Most of us have experienced some form of dysfunction in our working environments and this is a key driver for people to leave organisations and a barrier to both individual success and the organisation’s growth.
Did you know that 75% of cross-functional teams can fit in the “dysfunctional” category?
I myself have sat on Executive Leadership Teams where meetings were often challenging to navigate, given a lack of trust, multiple individual agendas and therefore a completely inauthentic voice being brought to the table for most. I have seen clear divides in leadership teams, where there was in fact bullying, ganging up scenarios and where at times this became very personal/ emotive and led to an absolute culture of fear to speak up, a reluctance to share ideas, challenge and complete disengagement in some parties.
This type of toxic team environment is bound to permeate through the organisation and often then becomes normalised at all levels, leaving no choice for high performing people to leave the organisation.
How does this dysfunction happen?
Whilst this will differ from organisation to organisation, more often than not, this starts at the top and most certainly requires leaders to intervene and champion the right behaviours and mindset to avoid this spreading like a viral illness through the business.
Where a business leader/CEO/MD is not willing to see or to address dysfunction or in fact is the one who is creating the lack of trust and dysfunction, then this leaves little to no room for change and I too have experienced this scenario, where as an ELT member, the CEO/ MD has in fact designed a culture of fear and mistrust, for their own personal agenda and with the aim of maintaining ‘ power and control’.
Key Learnings in Leadership:
1.Don’t fit in – stand out!
I have often taken a stand and regularly been the one who challenges, despite the potential repercussions, champions others at the table, attempts to unite others toward mutual goals and whilst that all sounds great – it has at times come with personal costs attached, including having a target on my back. Fortunately, as someone who has always been a key contributor, I have managed to effectively navigate these fine lines and make the right choices so as not to deviate from my personal values, however others have not always been so fortunate nor resilient and I have seen this become soul destroying.
‘When we subscribe to, or normalise such behaviours, we in fact become part of the problem’.
2. How you behave matters and all eyes are on you as a leader!
Whether we like it or not, as leaders we are visible. People look to us for mentorship, can be highly critical of us, take a lead on how they treat others, act and perform according to the vision, expectations we set and how we hold them and others around them accountable for these.
Without accountability at all levels – you will fail to address and prevent dysfunction!
We have all been in businesses where variable accountability has been present and we see this daily in businesses where they fail to communicate clearly, engage people on the journey and then hold individuals accountable for their part in the picture.
This is in my view, the one thing that differentiates high performing businesses from those that fail to fly – A culture of accountability.
In Patrick Lencioni’s book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, he explains the cycle of how a team becomes dysfunctional.
First, an absence of trust ensues. This creates fear of conflict among peers/ team members and people start to hide/suppress their emotions.
This failing to communicate prevents team members from committing to the team. Since individuals need to avoid interpersonal discomfort, they don’t hold each other accountable.
How will you hold yourself & others accountable for change?
Any change starts with acknowledging there is a problem. Once this is acknowledged and accepted then the hard yards to rebuild trust, open lines of communication and address the causative factors can take place.
For many organisations who are at this stage, bringing in a neutral party/professional to help navigate this landscape is helpful, without bias, preconceptions and with the ability to challenge.
For advice or support in managing dysfunction in your team or business or to discuss personal coaching and support – Get in touch