Overcoming Team Dysfunctions

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”

                                         – STEPHEN R. COVEY

If only we never had to worry about conflict with other people in our jobs. Unfortunately, as anyone in the workplace knows, dysfunction follows us into work and breeds in a team environment. Some of our co-workers, superiors, or employees we trust implicitly; others we attempt to stay away from or experience friction with. Regardless, our book of the week delves into the important topic of tough team conversations.

Book of the Week: Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni.

Patrick Lencioni takes an unconventional approach to writing a business book about conflict: rather than take the subject head-on (what you might expect from someone courageous enough to write about conflict in the workplace), he weaves his insight into a story.

This approach to unpacking what he identifies are the major five dysfunctions of team dynamics has the clever result of being both disarming and engaging. If the reader had thoughts of being skeptical or defensive, it is difficult to stay that way when watching the dynamics in play behind a common situation.

Lencioni makes the bold claim that if you can get everyone on your team to “row in the same direction” so to speak, you can be unstoppable. Plowing through the five dysfunctions are a critical part of this:

The Five Dysfunctions:

  1. Absence of Trust

As obvious as it sounds, the routine erosion of trust in the workplace between team members is a recipe for failure. There should be far more confidence in each other, specifically in each person’s intentions. Without trust, Lencioni believes people hide their weaknesses, fail to help, fail to ask for help, assume the worst, and don’t recognize the underlying gifts that could help the team. Lencioni’s solution here is to set up time to learn each other’s personal histories: he believes it is extremely difficult to write another person off when you know their story and the experiences that shaped the conclusions they’ve drawn. He also points this out as a great opportunity to delve into a behavioral assessment like DiSC to fill in the picture. To know each other better is to open the door to trust.

  1. Fear of Conflict

In the fable, Lencioni portrays the fear of conflict as one of the deepest motives for dysfunction. Importantly, he draws the distinction between two types of conflict: conflict over ideas and opinions (good and productive) and infighting and political jockeying (bad and counterproductive). He points out throughout the book that good conflict, the testing of ideas, leads to better, more interactive meetings, bigger ideas, more problem solving, heightened creativity, fewer politics as more voices are being heard, and a true addressing of important topics.

  1. Lack of Commitment

For a truly successful team, Lencioni points out two things that a strong team needs, a) clarity, and b) buy-in. When there is increased clarity and lines are not blurred (or there are no defining lines at all!), a team will inevitably have more direction about what to do and greater vision about what the priorities are. This leads to a growing consensus about the division of labor and the true goals, and you begin to learn from tactical errors together. This more agile team grows in commitment and is clear in its communication of what future decisions need to be made—together.

  1. Avoidance of Accountability

As the team opens up, the fourth dysfunction comes under fire, the avoidance of accountability. Positive peer pressure heats up, and it is a great way to maintain high standards. When team members are divided by the few who carry the team in their conscientiousness and those who ride on the work of others and make excuses, resentment becomes entrenched and hard to shake. Lencioni believes that a team with greater clarity and trust will be willing to experience more discomfort and are more likely to be held willingly to mutual goals.

  1. Inattention to Results

Given what the other dysfunctions are, it may surprise you that Lencioni views this as the ultimate dysfunction, the one that, if it sticks around, will undo your hard-earned wins in the others. When team members and leaders are too self-motivated to see the bigger picture or are simply confining themselves to their cube, this precludes failure. On the other hand, if you announce publicly what your desired state is and what result that produces, the end produce is more likely to be there. He suggests a public scoreboard as a valuable way to keep everyone out of their own heads and focused on the bigger objective.

Engaging, easy to read, and thought-provoking, we encourage you to dive deeper into Lencioni’s five dysfunctions as a way to examine what even a good team can improve upon.

Five Reasons Why the Ivy Lee Method Works

The Ivy Lee Method turned 100 last year, and that has brought renewed discussion about why, as a productivity method, it is so helpful. If you haven’t heard of the Ivy Lee Method, its deceptive simplicity hides a true understand of the human mind and how we operate at our best. Undergirded with an uncanny pulse on human nature, it is still discussed as one of, if not the, most successful productivity philosophies out there. The tenets are,

  • At the beginning of the day, or at the end of the day for the next, write down the six most important tasks you have to complete… no more
  • Rank the tasks in order of importance so that you have a clear view of your priorities
  • Start working on the first item on the list, and focus only on that one until it is completed; resist the urge to work on multiple
  • Move down the list in the same way until you have completed it or have run out of time
  • At the end of the day, roll any incomplete tasks into the next day and re-rank with a fresh list of six

That’s it!

So why is the Ivy Lee Method so effective? We can think of five reasons:

1. It pushes you to be honest with yourself about your priorities

We are fatally capable of believing the myth that everything we have on our plates is of critical importance. The truth is, two or three things may be, but most of it falls into the tyranny of the urgent rather than the important. By being bound to only six items for the day, you are taking a few moments to identify the things that truly need to get done. They may be vitally important that day, while something else is vitally important but can wait at least one day.

Before long, a narrative of what you spend your time on will begin to take shape as you look at how you spent your time before and how you use it now.

2. It acknowledges that you have a finite amount of time during the day

Who of us doesn’t make a to-do list for the day that, for most mere humans, would be impossible to complete in one business day? You may not have it all written down, but between the obligations on your calendar and your to-do list, you’d need superpowers to get it all done.

While we are only able to get so much done during a given day, there is quite a bit we can do, and once you’ve prioritized, it is remarkable how you can push tasks through to completion—especially when you don’t multi-task.

3. It discourages multi-tasking

American business culture still clings desperately and proudly to multi-tasking, but clinical psychologist and neuroscientists are in unanimous agreement that multi-tasking doesn’t work. In execution work, the brain may keep other considerations running in the background, in the subconscious, but we are only able to be effective, and an active agent, in one task at a time.

This is why Ivy Lee’s insistence that you stick with one task until you have completed it is so powerful. It guards against the pride that suggests that you can juggle when doing so will only slow you down. While it feels counterintuitive if you are an addictive multi-tasker, you will actually get more done more quickly when you focus on one thing at a time and complete.

4. It eliminates cluttered thinking

With that excessive, superhuman to-do list comes a crowded and diffuse mentality that does not make the best use of your brain’s computing ability. The more clutter in your day and in your mind there is, the less likely you are able to focus, to follow through, and even to demonstrate self-control. Cluttered thinking triggers a stress response, and scientists are discovering that, the greater the level of mental stress, the less likely you are to be able to make the proper judgment calls about what to prioritize and do. It is a far more reactive and frantic way to live.

5. It lends you a grounded feeling of accomplishment

When you can look at your list of six items at the end of the day and know that you actually finished something, there comes a great feeling of relief and confidence. There is nothing worse than getting to the end of a busy and wondering what you did (and what you got done doing it). When you have a top-of-mind list that you progressively work through that is targeted, you will always be able to articulate to yourself what you got done. Over time, you will have a progressively larger list of completed tasks, and to look back over a month’s time and see what you accomplished really will make you feel superhuman!

 

Readitfor.me

Let’s face it, if you’re as busy as we suspect you are, you don’t want to make the investment of an audiobook, a Kindle edition, or a paperback if you’re not sure you are going to read it. Even if you do intend to read a book, the insights there may be valuable to you now… so why wait to benefit? A brilliant concept for boiling down business and development publications into videos of roughly twelve minutes apiece, readitfor.me gives you the essence of a book so that you maximize a quarter of an hour by learning something new without even having to pick the book up. Then later, if you have the chance to do so, you’re conceptually one step ahead. We love readitfor.me so much, we have partnered with them to offer a selection of three curated books each month to our readers.  Enjoy our gift to you, a free subscription to readitfor.me and consume the essence of that next essential read in less than twelve minutes.    

Leaders Are Readers: The Enduring Tension Between Time, Desire, and Knowledge

Social media and news outlets are teeming with stories about celebrity business successes and executives who swear that their key to success has been their voracious reading habit—or, if they don’t attribute their success largely to that, they still do it. Many claim that the trade-off between time and the knowledge gained for their endeavors is more than worth the trade. If you don’t believe us, google “What famous people read,” and see who pops up: while the emphasis on fame is superficial, you’ll get the point. A broad swath of unnaturally successful and well-known people read.

But what if you haven’t yet hatched your billion-dollar startup or been invited to head a Fortune company, and you are still run off your feet by the grind of the average week? You’re not alone: an increasing body of evidence points to the American workforce as the most overworked in the developed world.

How the Busy Person Reads

So how do you find time to read and to absorb new ideas that will keep you fresh and informed? Fortunately, with the advance of technology, there are more avenues to read easily than have ever been available in human history. This access to high-quality information is unprecedented, and with a little creativity, you can squeeze reading into an already packed week.

Tablet

Whether on Kindle, iPad, Surface, Galaxy, or others, you can access millions of titles for periodicals, research papers, and books. But the advantage here isn’t just in the ready access to material (although the ease of access cuts out a physical purchase or trip to the library, both of which take time); it is in the level of portability. While traveling with printed material isn’t horrible, for a person in a rush, pages get crushed, things get shoved to the bottom of the bag, or they just don’t get touched. When you have your tablet already in hand, instead of surfing the web for ten minutes, read a few pages of an interesting book. Reading has been known to lower both heart rate and blood pressure, so there are health benefits, too!

Audible

We love the convenience of Audible, Amazon’s audiobook subscription, but there are plenty of other sources for good audiobooks, including the library. A book on your smart phone and a few minutes in the car every day adds up over time. If you have a long commute or are in the car a lot, with consistent listening, it would be possible for you to get through a forty-hour book in a little over a month—the equivalent of around one thousand pages! If you enjoy your reader, your commute may even become some of the pleasant time in your day instead of time simply to stare at someone else’s rear bumper.

Readitfor.me

Let’s face it, if you’re as busy as we suspect you are, you don’t want to make the investment of an audiobook, a Kindle edition, or a paperback if you’re not sure you are going to read it. Even if you do intend to read a book, the insights there may be valuable to you now… so why wait to benefit? A brilliant concept for boiling down business and development publications into videos of roughly twelve minutes apiece, readitfor.me gives you the essence of a book so that you maximize a quarter of an hour by learning something new without even having to pick the book up. Then later, if you have the chance to do so, you’re conceptually one step ahead. We love readitfor.me so much, we have partnered with them to offer a selection of three curated books each month to our readers.  Enjoy our gift to you, a free subscription to readitfor.me and consume the essence of that next essential read in less than twelve minutes.    

Closing Thoughts 

The truth is that reading takes time, but you can trick time by cheating it of unnecessary page flipping, errands to pick up books, time on Amazon, etc. by accessing these ready sources to keep you reading as much in your limited time as possible. Reading something interesting will take you into a state of flow, where you lose track of time in what you’re doing, and this is deeply mentally healthy. So get reading!