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What Makes Teams Successful

  • Lack Of Trust

According to Lencioni, the first dysfunction is the need for more trust between team members. Mutual trust is the basis of any successful organization. Without this feeling of belonging to a loyal and caring group, team members hesitate to show themselves vulnerable, recognize their weaknesses, or admit their mistakes. Thus, a lot of energy is put individually and collectively into defensive relational modes.

During this period of the Rugby World Cup, we see an illustration of this issue in the sumptuous film “Invictus” by Clint Eastwood (2009). Springbok captain François Pienaar, played by Matt Damon, works to build trust among the members of his rugby team. In a context of intense racial tensions and mandated by Mandela to win the World Cup, his first challenge was to gain the trust of all his teammates, black and white, to form a united collective. A hell of a challenge! This inability to establish a climate of tranquility and security is damaging for many organizations, including in less extreme circumstances than the one mentioned above because it opens the door to the second dysfunction.

  • The Absence Of Healthy Confrontation

Teams in a mistrustful climate need help to debate substantive issues intensely and passionately. However, constructive conflict is essential to arrive at high-quality collegial decisions. However, most collectives avoid expressing their differences for fear of creating tensions.

A symbolic scene nicely illustrates the notion of healthy confrontation in the film “12 Angry Men”, directed by Sidney Lumet in 1957.

In the scenario, twelve jurors are tasked with deliberating on the guilt or innocence of a young man tried for murder.

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Most jurors seemed convinced of the accused’s guilt at the start of their discussions. However, one of them, played by Henry Fonda, has doubts and wishes to review the arguments of this indictment in more depth. Although very isolated in his position, he courageously confronts the other members of the jury.

As the discussion progresses, disagreements arise within the group, creating tension. Little by little, thanks to this long, intense, and passionate debate, uncertainties spread, and everyone began to reconsider their initial opinion. The jurors eventually reached a unanimous verdict of innocence. In Lencioni’s model, the fear of disagreement and constructive conflict prevents teams from aligning, which leads to the third dysfunction.

  • Lack Of Commitment

As they have yet to be able or able to express their opinion in the context of open and passionate debates, team members can rarely commit themselves to decisions fully. They come out of the meeting with the impression of having a consensus, but back in their perimeters, their involvement in implementing these decisions is weak. This lack of commitment leads to a particular form of passivity as well as to the fourth dysfunction, according to Lencioni:

  • Avoidance Of Thiers Responsibilities

The teammates must debate more; they are unconvinced and have difficulty feeling aligned and invested. Consequently, they do not consider themselves fully responsible for the decisions. They tend not to implement them, defend them, or blame others.

Furthermore, due to the lack of cohesion, the most determined collective members cannot hold their colleagues accountable or make them notice unproductive or harmful behavior for the team and its project.

Team Performance Levers

If we reverse the scenario and now focus on team performance levers, here is what the positive side of the model could teach us: 

  • Trust: Team members fully trust each other. They reveal their mistakes and areas of vulnerability and know they will not be used against them. On the contrary, their colleagues can aid and support them with these difficulties. 
  • Healthy confrontations: In this context, conflicts are healthy. The debates are open and passionate. Everyone expresses themselves and feels heard. Oppositions always remain reasonable and constructive. This allows employees to align. 
  • Commitment together: Commitment behind decisions and action plans is facilitated because team members feel they have a say. 
  • Co-responsibility: Team members hold each other accountable for implementing these plans. Thanks to trust and collective commitment, they can challenge and alert each other if certain behaviors are unproductive. 
  • Collective results: Thus, they focus on achieving collective results. They succeed together…or fail together. They are united and united no matter what happens.

Also Read: The Challenge Of Building Successful Teams

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