Enrich Culture – Building a Cohesive Team – More than Mediocre

A leader who is intentional about setting the culture, hiring people who fit the culture, and developing those people, now has the ingredients for an amazing team! In physics, cohesion is the force by which molecules in a substance are held together. In this article we’ll look at the factors by which team members come together to form a cohesive team. The book we’re drawing from this month is “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni – in this book, Lencioni outlines 5 keys to creating a healthy high-performing team. Each principle builds on the former, so let’s begin with the end in mind. The ultimate footballteampurpose of a team is to get “Results”. A sports team wants to win the game, a military unit wants to achieve the tactical objective, a corporate team wants to see profits, a married couple wants to raise children who become healthy adults, and a Teen Challenge staff team wants to see lives transformed. I love how Lencioni recounts of hearing people say, “well we have a losing record this season, but we have a great team!” He’ll say “no, you don’t have a great team; you have a group of people who enjoy being together and are satisfied with mediocre results.” You might say that Teen Challenge is God’s business and we can’t measure everything – the results are up to Him. That’s partly true, but from well executed fundraising events to well-maintained buildings to changed lives…there are plenty of results we want to see in Teen Challenge.

Next, a team gets results because they are willing to embrace “Accountability”. Greg Hammond talks about this principle in creating a “peer culture” in the student body. He uses the example of a time when he constantly found old gum on the sidewalks of the campus. He could have added yet another rule to the policy manual and said, “No gum.” Instead he went to the student body and said, “You decide – if you want to keep chewing gum, keep it off the sidewalks.” The students took care of it themselves by holding one another accountable. And this is what makes accountability effective, when it operates with “Commitment” to agreed upon decisions, objectives or courses of action. With this kind of commitment the team member says, “I’m all in and I will do my best to support this decision and see it succeed.”

While the gum chewing example is a simple one, other decisions and courses of action are not so straightforward – should this student be dismissed? How can we improve our admissions process? Can we disciple our students more effectively? This is where cohesive teams learn to be comfortable with “Healthy Conflict”. This is nothing more than the pursuit of truth – what’s the very best decision? Is there a better idea? What will be the most effective solution? When team members are free to weigh in on the discussion, and are willing to do so, it’s more likely that the best decision will be made because everyone has brought their brains, experience and giftings to the table. Healthy conflict doesn’t necessarily lead to consensus – the leader will often have to make the call – but people can usually commit to decisions they’ve been allowed to give input on even if they disagree. This kind of honest discussion can only happen in a healthy culture, where there is the presence of “Trust” on a team. Lencioni calls this “vulnerability-based trust”, where people can speak up or admit they don’t have all the answers without fear of being judged or shot down. This kind of trust takes time and intentionality to cultivate on a team but everything else depends on this foundation.

Next month we’ll take a closer look at the role of the leader in these 5 areas. In the meantime, how are things on your team? Is it healthy and functional? Or is there sometimes an inattention to results, avoidance of accountability, lack of commitment, fear of conflict, or absence of trust?