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Leadership Lesson #5: Build a Real Team

by George Virtue, CPA, CA, Managing Partner

Most organizations that I work with are proud of their people and talk about the importance of teamwork. In any organization, much of what we do involves collaborating with team members. In my experience it is not “teamwork” that is important; it is “functional” teamwork that drives exceptional performance. This is not just a team – it is a REAL team that functions effectively and achieves the highest results.

In his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni identifies the pyramid of challenges that create dysfunctional teams in most organizations. I have observed, and tried to work with, teams with just a few of these dysfunctions and with teams with all of them! And I have also worked with teams that have recognized and addressed these dysfunctions. Teams with dysfunctions are ineffective, unproductive and frustrating at best. Functional teams make things happen, get buy-in and achieve results. What sort of team would you rather work with?

Here are a few things that we can learn to build our functional team.

First, exceptional teams are built on a foundation of trust. Team members who know, respect and care for one another will be more trusting. Without trust, team members will be unwilling to make comments or share their ideas, especially ones that might challenge the position of another team member – they avoid conflict.

When teams avoid conflict, they do not engage in full and complete analysis of an issue and as a result do not arrive at the best solution. The final decision may not even be acceptable to those on the team who were afraid to share their views and it is unreasonable to expect that these team members will support the decision – they lack commitment.

Without commitment, we cannot hold others accountable.  Have you ever heard a team member say “I didn’t agree with that in the first place”?  I have. Lack of accountability is one of the most crippling challenges of effective execution. But it is virtually impossible to hold someone accountable to something that they did not commit to doing in the first place.

Finally, great teams pay attention to team results and are not influenced by personal gain.  Decisions are made in the best interest of the team and the organization. 

Do you work with a dysfunctional team? If so, start by uncovering the origin of the dysfunction. Does your team lack accountability because of a lack of commitment? Is this a result of failing to have healthy conflict-filled discussions? Is conflict avoided because of a lack of trust? You can’t fix the problem until you have identified the root cause. And if you have the courage to address the root cause you may be able to build a REAL team.


Click here for a downloadable PDF of Leadership Lesson #5: Build a Real Team

Click here to read Leadership Lesson #4: Choose Your Culture
Click here to read Leadership Lesson #3: Figure Out Where You Want to Go and How You Will Get There
Click here to read Leadership Lesson #2: Make Sure that Everyone (Including You) is Doing the Right Job
Click here to read Leadership Lesson #1: Get the Right People on the Team

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