Teams need rehab too. And they can resist it as much as Amy Winehouse. How would you know if your team needed rehab? Here are a couple of clues …
The team leader needs to intervene between team members regularly. For example, Team Member “A” ignores Team Member “B’s” repeated requests for information on a shared project.
The silence is deafening during your team meetings. No one dares talk to each other for fear of starting an argument or meetings are considered such a waste of time that all you get are glares for raising an issue.
The team leader or project leader decides everything. Team members just wait to be told what to do.
Complaining about other team members is expected and encouraged. Gossiping and backbiting takes up a lot of the work day.
There are subgroups on the team with clear “taking sides” behavior. You can actually tell who is in what group by where they sit in the team meeting.
Problems with groups is normal in any work environment. But teams, left unattended, can get sick very fast. Most people have not been trained in group dynamics. They can’t see the symptoms developing day-to-day until a big problem looms up and bites the leader and the team. That’s when intervention is needed (and sometimes a couple of people get fired).
Working on a healthy team is fun and very invigorating. A healthy team takes the time to self-manage group dynamics and/or the team leader is skilled in managing group dynamics. There is the right balance between task and process. Teams need to get the task done and maintain social relations. If either are neglected, balance gets off and dysfunctional behaviors (like the list above) can take over.
If you are on a team that needs to go to rehab, what can you do? Read the book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. Even though this book was written for CEOs, it is an easy read and will help you understand why things go bad on teams. You may also want to consider bringing in a group facilitator to help the team get unstuck. Take a look at some of the team tools I have available. I haven’t worked with a team yet that couldn’t turn itself around. But it may mean the team has to go to rehab.
Group disfunction is hard to fix after the fact. Much better to be proactive, if you’re trained to see the warning signs (like those you listed above). Good article Nancy! 🙂
Good point, Jay. Thanks!