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The Secret Sauce to Team Success

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In her presentation, “The Secret Sauce to Team Success,” at the November District Executive Committee (DEC) meeting, International Director Dawn Frail, DTM, referenced Patrick Lencioni 2002 book: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

Dysfunctions are difficulties that teams face as they “grow together.” According to Lencioni, the five dysfunctions are:

  1. Absence of trust.
  2. Fear of conflict.
  3. Lack of commitment.
  4. Avoidance of team accountability.
  5. Inattention to team objectives.

Absence of trust.

This is the most severe dysfunction that an executive team can have. Establishing a unified team from the start, and never showing otherwise, is the most crucial step in leadership. Lack of trust will hinder a team’s effectiveness; people will time and energy protecting themselves or undermining each other.

Trust means feeling safe around each other, and is the core of teamwork. Trust means knowing you can share anything with your teammates, and you know that they won’t use that information against you. Its about being transparent (no hidden agendas), vulnerable, and open about one’s strengths, weaknesses, and mistakes.

A small step toward building trust is reaching out individually to team members to get to know them better. Discourage gossip, and reward good team behavior.
Without trust, the team cannot move forward, as it can dampen the ability to address the second dysfunction: fear of conflict.

Fear of conflict.

Inexperienced leaders may do their best to avoid conflict, but conflict is essential for team growth. Conflict enables the exploration of differing viewpoints and leads to the discovery of best solutions. Team members need to engage when there is conflict, and this can be tough at first. However, in the presence of trust, conflict transforms into constructive dialogue aimed at reaching the best possible outcome. Differing views becomes nothing more than the enthusiastic pursuit of truth.

Lack of commitment.

Commitment is the next critical quality for high functioning teams. Without open and honest resolution to conflict, team members struggle to keep their promises for the good of the team. To succeed, each executive member must support, and be committed to the decisions made by the team. Authentic commitment starts when everyone feels heard and invested in the decision-making process. It ensures unity towards a chosen course of action.

Avoidance of team accountability.

Avoidance of accountability is a common dysfunction of a team, yet it is fundamental for maintaining commitment. When team members are responsible to themselves and, importantly, to other members of the team, it fosters a collective culture of responsibility, and encourage continuous improvement. This stems from a shared commitment – a promise – to achieving collective goals. If members aren’t holding each other accountable, the team will encounter the next and final dysfunction: inattention to results.

Inattention to team objectives.

This happens when team members are working towards objectives that don’t actually help the team meet its overall goals. Or the individual members prioritize their own growth goals over the team’s shared focus on achieving results.

Overcome this dysfunction by making sure that all team members are focusing on achieving the club’s key performance indicators (KPI’s) – the Distinguished Club Program. By regularly highlighting the team’s KPI’s – what has been completed, and what still needs to happen – in a clear and obvious way, it’s harder for people to misunderstand or ignore those goals.

By fostering trust, embracing conflict, committing to decisions, holding one another accountable, and attention to results, teams can align their efforts towards achieving meaningful outcomes, and lay the foundation for a healthy and effective team dynamic within your club executive.

Created by Nancy Movrin DTM, District Director Manager, District 86 2023-2024, Cambridge Toastmasters