeps them centered on their goals.

  - Discipline: This is virtually a “must-have” in order to have agility, but it is crucial enough to merit its own mention. Discipline here does not mean the rigid observance of hierarchical structure, which is the direct opposite of agility and open communication, rather, it is the discipline to adhere to the methodology previously decided upon, the working rhythm and the team’s selected organizational setup. Managers are often tempted to abuse their authority in small ways to get their pet things carried out, and subordinates are also frequently tempted to use shortcuts to save time and efforts. All of these are breaches of discipline, and results in teams that work like a sputtering steam locomotive – progressing in jerks and stops.

  - Inspiration: This is discussed last but it is really the most important. Shooting for a lofty goal will help to gel the team together, and compel them to learn all of the principles mentioned above, and make them desire to try hard to work well together. I don’t need to say more – but needless to say, it is easy to be inspired, but very challenging to bring inspiration to our team. Thus, building and effectively communicating your inspiration for the team is a vital organizational management approach for all managers, whether they are building a sales team, strengthening a development team, or encouraging the marketing team to work together.

Tien Anh Nguyen is an Associate at OpenView Venture Partners, responsible for delivering strategic value-add services to the portfolio companies as part of the OpenView Labs team.

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