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Dysfunctional Teams: The 5 C’s for Improving Teamwork

Submitted by  on May 5th, 2011

Mark’s a total jerk. He’s always interrupting, and constantly argumentative – a real nightmare to be around. Jill’s a scatterbrain. Not reliable, and always off track – a really hard person to maintain focus with. And you? Well, that’s a whole other story. But bottom line; you do not work well together. And as much as it’s killing your productivity, it’s hurting your team even more.

If you think you can just work from home, put on headphones or book your day full of meetings to ignore this problem, you’re taking a huge risk. According to a recent study by Leadership IQ, 87% of employees say their coworkers’ performance has made them want to change jobs. Where, on the other hand, happy employees go the extra mile and spend more than 80% of their week on work. The point is clear – you have to find a way to work better together, or your goals won’t be met.

Getting on track in a dysfunctional team can be tough. Arguments, tension and animosity are not the backdrop required for a team to feel safe, creative and bold. High performing teams all over the world have learned that respect and reciprocity are keys to team success – but how can you promote these traits in an environment where there is no trust?

Our 5 C’s of teamwork may help:

  1. Clarity – What’s on your plate that’s already using a good chunk of your day? What blockers could your teammates help you with? What opportunities are there for you to use skills you’ve been waiting to showcase? Adding visibility into the tasks, goals and obstacles in your project help everyone appreciate the workloads and priorities of others. By clearly communicating what your priorities are, and what you’re doing about them, your whole team is on the same page – and debates about task ownership and deadlines can become a thing of the past.
  2. Communication – What’s really at the heart of your conflict? Creating an open dialogue, where colleagues can give and receive feedback, may allow you to dig deeper into the root of your team’s struggles. You may assume that Lenny is pushing back with you out of laziness or spite, but maybe it’s the specific way you communicate with him that causes him to get his back up. By asking for feedback on how you can work better as a team, each individual has the opportunity to be heard – and just as important, you have the opportunity to use their feedback to improve!
  3. Collaboration – Barking orders at your teammates is a sure way to cause conflict. You don’t make friends with micromanagement. Invite teammates to share ideas, try different alternatives, and give feedback. By encouraging participation and collaboration on all levels, you can promote engagement – and results!
  4. Coaching -Take an interest in what motivates your team, and learn how you can use your experience to guide their success. But don’t forget, coaching is a two way street! The best way to encourage a reciprocal coaching relationship is to have frequent, focused 1:1′s. By being open to the experiences and insights of your teammates, you can show empathy and respect – a key to building teamwork.
  5. Camaraderie – Do something fun!! The stress and pressures of month end targets can be overwhelming for even the closest teams. Talking about something other than work, and seeing your colleagues in a new environment, may help to take some of the edge off. At Rypple, we’re big fans of paintball – what works for you?

Working together to meet business targets is really important – but not losing the people you work with is too. Try implementing these 5 C’s into your next team meeting, and gauge the result. Though you won’t see a change overnight, with patience, and you leading by example, even the most dysfunctional teams can improve.

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