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Building Future Fit Teams: Stop taking the ‘Dys’

How can we stop taking the ‘Dys,’ and move towards building functional teams.

Through understanding Patrick Lencioni’s model of the 5 Dysfunctions of teams, it’s clear that trying to build a high performance team is comparable to the pursuit of the Holy Grail!

Using Tuckman’s five stages of group development as a framework, most teams that I encounter are only trudging along, most have moved through the “Forming” stage but seem to be stuck in the storming stage with no idea on how to move beyond this.

Click here for a simple and quick refresher on Tuckman’s five stages of group development or review my adaption in the diagram below.

Storming is necessary for progression and sets a firm foundation for collaboration through which Performance is enabled. But, when a team is not able to “Storm” effectively i.e. manage conflict and move through it, they are unable to progress. This results in the storming becoming passive aggressive which destroys any hope of the team ever moving through to the next stages of development.

Most of the teams I encounter are struggling to move beyond the storming stage. I put this down to the lack of trust that is evident between the team members and between the team members and their leader.

Using Lencioni’s model, pictured below, we see that Trust forms the basis of team performance. Without it we cannot build a functioning team.

In the absence of trust we fear conflict, resulting in an inability to collaborate.  When teams are unable to collaborate they can’t commit to a vision beyond the tasks they are hired to perform. Without commitment there is no accountability and of course if members of the team do not hold themselves or each other to account they will pay little attention to the outcome.

Basically anything related to work is now extrinsic to them, permissive of a victim mentality and encouraging of defensive and passive aggressive behaviour.

So my question is, how we stop taking the “Dys?”

By reframing it of course!
So in true consultant fashion I have created a little acronym in the hopes that we can start to reframe the “Dys” and begin our journey towards creating functioning teams.


Dialogue as defined in the Cambridge Dictionary refers to “a serious exchange of opinion, esp. among people or groups that disagree.” To dialogue according to this definition we really need to trust each other. Authenticity and vulnerability are key to building trust.

To get your team to show trust in you have to show that you trust them.

Manage your reactions carefully when things go wrong as this sets the tone. For example I am currently working with a leadership team whose goal it is to build empowered and self-managed teams. However, whenever their team makes a collective decision they are met with snide remarks from their leader. This undermines them and has resulted in the team being unwilling to make decisions without their leader for fear of the backlash.

They are now entangled in a passive aggressive cycle characterised by a ‘damned if we do damned if we don’t’ attitude which fosters a great sense of disengagement.

So how do we flip this? We dialogue. First with the leader to make sure that they understand the meaning underlying their goal.

For example, if their goal is to build a team that is able to self-manage are they really ready to step back and give their team the freedom to do it their way?

Have they thought about how their role then changes from “Telling” to “Delegation” as per the Situational Leadership model?

Are they as leaders able to give feedback that is direct, constructive, and focused on the results achieved vs process followed?

The dialogue aims to get leaders to understand the change they need to make in their leadership style, i.e. being able to adopt a more coaching style, and if at the end of the dialogue they realise that they’re unable to move towards this style then we have to take establishing a self-managed team off the table.
YOLO – You only lead once so do it right.  To be a great leader you need to have a yearning for learning, for sharing and for development of self and others.  If you are wanting to build a high performance team you need to reflect on:What type of leader do you want to be Transactional,

Transformational or Inspirational?
What are the skills you need to get you there?
What is the legacy you want to leave behind?
Are you able to be vulnerable? Or to use Lencioni’s words are you able to let your team “see you sweat?”
Can you share the vision with your team and not just tell it to them? This is where true collaboration comes in, not just on how we execute.
We execute based on what we already know. Instead as a leader are you ready to put the big questions out there? Like what is our team’s vision?
How could we translate our vision into strategy, and how could we achieve this?
These open ended questions drive collaboration. The rule with questions is, if you know the answer don’t ask a question.

S – Structure
Here I am not just talking org. chart structure. What I am referring to is putting team structures and tools in place that help the team work according to the values and norms that they have defined. Are you as leader using and sharing tools such as a Team behavior charter?

Has the team had time to define their values, and have these been structured into everyday team functioning?

Is your team clear on each of their roles and responsibilities?

What is your accountability structure, i.e. how do you and the team hold each other to account?

Most importantly how do you structure in real time feedback into your teams daily activities?

These questions raised above are key reflection points that will help you stop taking the “Dys,” and move from a Dys-functioning to a functioning team. But please keep in mind that building a high performing, functioning team is a marathon not a sprint!

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