5 Signs Your Team is Dysfunctional

It is no secret that a functional team will always outperform a dysfunctional one. Any sports fan will tell you the coach’s ability to get the team to work together as a team will always outperform a group of dysfunctional superstars.

But, how do you tell if your team is dysfunctional? Look for these 5 signs:

Focus on Personalities: If your team is spending any amount of time focusing on someone’s personality, then your team likely lacks trust, and trust is an essential element of being functional. People come in all kinds and communicate in different ways. Some are direct, some are subtle, others are confrontational, and some avoid confrontation at all costs. How someone communicates is not important (unless the communication is a talent needed for their role). Focusing on how someone says something is a clear sign of insecurity. Accept people for who they are, and focus on achieving the mission. Any energy exerted on nonmission critical activities is waste.

I Do Not Need Any Help: Teams help each other. No one is perfect, we all have things we are good at, and things we are not so good at. In a functional team, team members freely admit their weakness and reach out for help – they ask for it, and they are open to help. Asking for help is a sign of strength.

Being late for meetings, or not participating in meetings, rejecting any form of outside help, or being defensive are all signs of dysfunction. Great teams are always looking for people who are smarter than they are, and they are constantly receiving help.

BTW – the reverse is true as well. Functional teams are consistently helping other team members.

Lack of Clear Roles and Responsibilities: Functional teams have very clear ideas about what their role is, and how the rest of the team will hold them accountable for performing in this role. Dysfunctional teams can never make a decision because it is not clear whose role it is to make the decision. They are constantly spending time on politics trying to “get their way”. These dysfunctional teams do not share a common idea of success (their mission), they look out for number one, and are reluctant to make the sacrifices necessary to become a functional team.

We don’t need processes: Being successful at business is about People, Product, and Processes. Like a tripod missing one leg, a business without a good process is doomed to fall over. Dysfunctional teams reject any idea of the process because they are fearful of being held accountable to an objective measure. They lack confidence and fear the consequences of failure.

Politics: Dysfunctional teams are very Machiavelian. Their focus is on what team members are not capable of, not what they are capable of. Vulnerability is seen as a sign of weakness and avoided at all costs. Trust is nonexistent. Risk-taking is replaced by highlighting others’ mistakes.

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