Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Could your team have a better track record? Chamber’s book club looks at how

This blog will appear in The Mercury's business section (www.pottsmerc.com) on Nov. 30 as an article. If you're reading it before then, you saw it first!

What do you get when you combine a best-selling business book, a business psychologist and a room full of businesswomen?

The result is a lively book club discussion, as was proved at a recent meeting of the Women of the Workforce luncheon meeting at the Spring-Ford Country Club, Royersford. The Nov. 16 meeting was sponsored by the TriCounty Area Chamber of Commerce.

Ross S. DeSimone, managing director/business psychologist at Corporate Psychological Resource Center, Royersford, facilitated the discussion of “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable” by Patrick Lencioni (Jossey-Bass Books, 2002).

DeSimone, a member of the chamber’s board of directors, bravely admitted to the group of about 25 his initial reluctance to lead the book club discussion as he “can’t stand to read ... but I don’t mind reading technical stuff.”

Lencioni’s book appealed to DeSimone as a discussion topic because he’s been working with teams in a professional capacity for nearly three decades. For the sake of the discussions, teams were defined as various work groups or departments.

“Al of you are on a team or in a business to do well,” DeSimone told the group. He added that “It’s more interesting to look at what’s dysfunctional rather than what works.”

DeSimone said Lencioni’s book has some good how-tos about how to fix what’s dysfunctional in a team. He assigned each table of women (and one man) to outline one of the five key arenas of team dysfunction from Lencioni’s book, which are:

1) Absence of Trust — a lack of confidence among team members that their peers are well-intended.
2) Fear of conflict — an avoidance of passionate and productive debates.
3) Lack of commitment — little or inconsistent buy-in to decisions and visions.
4) Avoidance of accountability — a lack of willingness to call out other team mebmer for underperformance or the behaviors that adversely impact the team.
5) Inattention to results — loosely defined outcomes for self-judgment/measurement; loss of achievement-oriented employees; focus on individual goals.

Each group was assigned the task of pointing out the impact each dysfunction has on the overall team/work unit.

Heather Chandler, CEO of Gilbertsville-based Sealstrip Corp., and treasurer of the chamber's board, gamely took down the suggestions of one table assigned to define what a lack of trust does to a team.

Others sitting at the table, who included a loan officer, an inventor, a banker, a journalist (me!) and a nonprofit leader, called out: “Fear of failure ... poor listening ... guardedness ... insecurity ... lack of communication ... low performance,” among other examples of what happens when trust is lacking on a team.

DeSimone added, “Also: Undue competitiveness, disinterest in team meetings, low morale and high, sabotage, absenteeism, and unwanted turnover.” (which is when employees you don’t want to leave move on).

Another group tackled the dysfunction “lack of communication.” Amy Wolf of Wolf, Baldwin & Associates law firm in Pottstown, shared the group’s findings.

“The staff feels unappreciated, there’s low morale, people ignore policies and procedures, people want to know ‘what’s in it for me?’ ... it all can lead to system breakdown,” she said.

DeSimone added, “So, dysfunction contributes to a company’s bottom line relative to productivity. Also, there’s ambiguity about prorities and second-guessing other teams.”

Other tables at the luncheon proceeded to dissect the impacts of the other three team dysfunctions.
DeSimone said avoiding accountability is the biggest problem of the five in his experience.
Chandler agreed: “Teammates want to do a good job, but are not held accountable for reaching the next goal, Every person on a high-performing team is truly accountable. That’s important for a team to become high-functioning.”

The luncheon attendees by consensus agreed that Lencioni’s book was a fun, easy read on a topic that one might otherwise not pick up a book about. Told in the style of a fable, the book shows you what the team dysfunctions are in a way that makes them memorable.

To learn more about “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” visit josseybass.com. If you have a dysfunctioning team that needs help, contact DeSimone at 610-792-9050 or visit www.psychforbusiness.com.

The next WOW luncheon and book discussion will be held on Dec. 15, from 11:30 to 1:30 p.m. at Brookside Country Club in Pottstown. The chamber-members only event will be led by Karen Stout, president of Montgomery Community College. The book discussion will follow “Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else” by Geoff Colvin. To register, visit tricountyareachamber.com

Want to read Lencioni’s book? I'm giving away my brand new copy, donated by Jossey-Bass, an imprint of Wiley. Just post a comment with your mailing address or email it to me at mkaras@pottsmerc.com. One person will be picked from among the entries to "win" the book.

No comments: