Five characteristics of outstanding leadership teams

I always enjoy reading Patrick Lencioni’s books because they are business books written as fables. If you are tired of wading through books on leadership that emphasize the author’s new way of thinking about an old subject, read Lencioni.

In his “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable,” he discusses the five areas that keep teams from functioning at a high level. Since I prefer to operate in a positive world, I reversed his dysfunctions and made them the positive characteristics needed for a leadership group to become high performing.

The first requirement of a high performing team is trust. If the team members do not trust one another, the other characteristics do not matter. There must be a willingness to be transparent with one another, a willingness for each member to feel safe admitting their mistakes and weaknesses. This can be created by using bonding exercises in your management meetings so your team knows each other as human beings and not just as an executive of one of your departments.

In any group of people there will be disagreement. High performing teams embrace conflict, a group norm that says it is OK to disagree. This leads to passionate debates around the company’s current direction or a current policy or procedure. The important thing to remember as a facilitator of such a discussion is to not let it get personal.

Following a leadership team meeting where everyone has aired their support or disagreement there must be commitment. Even if someone doesn’t agree with the decision, they must support it publicly. Nothing derails a decision quicker than a member of the leadership team going back to his or her own team and being negative.

Accountability is the fourth characteristic. Typically, a change is made in a leadership team meeting and someone takes responsibility to see that it is implemented. Holding them accountable for living up to their commitment is part of a high performing team. If they are not successful, the team can support them by asking where they need the team’s assistance and a new plan can be developed, all without judgment.

Having all of the previous characteristics in place should lead to results and, hopefully, the results originally expected. The achievement of team goals only occur if everyone is focused on the same priorities and not on a self-serving purpose that highlights an individual or their own team.

Let me suggest an interesting exercise. At your next management team meeting, have the members rate each characteristic on a scale of one to 10. Create an average for each category and discuss why each is not a 10 and what should change in order to get there.