Team Effectiveness

“Too many leaders hope for team effectiveness but don’t define what that means or actively try to create it — both mistakes.”

What is team effectiveness?

I can’t define a team better than Patrick Lencioni. He describes it as a small group of people with common goals and a common reward system for achieving them — shared fate, if you will. He further explains that team effectiveness requires trust, healthy conflict, commitment, accountability and a focus on results.

Having used this model to help many clients improve team effectiveness, I know it’s very practical. And it has helped my clients achieve great results, as long as the team — most important, the leader — is committed to the hard work.

Why wait?

The greatest pitfall to working on team effectiveness is the daily grind of the business. Waiting for extreme dysfunction to bog down your team is like waiting for a heart attack before starting an exercise program. Doesn’t sound so smart, does it!? Assuming that your daily routine will lead to health (especially if you have a desk job!) is irrational, but leaders often assume that the work itself will create team effectiveness, and it doesn’t.

Team effectiveness is a worthy objective, but not just for altruistic reasons — rather because it means you’ll go further faster. The evidence is clear; you’ll be more successful at achieving your objectives.

The evidence is also clear that reading about team effectiveness or attending a lecture won’t cut it. Having facilitated conversations with a clear framework is the only way you’ll make significant headway. It also requires time. You cannot snap your fingers and develop an effective team. There’s a reason Marine boot camp isn’t a three-hour seminar!

Effective teams start with the ability to have a real conversation in a psychologically safe environment. You don’t have to love or even like all of your teammates, but you must believe that they act in the company’s best interests and that they set aside personal gain for the good of the team. Oh, yeah, you must do it too!

Effective teams don’t minimize conflict — they optimize it! Too many people are convinced that “conflict management” is the way to operate — meaning they want to eliminate or reduce most conflict. That’s silly! Only organizations that have healthy conflict over issues (not personalities!) can effectively explore issues. This can be learned!

Developing a committed team (and entire company!) means that people voluntarily do great things for the organization and want to remain with their team. You can’t demand commitment from someone, however, any more than you can demand they have red hair! You can only create an environment (practices, policies and behaviors) that allows commitment to flourish. If you do that and someone is not committed, that person shouldn’t be on your team.

CEOs and other leaders must be comfortable holding people accountable, or the organization won’t flourish. It isn’t, as Woody Allen said, just about showing up! Effective teams, however, understand that they must be comfortable having accountability discussions, even with their peers. Watch a high performing sports team (e.g., gymnastics, football, soccer), and you’ll see the members giving one another both positive and negative feedback. They still need a coach, but the team self-corrects.

Why do you need an effective team?

Because you want to achieve results. In business, this typically looks like growth and a healthy return on investment. If you aren’t focused on that, you’re presiding, not leading!

Is there an altruistic piece to this?

There is for me! My clients want to be on a winning team. They want to have real conversations. They want to positively impact the lives of their customers and their co-workers. Coincidentally, the skills, practices and behaviors required to build team effectiveness also achieve those objectives.