Getting Collaboration Right

Services Used: Gallup’s CliftonStrengths and Overcoming The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (Lencioni)

A Board of Directors was having problems working together. They had just hired a new Managing Director, who came from a completely different background than most of the other Directors. Many of the BOD had worked with each other previously for 5-10 years, but they had a hard time launching their initiatives well and getting them done. Because the BOD was made up of volunteers, it was essential for the team to be able to gel. Yet, everyone’s personalities got in the way because this wasn’t the “primary team” they were on; each Director worked in another company. The MD, being new and from the different background, had a hard time fitting in with this new team. Tasks went undone or weren’t delegated well. The MD kept most of the tasks without becoming a good team player able to delegate tasks out to others and was anxious that balls might get dropped. Feelings got hurt and tensions were high. The team needed a way to work well together and unwind the unproductive behaviors it had become accustomed to.

We worked with the team in three full-day workshops. The first workshop was aimed at helping the team identify where each member was strong and get them used to the fact that by themselves, they each had amazing capabilities. We identified their talents on the team, we discussed where they could contribute their best efforts. One by one, they went around the room and told each other where they could be the best version of themselves. As the group went around the room, you could see people were starting to notice different things about each other, writing down places where they thought each teammate could help best. Then we discussed where each team member contributed their worst – again, teammates took notes to help the team. Later, we went around the room and asked each person what they needed from the others to do better work. We produced their Team Grid and unpacked the goodness of the team and found areas where they needed help. This amplified their strengths on the team and helped them digest the fact that there were many gaps on the Grid that no one could take care of. All of these “aha” moments had a deep effect on the overall team.

We culminated Day 1 in doing a Partnerships exercise. Before Day 1, we’d met with the Board Chairman and had him put people in pairs that would be working together in the coming year. We structured this portion of the day with helping these teams of two experiment with their partner to understand how they might help accelerate their partner in their tasks, as well as where there might be some problems. We then had them come up with two different ways that each of them could be their authentic selves with each other while still honoring their partnership in getting their work done. The pairs would continue working on this assignment after Day 1 when back at their normal positions. From this first day forward however, the new MD found that they could allocate different tasks to new people inside the organization that they hadn’t thought about before. This accelerated the way the team worked together and separately, and the MD wasn’t as hesitant to delegate tasks to others.

Days 2 and 3 we focused on how the team’s previous behaviors were detrimental to their success. Using Lencioni’s framework but inserting the Strengths knowledge that they had just gained, we constructed learning sessions to dismantle additional bad behaviors.

Before the team started their work for Days 2 and 3, we had them take a benchmark survey about where their team landed on all five of the team dysfunctions: Absence of Trust, Fear of Conflict, Lack of Commitment, Avoidance of Accountability, and Inattention to Results. After getting their benchmark scores for each dysfunction, we focused on gaining more trust with each other and talked about the two double standards that exist in the Attribution Error. The team shared their comfort level with conflict. They constructed two lists: “Good Conflict” – ways they would accept feedback and redirection, and “Bad Conflict” – ways they would NOT accept feedback or redirection. From then on, the teams would hold each other accountable for not engaging in Bad Conflict, including calling each other out for it.

We continued learning and deconstructing bad behaviors in the team in Day 3 with learning how to create Buy-In and Clarity with each other vs. providing Consensus. When teams don’t have enough good conflict, they’re more likely to choose Consensus where ideas are not vetted. This leads to mediocre solutions instead of the best solutions. We crafted the team’s overarching Thematic Goal and plugged their Strengths Talents into the dashboard, noting when someone had a perfectly paired strength to tackle an objective. We then discussed behaviors – acting in a manner that detracted from trust and created pain for the other members. Each person told every other person in the room what they most valued about each other and then what they would like to see more of from them. At first, people were hesitant to share because they realized they had been contributing to the bad behaviors of the team themselves. But the results of this exercise were astronomical. Barriers were broken down, people experienced joy and a recommitment to the organization. At the end of the day the group plugged what they learned into achieving their current Thematic Goal – and made the commitment to focus on their results for it and for continuing to work on their behaviors together.

Outcomes: The result of this set of workshops was that the group became cohesive, working in ways they hadn’t before, acknowledging the goodness that they gave to each other and holding each other accountable for their conduct, by always focusing on their goals and how to achieve them in the best way. We then went onto having quarterly meetings where we reviewed the current Thematic Goal, its % complete and made adjustments to become more fruitful. At the end of the 3rd quarterly meeting, the Goal had been completed and the team went onto their next Thematic Goal which it accomplished in only 6 months.