Screen Shot 2015-12-20 at 4.12.40 PMBelow is an article I wrote for the January 2015 edition of Smart Business Magazine

Understanding the Five Characteristics of an Outstanding Leadership Team

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 “Five Dysfunctions of a Team” 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, and the base on which to build, 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 to admit 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 okay 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. Coming out of a meeting where a decision has been made everyone must be on board. Even if someone doesn’t agree with the decision they must support it publicly. Nothing derails a decision more quickly than someone on the leadership team going back to his or her own team and being negative. This will derail the success of any decision.

ACCOUNTABILITY is the fourth characteristic. Typically a change is made in a leadership team meeting and a person or persons has taken responsibility to see that it is implemented. Holding that person or persons accountable for living up to their commitment is part of a high performing team. If they are not being 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 1-10. Create an average for each category and have a discussion why each is not a “10” and what should change in order to get there.