Everyone is trying to act like a leader in the your group. You may be one of them. Nothing is getting done and everyone is frustrated.
First, don’t despair. This is the way most teams begin. We are not trained to work in teams by experience and we are not programmed to do so by nature, so it takes work to become a team. The good news is that everyone cares and is trying to do what they think is best.
Good teams don’t really need much leadership. When everyone understands what a well-functioning team looks like, behavioral problems subside… but you are not there yet.
The first step on that path is to introduce the notion that becoming an effective team requires some dedicated effort. If you can get that acknowledged by the members of the group, you are half way there. Establishing a dialog about your effectiveness as a team as a regular item on the agenda is the most important advance you can make. Then, if you can get some outside team building help… a coach… you will make another big advance.
You wouldn’t ask a question like “why can we not do calculus?” if you had never had math training. Yet for some reason, we think that putting a group of people in a room constitutes a team. It constitutes a group of people in a room.
Endeavors that require good team dynamics, like a sports team have a coach and they spend a lot of time developing their team behavior before they ever take the field. Put that kind of focus on the process of becoming a team, and you will make progress.
There are lots of resources to help you in building a good team. A good foundation comes from Patrick Lencioni’s book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” where you can begin to take comfort that all teams are dysfunctional, not just yours, and that there is a hierarchy of conditions that need to exist for effective teamwork. The first is trust. Without establishing trust, there can be no team, and no productive further work on team building.
One way to establish this trust is to get away from the work environment, and play some appropriate games together. I recommend the supervision of someone with some experience (this is what I do for a living, so of course that will be my recommendation, but it is heartfelt). In the practice of these games, you will encounter the behaviors that inhibit good team performance. Then, you can discuss those behaviors in a low-stakes, low-stress environment. This opens up a communications channel that I call the “meta-channel” where you can discuss how you’re doing, separate from the discussion of what you’re doing in the “working channel”. If you can bring this simple skill back to the office, where the stakes and stresses are higher, then you have made the first, and most important, step at building a well-functioning team.
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