What effective team development looks like – and what you should avoid

If you ask 10 CEOs whether they’d like their business to have a winning strategy, you’d probably get 11 “yes” responses. Everyone wants their business to lead with a great strategy, of course.

Chances are that out of those same 10 CEOs, the majority would start strategy at the wrong end: the strategy itself. Yes, I’m aware that this sounds odd. Bear with me.

I’ve witnessed many times how well-intentioned leaders bring their team together to start working on the future. They hire consultants, analyze markets and customers, discuss products and pricing, and eventually decide on budgets and timelines.

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, it’s not the best start. If you want a great strategy, first invest in your team. Overcoming team dysfunctions is a critical precursor to designing strategy.

Everyone wants a winning strategy

To create a winning strategy, teams need unguarded conflict, based on deep trust. Otherwise, they play it safe and hold back. Teams who play it safe don’t become high-performing. And mediocre teams don’t build great strategy. They stay away from the juicy topics and live in artificial harmony.

Instead, a tight-knit team will dare to make tough choices. And choices are at the heart of strategy. Strategic decision-making is only possible in an environment where team members feel safe to express their ideas, challenge each other’s thinking, and engage in constructive conflict. This type of environment doesn’t happen by accident; it’s cultivated through deliberate investment in team building and development.

Start with Lencioni’s 5 Dysfunctions framework

One approach is using Patrick Lencioni’s model “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”. He outlines 5 dysfunctions to overcome on your way toward becoming a real team. These dysfunctions are the absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results. By systematically addressing these areas, leaders can transform their teams into cohesive, high-performing units.

Trust is the foundation of any high-performing team. Without trust, team members are unwilling to be vulnerable with each other, which stifles open communication and hinders effective collaboration. Building trust requires time, consistency, and a willingness to show vulnerability as a leader.

Once trust is established, teams can engage in healthy conflict, passionately debating ideas and challenging each other’s assumptions to arrive at the best possible decisions. When teams avoid conflict, they miss out on the benefits of diverse perspectives.

When team members have had the opportunity to voice their opinions and feel heard, they are more likely to buy into the final decision, even if it isn’t their preferred option. This commitment is crucial for ensuring that everyone is aligned and working towards the same goals.

In a high-performing team, members hold each other accountable for their commitments and performance. This peer-to-peer accountability is more effective and sustainable than top-down enforcement.

Finally, attention to results ensures that the team remains focused on collective outcomes rather than individual agendas. High-performing teams keep the organization’s objectives at the forefront and measure their success by the impact they make.

Stay away from team building games

Do yourself a favor and stay away from team building games. Noone has ever built a better team by stepping on a chair, falling backwards and being caught by their team mates. These games have no strategic value and are a waste of everyone’s time. Instead, create the space for deep conversations and watch your team grow.

Main Image: Florian Krauer