Teams plagued by lack of candour

There is a major trend plaguing teams today – team members readily avoid holding their peers accountable for both their performance and for behaviors that might hurt the team. That is a view held by consulting firm The Table Group, which uses a 38-question online assessment tool to evaluate teams, based on a model outlined by business author Patrick Lencioni in his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

Nearly 15,000 participants have taken the online assessment. A full 68% of teams scored ‘red’ on accountability, or lowest on the three-tiered rating scale of green-yellow-red. Other red scores for the remaining four dysfunctions include: absence of trust (44%), fear of conflict (39%), avoidance of commitment (25%), and inattention to results (28%).

Lencioni’s definition of accountability goes beyond just informing people about missing their numbers. The essence of this dysfunction is the reluctance of team members to tolerate the discomfort that accompanies calling a peer on his or her behavior. Team members have a general tendency to avoid difficult conversations.

The assessment scores showed that the higher the position in the organization, the more pronounced the problem. Of the 132 executive teams taking the online assessment, 80% scored ‘red’ on accountability. Lencioni finds that members of an executive team typically have similar socioeconomic status and, therefore, don’t feel justified commenting on a peer’s performance.

Lencioni says, “Great teams do not wait for the leader to remind members when they are not pulling their weight.”

To overcome this dysfunction, he suggests leveraging peer pressure on a team by publicly stating the team’s goals and standards, instituting regular progress reviews, and rewarding team achievement (rather than individual contribution).

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