Handling Difficult Team Dynamics

Note Please find Steve's latest free resources in the Steve Zuieback Blog >>

Solutions to Difficult Team Dynamics 

The following series of resources all focused on understanding and intervening in difficult team/group dynamics. The first set of resources - From Cat Herding to Leadership - is based on Steve Zuieback and Michael Grinder's new training program and e-book.  The second set of resources provide some useful tips on the micro-skills a team leader or facilitator can use to assist in moving a team from less than functional to high functioning behavior. The final section provides additional perspectives and tools on building high functioning teams.

Many of these resources are taken directly from my book, Leadership Practices for Challenging Times - Principles, Skills and Processes. The outcome of finding effective ways of working through these difficult dynamics is to move the group through the difficulty in the short term in a way that improves the level of effectiveness for the long term. The same processes can be found in process short cuts in the Facilitation Skills for Chaotic Times Process Flashcards

From Cat Herding to Leadership

How often have you heard that working with a certain group of people is like herding cats. The real question is how do you begin herding and end up with a high functioning team. The following resources are taken from our e-book, From Cat Herding to Leadership. The first resource in this list - Leadership Map of Excellence - provides the framework for understanding the issues and dynamics that will allow you to move your team to high functionality.

Leadership Map of Excellence by Steve Zuieback & Michael Grinder

Leaders often want to know how they can move a "less than dysfunctional" team to higher levels of productivity and creativity. This is a wonderful look at the 4 levels of assessment and intervention a leader can take to move their teams to better results. 

What do you do when the leader of the team seems to be the problem?

One of the most common complaints I receive is that the leader is creating the dysfunction in a team. This resource provides you with the steps you need to provide feedback and guidance to your leader.

What do you do when nobody will talk in a group - Crumple and Toss

Crumple and Toss is intended to get key issues on the table as quickly as possible when safety is a big concern in a small group.  A facilitator can use this process when they detect that a group is stuck because it isn’t safe to talk about what needs to be discussed.

What do you do when leadership feels it is being held hostage by the culture of the organization?

This is a tried and true process for getting a leadership team to understand that an intractable culture is often part of leadership's self-fulfilling prophecy.

How do you build compassion within a group around difficult dynamics?

Frequently, in less than high-functioning teams, individual dynamics keep people from engaging and committing fully to the work of the team. This process is a powerful way to build compassion for the differences in individuals that may unintentionally be causing separation and frustration. 

How to break that status quo mindset in a team?

Teams often collude with each other to reach the conclusion that everything is fine and that they are doing the best that is possible under the circumstances. The Negative Vision process has been designed to break this mindset and create strategies and agreements for a group to positively move forward. 

How do you move a group from compliance to commitment?

Unfortunately many if not most groups comply with the demands of leadership or the organization and don't really operate out of personal commitment. This process is bullet-proof in identifying those factors that need to be addressed to increase peoples's commitment to the work, team and organization. 

Negative Visions

When a group or team is stuck in status quo and experiencing less than acceptable results, it may be time to use the Negative Vision Process. 

Micro Skills for Leaders and Facilitators

The term micro skills was coined by my dear friend and colleague Michael Grinder. The following resources are some of the many micro skills that are important for a leader, consultant or facilitator to have in moving groups to greater levels of functionality.

Five Finger Model of Facilitation - Video

This video provides and overview of the critical micro skills of effective faciltators. These are partially derived from Michael Grinder and Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP). Each of these skills will be explored in more specific videos.  

Developing Rapport - Matching and Mirroring 

Developing rapport is essential to developing relationships and to developing permission that are pre-requisites to leading and facilitating teams. Matching and mirroring are two easy and essential steps in developing rapport. 

Perceptual Positions

Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) identified that peeoples' conscious attention is split among three "positions" or ways of paying attention. First position is one where the attention is focused internally - on self. Second positon the attention is focused on another - deep listening and observation, and Third position is where the conscious attention is focused on multiple people and dynamics - on the entire system.

Additional Perspective and Tools for Building High Functioning Teams

Skills to Keep Groups Focused and Productive - Video

This video reviews the specific faciltator skills that keep groups focused on their task, time efficient and productive in achieving their outcomes. 

How to Handle Difficult Group Dynamics Process - Video

This video reviews that steps involved in facilitating the process How to Handle Difficult Group Dynamics. It does this through telling an actual story with a school district leadership team. I suggest you watch this video along with the video titled, Self Fulfilling Prophesy.

Self Fulfilling Prophesy - Video

This video builds on the story presented in the How to Handle Difficult Group Dynamics and  elaborates on the underlying theory of  a small initial challenge or misunderstand can eventually become a very significant and pervassive dynamics in a team or organization.