Here's A Sample:
Recognizing Ineffective Team Patterns
Sometimes teams are stuck in ineffective communications
patterns that aren’t even recognized although they may be having significant impact on the team’s success. These
patterns can be focused on such issues as relationships, processes, behaviors, or resources. Even if you are sure your team
is working well, it might be useful to step back and take a look at the patterns of communications on these issues and see
if any can be improved.
How can you make improvements in these patterns if they are
not visible? Begin a process that will bring them to the surface so they can be explored.
Making hidden patterns visible. Bringing the patterns to the surface can be done informally or formally. Informal methods
include stepping back from the discussion periodically and paying attention to more than the information being exchanged.
It’s referred to as being the “participant-observer,” the person who participates fully and with just enough
distance to recognize the dynamics and processes of the situation as well as the outcome.
Other informal methods include:
• Gathering informal feedback from people who deal with your
team to see how it is perceived by others, inside or outside the organization.
• Conducting individual,
informal conversations with team members to gain insight into how they feel the team is doing as a group. Naturally, these
conversations should be very informal and exploratory. More formal conversations will make people wonder why you are asking
these questions and create concern.
Formal methods include the use of focus groups and
assessments or surveys, including formal interviews. They should be facilitated by an outsider to the group, and preferably
to the organization. Inside consultants may not get all the information available simply because they, too, work for the organization
and may be seen as not entirely neutral despite their best intentions and professional ethics. An outside consultant will
have a fresh perspective; no internal relationships, loyalties or history to affect the process or the outcome; new skills
to apply; and the platform to make recommendations more clearly than an internal consultant might have.
In addition, if negative information needs to be reported, especially about the department head, the consultant
provides that feedback, absorbs the potentially negative responses to hearing it, and takes those responses with him or her
at the end of the project. The internal relationships remain intact and hopefully, improved, and can be called upon by the
team leader or department head to support planned change. If an internal person provides that feedback, no matter how carefully,
resentment may be generated that may be difficult to overcome in the future.
cases where I worked with teams, I had to provide very difficult feedback to the team leaders about their leadership styles
based on focus groups, survey responses, and interviews. This information was hard for leaders to hear since they were at
the highest levels of their organizations and thought they had effective leadership skills. After providing the report and
recommendations, I worked in the background with two of these leaders to follow-up and provide coaching on how to implement
the recommendations. Positive actions and changes observed by staff members were attributed to the leaders, not the consultant,
strengthening the leader’s skill and credibility, which was, of course, part of the plan.
Acting on the information. If you have identified ineffective patterns and want to make some changes, fix the easy things
• Few comments during discussions? Go around the room and ask each person for comments
on each topic. Don’t let them hide.
• Little participation? Tell each person in advance
what part of the meeting he or she will facilitate, not just what topic he or she will report on.
No clear actions taken on decisions? Have a recorder note every action that needs to be taken by whom and by what date.
Have these actions read to the group before the meeting ends so people can’t say they didn’t have the same understanding
as others about the necessary follow-up.
• Difficult behaviors? Identify the behavior clearly
and provide opportunities for change. Talk to people privately, define preferred alternatives, and provide coaching as possible.
If necessary, go to a more formal process to ensure change, but don’t tolerate the behaviors.
Lack of focus? Remind people of the goals – constantly.
• Disordered meetings? Improve
your facilitation skills. The problems are not just other people’s.
part of the process will be holding people accountable, including yourself. Tell team members what you have noticed, what
kind of changes you plan to make and why, and ask what changes they can suggest as well. Help them feel safe during the process.
Then make it clear that they are accountable for meeting their responsibilities, and hold yourself accountable as well. Be
prepared to lead, not just read the next item on the agenda.