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Dysfunctional Teams

“Neanderthals had bigger brains than us and the same genetic mutations for speech and demonstrated imaginative traits. Yet Homo Neanderthals perished and Homo sapiens evolved to dominate the planet. What was the difference? The answer, science now indicates, is that Homo sapiens had more effective team building skills. And the continuing evolution of those skills is as essential to cultural, organizational and personal growth today as it was then.”

An extract from an article by Jim Bird (follow the link to read the full article full article)

Team skills are therefore, crucially important to our survival on this planet. The collective knowledge they give us is powerful and has far reaching effects within the organisations we work in. Many will recognise the significance and importance of recruiting the right candidate(s) to maintain or restore the balance of a team. What can you do though if you don’t have a vacancy but you have a dysfunctional team? A dysfunctional team is one where its members are at odds with one another and are not pulling together, where the strengths and weaknesses of the team members are not being utilised to their full potential so the team is not performing as well as it could which is having major implications for the organisation it sits in. Teams are a very powerful force and if we can improve the way teams work together and the skills within them then an organisation can gain significantly.

Some of the areas affected by poor team performance are –

  • Productivity
  • Wastage
  • Profit
  • Staff morale
  • Absence and sickness
  • Loss of credibility with customers and suppliers
  • Damage to the long term career prospects of team members
  • Errors and mistakes that could have health and safety or environmental impact implications

Many reading this article will have experienced in their professional or personal life, a dysfunctional team. In the workplace we may see this within our own team –

  • a colleague that doesn’t delegate
  • a team member with an inability to communicate, who will not share vital information or share work responsibilities
  • a colleague who always likes to play games and gain superiority (one-upmanship)
  • someone who regularly orders the wrong part or amount
  • someone whose help you seek as a last resort

Sometimes team members have just drifted apart and have lost the focus, ability or will, to work together.

Occasionally it may not be your own team that is dysfunctional but another within the organisation. Perhaps as a salesperson you have over a period of time, worked hard to bring in a new client but eventually having won the new client’s business the product you have sold is not made or produced to their exact specifications or is delivered too late to them or the service you sold has not been delivered as you led the client to expect. A team in the chain, in your organisation, has let you down. As well as the impact to your morale this has an impact for the company not just in the quality of its service but also for its reputation and profitability.

Out of the work place we may experience teams not working well for example, in sport, clubs or organisations we may belong to. In our personal life if we become frustrated and disillusioned with a team – a committee or council, we can “walk away” – join another team or club or cease our membership or we can try to become more involved by joining that team to have a say in its running.

In our professional life it can be harder to resolve dysfunctional teams especially if senior or middle management can’t or won’t recognise that a problem exists but the consequences of failing to act will be damaging for the team, the team members, the company and its suppliers and clients.

If we were asked to name a successful team who would we think of? Would it be a team at work? Maybe we would name a small company whose team always delivers and gives good service or the friendly and helpful staff in the local shop. Perhaps we would look to sports or the arts recalling the performer who thanks their team and attribute their success to them – the writers, producers, the costume department, hair and make-up and the venue etc. In sport we would perhaps recognise that the team behind sports stars are vitally important, for example in tennis we often see the top players’ teams of coaches, trainers and physiotherapists etc who work with them sat in the player’s box at tournaments. We might think of a Formula 1 racing team where many teams come together within the organisation to achieve the optimum performance of the car and the driver. Teams of people developing the car and the driver’s team working to ensure their peak physical and mental state is right for the race. Teams are so important whether a micro or small business where it is vital that they fit well together or a medium sized or large company where there will be several teams working for the success of the organisation, their value should never be underestimated.

So how do we start to put a team back together? If we think of the team as a jigsaw puzzle where the pieces are scattered and the original picture lost we can begin to rebuild by using sophisticated diagnostic psychometric instruments which will measure a whole range of complex behaviours. From the data we can work out where each of the jigsaw pieces fit in the puzzle and then gradually build a picture of what the team should look like. We look at the strengths and the weaknesses within the team and the roles the members are best suited to play.

At this point we can present this “picture” back to the team and help each team member to understand what their own strengths are and how they can best contribute to the team’s overall performance. We will also challenge the weaknesses in the team and offer solutions of how to remedy or manage them.

In addition we will use a range of other techniques such as coaching and mentoring to help both the individuals and the team to come back together to complete the “jigsaw”.

If you would like our help with your team please call us on 01623 345119.

Telephone:  01623 345119 - Optimising talent for success ....