How to Fix a Dysfunctional Team

Is your team dysfunctional? Most leaders who are struggling with a dysfunctional team get to a point where they feel like giving up. The reason being that dysfunctional teams have within them the propensity to use their dysfunctionality to thwart any attempts at fixing the problem.

You see, within such situations, though it may feel like you are going to lose your mind, team members often experience a secondary gain. By that I mean they compensate for the dysfunctionality, with all its downsides, by extracting some gain or pleasure from it. One such example of gain is where team members develop relationships with others that normalize behaviors that would usually be considered harmful to the team, such as talking behind each other’s backs or spreading rumors. These side conversations aim to provide solace to those engaging in them by villainizing other team members: “it’s all their fault, we wouldn’t be in this predicament if he/she just did their job”.

How can you overcome such dysfunctionality? Well, for starters you need to bring the dysfunctional behaviors to the surface. I don’t mean that you need to identify people who engage in those behaviors, what I do mean is that the team, under your direction as their leader, needs to identify the TYPES of behaviors that the team regard as harmful to the team. I know, easier said than done! It’s not going to be easy, people will resist you but consider resistance as a signal that you are on the right path.

Start by asking your team to identify up to five types of behavior that they regard as harmful to the team, without naming names or pointing fingers. Have them do this individually at first, then come together as a group and compile their lists. Refine this master list, in particular, by choosing language or words that are non-judgemental. Once compiled, ask the team to prioritize the list based on which behaviors in their view are potentially most harmful to the team. Then ask them to personally commit to avoiding those behaviors and holding each other accountable for when they cross the line.

Now this next part is absolutely vital: Start by putting your own behaviors in the spotlight, and seeking feedback from your team members on how you can improve. In other words, lead by example. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re going to have good days and bad days. The secret is to be transparent and vulnerable yourself if you expect others to do the same. Vulnerability builds trust.

Once you build greater trust on your team, they can then engage in behaviors that will help get at the root of the dysfunctionality. They can engage in conflict around ideas and not personalities; make commitments to each other that are not just lip service; hold each other accountable, and achieve the results that a fully functioning team deserves.

Recommended Resources

Developed by Wiley in collaboration with Patrick Lencioni, author of the best-seller The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, this resource gets right to the heart of the matter of creating a highly functioning team. It supplies you with the strategies, tactics and tools to help your team become more cohesive and less dysfunctional, and to take your team performance to new heights.

 Learn more...

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: