A weed free lawn or garden is not normal. Weeds will take root and grow unless someone takes intentional action to prevent them from growing. To extend the metaphor to the leadership of teams, leaders are the gardener and their team is the garden. Are you the type of leader who accepts a weed-filled garden or do you strive to ensure your garden is weed-free by doing the hard work of pulling up the weeds and weeding out the dysfunctional behaviors of your team?
All leaders must take responsibility for fixing the dysfunctional dynamics that exist on their team. They can’t blame the members of their team, the former leader, a different leader in the organization, industry dynamics or a whole host of other excuses.
Two presuppositions great leaders accept
First, “There are no bad teams – only bad leaders”. See former Navy SEALS Jocko Willink and Leif Babin in their excellent book Extreme Ownership for more on this.
Second, there are certain dysfunctional behaviors that will plague all teams unless acted upon. See Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions Of A Team.
Therefore, great leaders take responsibility to ensure the team they lead overcomes the 5 dysfunctions that plague all teams as follows:
Dysfunction #1 – Absence of Trust: Team members must be willing to be vulnerable with one another about their own shortcomings, failings, and mistakes. While the leader sets the tone for all behaviors, without the leader genuinely modeling vulnerability based trust with their team, their team will languish.
Dysfunction #2 – Fear of Conflict: Imagine a conflict continuum with artificial harmony on one end and mean-spirited personal attacks on the other. Great leaders guide their team to the ideal conflict point in the middle of this continuum, getting the balance between constructive and destructive conflict just right. As a leader, have you guided your team to regularly engage in healthy constructive dialogue around the most significant issues facing your business?
Dysfunction #3 – Lack of Commitment: It is tempting as a leader to tell your team what you want and not allow them to share their doubts, concerns and disagreements – the ‘shut up and just do as you are told’ model of leadership. When leaders mistake quick and unanimous agreement without genuine buy-in he has fostered a culture of pseudo-commitment – the nod and smile, and hope the boss forgets kind of commitment. As a leader, do you ensure you have the genuine commitment of your team?
Dysfunction #4 – Avoidance of Accountability: Ideally, the members of your team hold one another accountable, and don’t rely on you as the leader to enforce accountability. But when leaders tolerate the first four dysfunctions, inevitably accountability is lacking on their team. Great leaders first hold themselves accountable, are willing to hold individuals on their team accountable, which then creates a culture of healthy peer-to-peer accountability throughout their team.
Dysfunction #5 – Inattention to Results: Bad leaders keep moving the goal post and are unclear about the results their team must achieve. Great leaders ensure the individual members of their team are more concerned about the overall results of the company rather than team member’s own performance, title, position, or the department they lead.
The five dysfunctions that plague all teams are like the weeds that will grow in your garden; unless you take action to remove the dysfunctional behaviors, the weeds of dysfunction will overrun your garden. As the leader, you are the gardener – so if you want a weed-free garden, you’ve got to own it. Bad leaders look through the window and point a finger at their team and blame those they lead. Great leaders look in the mirror and take responsibility for the dysfunctional behaviors of the team they lead, and are committed to doing the hard but good work of making their team functional, healthy and effective.
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About The Author
Tom is a Professional EOS Implementer and the CEO of Navigate the Journey, a firm that specializes in helping the owners of digital agencies, web development and creative service firms improve at the company, team and individual leader levels.