p.vii: If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry in any market, against any competition, at any time.
The fact remains that teams, because they are made up of imperfect human beings, are inherently dysfunctional.
p.44: Great teams do not hold back with one another… They are unafraid to air their dirty laundry. They admit their mistakes, their weaknesses, and their concerns without fear of reprisal.
p.46: Every effective team I’ve ever observed had a substantial level of debate. Even the most trusting teams mixed it up a lot… Why do you suppose there is so little passionate discussion or debate among this group?
p.79: [Identified goals] Revenue, expenses, new customer acquisition, current customer satisfaction, employee retention, market awareness, and product quality.
p.83: Imagine a basketball coach in the locker room at half-time. He calls the team’s center into his office to talk with him one-on-one about the first half, and then he does the same with the point guard, the shooting guard, the small forward, and the power forward, without any of them knowing what everyone else was talking about. That’s not a team. It’s a collection of individuals.
p.88: Politics is when people choose their words and actions based on how they want others to react rather than based on what they really think.
p.92: [Why is harmony a problem?]
It’s the lack of conflict that’s a problem. Harmony itself is good, I suppose, if it comes as a result of working through issues constantly and cycling through conflict. But if it comes only as a result of people holding back their opinions and honest concerns, then it’s a bad thing. I’d trade that false kind of harmony any day for a team’s willingness to argue effectively about an issue and then walk away with no collateral damage.
p.94: When people don’t unload their opinions and feel like they’ve been listened to, they won’t really get on board. [Commit to action]
p.95: Consensus is horrible. I mean, if everyone really agrees on something and consensus comes about quickly and naturally, well that’s terrific. But that isn’t how it usually works, and so consensus becomes an attempt to please everyone. … Most reasonable people don’t have to get their way in a discussion. They just need to be heard, and to know that their input was considered and responded to. [cf: Decision Making Styles]
Some teams get paralyzed by their need for complete agreement, and their inability to move beyond debate.
Disagree and commit: You can argue about something and disagree, but still commit to it as though everyone originally bought into the decision completely.
p.98: Once we achieve clarity and buy-in, it is then that we have to hold each other accountable for what we sign up to do, for high standards of performance and behavior. And as simple as that sounds, most executives hate to do it, especially when it comes to a peer’s behavior, because they want to avoid interpersonal discomfort.
p.99: People aren’t going to hold each other accountable if they haven’t clearly bought in to the same plan. Otherwise, it seems pointless because they’re just going to say ‘I never agreed to that anyway.’
p.100: Two years of behavioral reinforcement around politics is a tough thing to break, and one lecture, no matter how compelling, is not going to do it. [break that pattern]
p.101: If we cannot learn to engage in productive ideological conflict during meetings, we are through.
p.102: A movie, on average, runs anywhere from ninety minutes to two hours in length. Staff meetings are about the same. … So why do we dread meetings? … They’re boring. … Every great movie has conflict. … And if there’s nothing worth debating, then we won’t have a meeting.
p.106: Can’t we have more than one overarching goal?
If everything is important, then nothing is.
p.148-9: I want all of you challenging each other about what you are doing, how you are spending your time, whether you are making enough progress. … Push with respect, and under the assumption that the other person is probably doing the right thing. But push anyway. And never hold back.
p.163: Kathryn knew from past experience that the departure of even the most difficult employees provoked some degree of mourning and self-doubt among their peers.
p.169: [regarding interviews, look for someone] who can demonstrate trust, engage in conflict, commit to group decisions, hold their peers accountable, and focus on the results of the team, not their own ego.
p.170: [regarding those who see debate as fighting] You are fighting. But about issues. That’s your job. Otherwise, you leave it to your people to try to solve problems that they can’t solve. They want you to hash this stuff out so they can get clear direction from us.
p.175: I don’t think anyone ever gets completely used to conflict. If it’s not a little uncomfortable, then it’s not real. The key is to keep doing it anyway. … If it comes down to a little interpersonal discomfort versus politics, I’m opting for the discomfort.
Click here for a summary of the Five Dysfunctions model.
Understanding and Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions
Absence of Trust
p.195: In the context of building a team, trust is the confidence among team members that their peers’ intentions are good, and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group. In essence, teammates must get comfortable being vulnerable with one another.
p.196: The vulnerabilities I’m referring to include weaknesses, skill deficiencies, interpersonal shortcomings, mistakes, and requests for help.
Teams that lack trust waste inordinate amounts of time and energy managing their behaviors and interactions within the group.
p.197: [Overcoming this dysfunction] requires shared experiences over time, multiple instances of follow-through and credibility, and an in-depth understanding of the unique attributes of team members.
p.201: The role of the Leader: The most important action that a leader must take to encourage the building of trust on a team is to demonstrate vulnerability first. This requires that a leader risk loosing face in front of the team, so that subordinates will take the same risk themselves.
p.202: By building trust, a team makes conflict possible because team members do not hesitate to engage in passionate and sometimes emotional debate, knowing that they will not be punished for saying something that might otherwise be interpreted as destructive.
Fear of Conflict
p.202: All great relationships, the ones that last over time, require productive conflict in order to grow. This is true in marriage, parenthood, friendship, and certainly business.
It is important to distinguish productive ideological conflict from destructive fighting and interpersonal politics.
p.203: Ironically, teams that avoid ideological conflict often do so in order to avoid hurting team members’ feelings, [cf.: Reframing Feedback] and then end up encouraging dangerous tension. When team members do not openly debate and disagree about important ideas, they often turn to back-channel personal attacks, which are far nastier and more harmful than any heated argument over issues.
Healthy conflict is actually a time saver. Contrary to the notion that teams waste time and energy arguing, those that avoid conflict actually doom themselves to revisiting issues again and again, without resolution.
p.206: The Role of the Leader: One of the most difficult challenges that a leader faces in promoting healthy conflict is the desire to protect members from harm.
p.207: By engaging in productive conflict and tapping into team member’s perspectives and opinions, a team can confidently commit and buy in to a decision knowing that they have benefited from everyone’s ideas.
Lack of Commitment
p.207: In the context of a team, commitment is a function of two things: clarity and buy-in.
The two greatest causes of the lack of commitment are the desire for consensus and the need for certainty:
Consensus. Reasonable people do not need to get their way in order to support a decision, but only need to know that their opinions have been heard and considered.
Certainty. old military axiom that a decision is better than no decision.
p.208: In many cases, teams have all the information they need, but it resides within the hearts and minds of the team itself and must be extracted through unfiltered debate. Only when everyone has put their opinions and perspectives on the table can the team confidently commit to a decision knowing that it has tapped into the collective wisdom of the entire group.
p.209: Like a vortex, small gaps between executives high up in an organization become major discrepancies by the time they reach employees below.
p.212: The Role of the Leader: More than any other member of the team, the leader must be comfortable with the prospect of making a decision that ultimately turns out to be wrong. And the leader must be constantly pushing the group for closure around issues, as well as adherence to schedules that the team has set. What the leader cannot do is place too high a premium on certainty or consensus.
In order for teammates to call each other on their behaviors and actions, they must have a clear sense of what is expected.
Avoidance of Accountability
p.212: In the context of teamwork, [accountability] refers specifically to the willingness of team members to call their peers on performance or behaviors that might hurt the team.
p.213: Team members who are particular close to one another sometimes hesitate to hold one another accountable precisely because they fear jeopardizing a valuable personal relationship [cf.: Difficult conversations]. Ironically, this only causes the relationship to deteriorate as team members begin to resent one another for not living up to expectations and for allowing the standards of the group to erode. [cf.: Drifting Goals].
More than any policy or system, there is nothing like the fear of letting down respected teammates that motivates people to improve their performance.
p.215: The Role of the Leader: One of the most difficult challenges for a leader who wants to instill accountability on a team is to encourage and allow the team to serve as the first and primary accountability mechanism. … [Often] team members assume that the leader is holding others accountable, and so they hold back even when they see something that isn’t right.
p.216: An absence of accountability is an invitation to team members to shift their attention to areas other than collective results.
Inattention to Results
p.216: An unrelenting focus on specific objectives and clearly defined outcomes is a requirement for any team that judges itself on performance.
p.218: Many teams are simply not results focused. They do not live and breathe in order to achieve meaningful objectives, but rather merely to exist or survive.
p.219: Teams that are willing to commit publicly to specific results are more likely to work with a passionate, even desperate desire to achieve those results. Teams that say, “We’ll do our best,” are subtly, if not purposefully, preparing themselves for failure.
The Role of the Leader: Perhaps more than with any of the other dysfunctions, the leader must set the tone for a focus on results. If team members sense that the leader values anything other than results, they will take that as permission to do the same for themselves. Team leaders must be selfless and objective, and reserve rewards and recognition for those who make real contributions to the achievement of group goals.