The Team that Pulls Together

Dina Steiner, Founder and Director of Spirit at Work ATX

Most companies operate with some sort of a team-based management structure. Each member of the team contributes specific skills, roles and functions, which combine to pursue a shared goal. In theory, a team-based structure should be more effective in solving complex problems, increase communication and collaboration, and lead to greater efficiencies. However, in reality, teams often exhibit higher levels of conflict, an imbalance of performance and workload, and “silo” thinking.

What are some signs of a dysfunctional team?

  • Lack of accountability – In a team structure, it becomes much easier to pass the buck and blame others for underperformance or failure. Organizational researchers even have a name for this – blame disorder.
  • Poor communication – Inadequate communication can happen in a number of ways. A manager may fail to communicate with everyone and just expect information to trickle down. Team members in conflict may deliberately keep someone out of the loop, especially if they suspect that a colleague is infringing on their territory.
  • Lack of trust – A breakdown in communication is often a symptom of lack of trust among team members. Whether this is due to real or perceived slights or betrayals, trust must be actively redeveloped to bring the team back to high functioning.
  • Increased turnover and absenteeism – Members of a dysfunctional team may exhibit avoidance in many forms – withdrawing during meetings (or skipping them altogether), increased frequency of personal or “working at home” days, and, eventually, high staff turnover.

So, what to do if your team is not functioning at its peak? Whether your team is truly dysfunctional or just needs to jumpstart its collaboration and creativity, team coaching can be an effective tool. Like individual coaching, the coach does not come armed with answers. Instead, a professional coach can lead a discovery process so that the team identifies its own strengths and weaknesses, and develops its own tools and strategies to increase performance.

Team coaching can be a simple as a one-off session of trust building, or as involved as a 12-week process to energize and encourage a new product to market through weekly check-ins. Usually, team coaching is something in between. Whether a team is just forming or it is long-established, a coach can be an important piece of helping them to visualize, organize and achieve their future possibilities.