Is my team dysfunctional, or is it just me? Part 2

By Steve Zuieback · Posted Wednesday, July 27, 2016

This is the second in a series reviewing the Leadership Map of Effectiveness developed by Steve Zuieback and Michael Grinder. You are encouraged to go back and review Part 1. I am displaying the Leadership Map of Effectiveness below as a helpful map of the territory. As can be seen in the map, there are 4 levels of assessment associated with the map. The first level has to do with the level of functionality of the group.

In the first blog we talked about how to determine whether your team is formed or unformed and what to do if it is unformed. In this second blog I would like to briefly talked about the continuum of functionality that comprises Formed Groups. As you can see in the map, Formed groups goes from Formed and Dysfunctional to Formed and Healthy. This is the continuum I would like to address. For a more thorough examination of this whole issue, please check out Michael's book, Managing Groups. The overall goal as a leader or facilitator is to create the conditions for high-functioning teams. 

Dysfunctional Group/Team
This is the far left side of the continuum. This is characterized by a team that is unable to do business together as a team. They meet, but nothing is accomplished in a meeting due to the team dynamics. These dysfunctional dynamics come in a variety of flavors:

  1. The inappropriate behavior of one person shuts down the group.
  2. Polarized positions in the team.
  3. Whole team refuses to participate.
  4. The team is reflecting a dynamic of the whole organization that causes it to shut down.
  5. Unintentional behavior of the leader of the team causes it to shut down.

When a team is on the far left side of this continuum it is important that the leader or facilitator immediately manages the behavior inside the meeting in order to break the pattern. The goal is to disrupt the pattern enough so that the team can become more functional - that is, the team can get some work accomplished. With an inappropriate behavior the leader/facilitator needs to isolate the individual by managing their behavior when it arises in the group. This is best accomplished by:

  1. using a credible voice pattern
  2. visually documenting the individual's issue on a flip chart (3rd point)
  3. using a hand gesture to hold the individual's additional comments while acknowledging other members of the group, and
  4. asking how many other people are concerned about this same issue. This provides a visual accounting to the individual that they are the only one with the concern

Middle of Continnum
A team in the middle of the continuum is characterized by team members willing to work together but who can get sidetracked on issues - often called "bird-walking". They are willing to work together, but are not well disciplined in their approach. They don't do well self-facilitating or self-policing. Such groups need the leader/facilitator as the one to select and facilitate a process and a set of agreements about how the team works together. Ideally this facilitation role is a transition role on the way to a formed and healthy team.

The facilitation approach utilizes effective dialogue processes that match the desired outcomes of the team, and provides a safety net that helps the team learn and implement effective patterns of behavior (repatterning). For teams in this "middle stage", it is important that the complexity of the issues addressed by the group don't exceed the capabiliies of the team. You can learn more about how to match the complexity of the issue with the team capability by reviewing the Ralph Stacey Model. In this stage the facilitation is a very active and involved role.

Formed and Fully Functional
In this stage of development the team is capable of managing itself. Often a leader who attempts to direct such a team can frustrate the team and cause it to drop back in its level of functionality. Such teams are characterized by:

  1. high level of productivity
  2. collaboration - give and take of ideas 
  3. active exploration of each other's ideas and concerns
  4. self management of behavior of individual quirks in the team

The role of the leader/facilitator at this stage of team development is to:

  1. Convene the team and support the team with the resources they need to do the work.
  2. Provide the team with any non-negotiable parameters or conditions that might guide their work.
  3. Assure that commitments made in meetings are fulfilled by team members.
  4. Be a conduit to the larger organization.
  5. Be an active team member.

The next blog in this series, "Is my team dysfunctional or is just me?" will address the issue of matching the complexity of team issues to the level of development of the team. You can read more about how to handle dysfunctional team dynamics through many of my other blogs and through my new E-Book, From Cat Herding to Leaderhip.














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