5 Powerful Strategies to Turn Dysfunctional Teams into High Performing Teams

Kristen Harcourt Aug 9, 2016 6:30:00 AM


Company leaders are responsible for reaching goals and bringing initiatives to fruition. This requires functioning teams.

There are, unfortunately, a thousand and one ways teams can veer off-track, causing projects to progress slowly or not at all, and objectives to fall short. 

Managers need to be prepared for teams to become dysfunctional, and take proactive measures to both avoid this and solve the problems behind dysfunctional teams. 

Here are five powerful strategies to turn dysfunctional teams into high performing ones. 

"Slogging aimlessly dysfunction"

Good intentions are great, but they need to be backed up with elbow grease. This dysfunction occurs when the team lets projects fall between the cracks of their daily tasks. Unchecked, this can cause teams to miss deadlines, accomplish little, and fail to move the needle on success. Not to mention the C-Suite becomes very unhappy. 

Solution: Reinforce clear goals and initiatives. 

Managers must stay organized and focused on the big picture, and consistently help their teams do the same. Goal meetings are beneficial, but they need follow up. Schedule monthly "where we are" meetings, and make certain each team member realizes this is a big priority. Jump in if there is an obstacle in the way of progress. 

"Buried in tasks dysfunction"

Time-eating minutia can derail even the most well-meaning, determined teams. Not only does it suck creativity and excitement from the person, it takes away focus from the big goals that keep the company thriving. Too much time spent on mundane, irrelevant tasks and unproductive meetings makes a team dysfunctional. 

Solution: Encourage forward action.

Have each team member make a list of responsibilities that don't coincide with the team's main objectives, and work with him or her to minimize their impact. Perhaps the tasks can be delayed, assigned to an intern or assistant, or canceled altogether. Think outside the traditional "we have always done it this way" to get your team back on track, working on the tasks that matter to the company. 

"Rudderless team dysfunction"

While it's essential for each team member to have buy-in and ownership thinking, they also need a leader who helps them stay focused and on track. Large goals that are multifaceted need periodic pushes, or they stall. Weak or ill-equipped managers easily end up with dysfunctional teams. 

Solution: Lead by example

Managers must strive to not be part of the dysfunction by being present, available, and resourceful. They must understand the fine points of what the team is trying to achieve, and map out the steps to be successful. Being a strong leader is essential in a high performing team. 

"Cookie cutter dysfunction"

It's easy to hire people just like you. From backgrounds, opinions, and even styles of dress, humans are inclined to be drawn to people similar to themselves. However, when every team member is similar, creativity suffers and productivity falters. 

Solution: Embrace diversity. 

Clever leaders embrace diversity and choose their team based on each person’s unique strengths. They look beyond skills to determine what their team needs to succeed. Brainstorm what your team needs, and find people who can deliver, even if they’re different from you. Also encourage openness and diversity among the team members, so everyone is more apt to offer up new ways to manage processes. 

"Individual team dysfunction"

It's impossible for a team to reach its full potential if everyone is focusing solely on their goals, instead of the team as a whole. If personalities clash and competition sparks, your team could be headed for a dysfunctional performance. 

Solution: Carefully manage competition. 

A bit of competitive fire is healthy, but it pays for managers to understand that pitting team members against each other invites trouble. Leaders should build a team as a unit, with overall goals as the focus. It is also helpful to use assessments so the manager understands the different personalities they are dealing with, and so everyone on the team understands how to best communicate with each other. 

Dysfunctional teams are everywhere, holding back performance and productivity, and costing companies money. By implementing these five strategies, business leaders can create high performing teams, reach their goals faster and more often, and get noticed by the C-Suite for the right reasons. 

Coaching Cheat Sheet

Topics: Employee Engagement, Productivity, Team Building, Coaching and Development

Kristen Harcourt

Written by Kristen Harcourt

Kristen Harcourt is a highly trusted, creative and collaborative advisor who is passionate about people. She really enjoys helping companies make the right people decisions to achieve long term productivity.