In always aiming higher and attempting to create high performing teams, certain dysfunctions can creep in, that then lead to behaviours that set others off into negative or losing behaviour.


What’s Wrong?

One particular dysfunction is the practise of always identifying what is wrong or not quite right. Normally this begins because every leader wants to create the best product, service or circumstance, so by recognising what is not quite right, focus and attention to correct it, brings improvement. But, if this is the only focus, the team will lose motivation and become dispirited.

So to correct this, team leaders need to start each of their meetings, by reviewing and calling over what has been successful and what has been achieved since their last meeting. They can ask their team to review how things have gone well that were planned in their last meeting; and also to celebrate the things that had happened unexpectedly, that they also wished to recognise.

This helps team members accrue positive input and learning of what they are doing right and what has worked, which builds their confidence and self esteem, both as individuals and as a team. So positive mentions of who is doing well should be included and identifying how different people are learning and growing. Positive recognitions of people in this way adds to the benefits that are accruing to the team. When one person learns and grows, the whole team is enhanced.

In order to extend the positive vibe that a team generates beyond itself, rather than recognise people from other teams that were difficult, or challenging, they could recognise those that really aided and helped, by identifying their contributions to the success of their team.

Altogether, starting a team meeting this way, sets the tone for the emphasis that a leader wants to take in leading his people.


Central Control

Another dysfunction that can come into play is when the team leader is very strong, with a distinct view of what they want, and they take too much of a controlling stance with the team. By their behaviour, they can teach their team to not contribute, but to rely on them to say what they want, how they want it, and where and when things should happen.

Now some leaders might say ‘Great’ at that, because they think they will get what they want, but what this means is that in a team of 7, instead of 7 people thinking through issues and creating a collective intelligence that addresses all the issues, you only have one. And this is bad, because, however good the leader is, they do not have the detailed understanding of each matter that each person is addressing; therefore don’t have a grasp of the details, the obstacles, and people issues that need to be addressed to deal with the problem they are trying to resolve.


So even strong leaders must learn to open up a subject on their agenda with the invitation that everyone participate in thinking through or brain-storming what the problem is and how best to resolve it. They need to practise patience and allow time for people to think through the issues there and then or, to say ‘Let’s all of us think about this and come next time with some ideas on what we can do’. A good methodology to gain great results is to create a ‘Thinking Environment’ and use each other to think. We use this methodology as outlined by Nancy Kline in Time to Think: Listening to Ignite the Human Mind as it’s very powerful in being able to draw out the individual and collective intelligence of the Team.



Depending on the majority of the make-up of teams, people who don’t share the majority’s profile preferences, can feel unsafe to be honest and contribute their views. For example, if a team has a preponderance of dynamic, high risk, innovative people, those who are low risk and recognise the impact of proposed changes upon their current client-base, may feel hesitant to object and highlight the difficulties that what is being proposed will lead to.

If even one person in the team does not feel it is safe to be honest and to speak their truth, then this always results in dysfunction because their intelligence, creativity and resources are being withheld in the group; leading to a lesser result and a breakdown in the flow of the good that is possible to be achieved.

For any person not speaking their truth, will not truly commit to the whole group’s decisions, leading to difference and team break-down. If safety is not guaranteed, it sends the message into the team and the wider group that speaking the truth and being honest is not actually looked for, which leads to politics and greater dysfunctions in the whole group.

For the leader, making the team members feel safe to speak honestly should not mean that consensus cannot be achieved, nor that harmony cannot prevail.

So correcting dysfunctions does put the onus upon the leader to set the correct expectations, tone and standards into the behaviours of themselves and their team members. But correcting such dysfunctions leads to such positive outcomes that working for such benefits are surely worthwhile.


Penny Sophocleous

10 June 2019