The company had been reporting losses. It was urgent to reverse the situation. They sent a Country Manager with a well-earned reputation for being “tough” from the Head Office. Results-oriented, top-down, relentless. The focus was clear: sales volumes, margins, economic results for the shareholder. All “accessory” expenses and “benefits” had to be cut. Clearly, all processes related to talent management and development fell into this category.
A year passed and the Country Manager won his big bonus. Just like the local directors. The results were accomplished. Success… or not?
Three years later, the company is undergoing a costly process of cultural change, trying to achieve participatory leadership and teamwork. This is a case that illustrates the theory of Patrick Lencioni very well.
Organizations should look at results, yes, of course, it’s their job, but… at what cost?
A healthy team should avoid five dysfunctions: the first is distrust, the impossibility of showing vulnerability (“I don’t know how to do it”, “I need help”). The focus on results leaves no room for learning or error. The environment then becomes hostile and threatening. Google’s Aristotle experiment agrees: the basis for a high-performance team is psychological security, the security of feeling confident to expose ourselves in front of our colleagues. But that vulnerability was not in the performance evaluation, much less was it a factor for the annual bonus. Vulnerability is sometimes confused with weakness.
To be in a position of power during a crisis and recognize that you do not have all the answers is not easy.”I am not able to solve this”, “they are going to kick me out”. The impostor syndrome says: “they will realize that I can’t do it”. This inability to show vulnerability reinforces the second dysfunction of teams: fear of conflict. Creativity involves debate, disagreement, exchange. A team that never disagrees cannot innovate. But since the leader (if that term fits in such a context) cannot show his insecurity, being questioned scares him. He prefers collaborators who do not question him.
If I learned something in my professional practice as a clinical psychologist and as an executive coach, it is that those who does not know how to say no, does not know how to say yes. And that brings us to the third dysfunction: the inability to commit to a team decision. So as long as the top-down, authoritarian CEO was there, and as long as his plan worked, everything seemed great. But later, when everyone’s contribution is required, it happens that everyone has learned not to expose themselves, they should obey… or whatever. Decisions are not made in meetings but between meetings.After hours of meeting, a conclusion is reached and, as soon as they walk through the door, one director asks another “are we going to do this? ””No,” answers the interlocutor, “but let me communicate that to the Head Office.” That’s not a team.
Decisions are not made in meetings but between meetings.
The fourth dysfunction Lencioni talks about has to do with accountability. But at this point, it is impossible to consider this. As there is no trust you cannot disagree, we prefer to avoid conflict rather than debate ideas. Therefore, there is no compromise either. So, there is no place for one partner saying “you can do better” to another without that sounding like a threat.
And so, we reach the pinnacle of the dysfunction pyramid: the lack of attention to results.
Let’s put a name and surname to the story. General Electric was the typical company that shed 20% of its employees annually, based on some performance evaluation mechanism. If your performance is not good enough, you’re out. This created a highly competitive environment, a context in which trust, innovation and challenges were not thriving. In contrast, Costco is a company that invests in its people and their permanence. And what’s the result? In 30 years, Costco’s stock was incredibly stable and “unattractive” to an investor hungry for quick returns… but five times more profitable than GE’s stock in the same period!
Costco Vs. GE in the last 35 years: consequences of results-oriented focus.
What a sad paradox this is. The focus on financial results that caused so much damage to the culture and the team ends up leading to a lack of focus on results. Of course, it doesn’t mean that company executives no longer looked at sales or stock price, of course they do. The problem is that this is only part of your daily business. They care more about their political position than the team’s result. No one is willing to help another. All challenges must be encouraged with individual recognition. A partner’s achievement becomes a threat because I consider him a competitor more than a partner.
It is necessary to destroy the dysfunctions at it roots, starting by asking ourselves some questions to understand why the teams we lead do not persist over time or “explode” with changes.
Why do we reward individuals and expect teamwork?
How do we reward vulnerability?
How do we allow dissent?
How do we combat “artificial harmony” by promoting debate?
The homework is to build trust inside the teams, and this task, by no means an easy task, is carried out in a combination of strategies to achieve the foundation of a team based on capabilities and relationships, oriented to results as a result of a job. on commitment and responsibility, and not as a consequence of obedience due to a leader that many times, is the first endorsement of dysfunctions.