“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Anna Karenina –Tolstoy
The same statement could be made of teams. There are an infinite number of ways that teams can be unhealthy. Each team member brings their own quirks and bad habits. Multiply those with the idiosyncrasies of a team of eight or ten members and you have a kaleidoscope of dysfunction. Every toxic team I work with has its own profile.
In contrast, when a team gets healthy, it is always through the same path. A healthy team needs two basic things:
- Team members need to bring diverse talents and perspectives into alignment around the unique value they can add for the organization.
- They need to create a team dynamic based on trust that supports communication and productive conflict.
Without alignment, teams:
- squander energy and accomplish little of value to the organization and the customer;
- lack the criteria to prioritize time, energy, and resources and therefore squander them trying to do too much;
- develop intra-team conflict because it contributes to poor role clarity and turf wars; and
- spawn inter-team conflict when the team becomes self-serving but fails to grasps its role in the organization.
Lack of alignment is the first problem you need to address when trying to enhance team effectiveness.
Only after the team is aligned should you try to improve the team dynamic.
A healthy team dynamic, but not necessarily a happy dynamic, enables the right kind of communication and interactions to move the team forward. Without a healthy dynamic:
- there is not enough friction to spark innovative ideas or breakthrough thinking;
- adversarial interactions create a fight-or-flight response where no one is focused on the task at hand; and
- lack of trust reduces the value team members get from one another.
In the next several posts, I will share the steps required to enhance team effectiveness by building alignment and improving the team dynamic. If you think your team could be better…stay tuned.