Team Building from the Inside Out

Are You on a Dysfunctional Team?

It is alarming that over 80% of all businesses are dysfunctional to one degree or another. According to a study done by the Harris Interactive 1, which polled over 23,000 people, many businesses have significant problems and need to take a closer look at their operations.

Here is how the people responded to a small portion of the survey, known as the xQ Questionnaire:

• 91% of the people working in business do not understand the goals of the team or department they work with. They have no idea “why” they are doing their jobs or what success looks like.

• 84% said that their teams do not work together to plan or achieve their goals.

• 85% said they did not have the resources to perform their jobs. This is a startling statistic.

• 90% said that team members do not hold one another accountable for their commitments. They fail to work together as a team.

What if this type of environment existed in a football team? Let’s examine what would happen.

Only one player on the team would know when they scored a touchdown. Everyone else would be running around the field fighting for the ball and expending a lot of physical and emotional energy but they would not know when they were successful and scored a touchdown. 91% of people polled responded that they do not understand what their goals are when they take the field and prepare to play the game in business. Is it any wonder that so many people hate their jobs? They are never fulfilled in knowing that they were successful and scored a touchdown. They don’t even know what a touchdown looks like. People get trapped in a routine and end up losing their enthusiasm, which results in half hearted efforts and poor service – not to mention dreading Monday mornings.

Only two players are working together and running the same play. The rest of the team either don’t care or don’t understand their positions on the team. How can a team move the ball down the field if only two of them are working together? What might be worse is that the other members of the teams are running different plays when the ball is snapped. 84% of people working in business say that their teams are not working together to achieve their goals. In the movie, “Cool Hand Luke”, the main character, Luke, is anything but a team player. He defies the prison environment he finds himself in because he knows it is broken. At one point, after a confrontation, the head prison guard tells Luke, “What we have here is a failure to communicate”. According to the survey, only 16% of the people surveyed feel they are communicating and working together as a team, the other 84% feel disenfranchised in a broken environment.

Only two players have invested the time to memorize and practice the plays. Everyone else is on the field but they are not prepared and may have even forgotten to bring the ball! They are not engaged or committed. When was the last time you walked into a store or restaurant and waited for a long time before they even noticed that you were there? According to this survey, you have close to an 80% chance of coming into contact with someone you are paying for service who either doesn’t care or isn’t involved in the process.

Only two players on the football team have complete uniforms. The rest of the team is missing helmets, shoulder pads, etc. Can you imagine if you sat down to watch the Super Bowl and the team showed up on the field and they did not have the right equipment?! Yet, only 15% of the people polled felt they had the resources to perform their jobs! Why have the coaches in our businesses allowed this happen!?

Perhaps the saddest statistic of all is that only one player on the field, out of the entire team, is motivated to win and holds other team members accountable. Can you imagine how frustrating it would be if you were the only one on the football field who cared about scoring a touchdown?

What To Do

What does one do if they are a member of a dysfunctional and broken team like Cool Hand Luke?

Go to your boss and tell him/her that you want them to be successful and your team to be more effective. Then ask him/her two questions:

1. What do I or my team do that helps you do your job?
2. What do I or my team do that hampers your ability to do your job?

Put the focus on how you can make your boss more successful, because if you help them succeed, you’ll likely succeed. People are looking for people they can trust, people who have their back – these folks are rare and usually cherished.

Then, write down the answers and ask your boss to give you time to think about what can be done. Talk to your team about it. Then, respond in a week or so with suggestions and get his/her feedback before making changes. Repeat the process at least once a year.

There are numerous examples of this working in real life, but one must have the courage to ask the boss these simple questions. One example was a fellow who had a team that created a fairly complex weekly report for his boss. He would give it to his boss, and his boss would spend hours redoing it. It wasn’t until he asked what he became aware that it was hampering his boss.

What you shouldn’t do is write down a list of complaints and things that you or your team think need to be changed and take them to your boss and demand they be changed. He/she may not have the power or resources to change them and it tends to shut down the discussion. You need to establish communication that will help you and your boss to work together to solve the problem.

1. Harris Interactive, xQ Questionanaire, Commissioned by Franklin-Covey, 60 Corporate Woods, Rochester, New York 14623-1457, September/October 2002.


One Reply to “Team Building from the Inside Out”

  1. Great blog, Mike! If I can add one small point to the part on going to the boss and not writing a list of complaints – making “I need…” statements instead of “You should…” statements should be helpful..

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