Positive Quote: “A fractured team is just like a broken arm or leg; fixing it is always painful, and sometimes you have to rebreak it to make it heal correctly. And the rebreak hurts a lot more than the initial break, because you have to do it on purpose” – Patrick Lencioni – The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
I don’t know if I have ever mentioned this before, Patrick Lencioni is one of my top favorite business authors out there. I have read and reread his books more often than I can count and when I am mentoring someone, invariably I recommend one of Patrick’s books for them as recommended reading.
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is a classic. It is written in a fable format, which can remove some of the soap box type books that are out there. There is no do this, do that, you are wrong if you do this, etc… you can picture your team and at times yourself in his writing. It removes the judgment in my opinion.
When it comes to a team, whether you inherited it, grew up on it, or built it, there will come a time, and more often more than once, where the team is fractured and not on the same page. The fix, which could range from strong coaching, counseling, up to the team organization changing, can be painful. The pain however, is the kind that you have to let happen, and provide support, guidance, and empathy, all while, as a leader doing the right thing. Ignoring the fractured team can lead to it being permanently broken and may cause severe damage to fix later on.
This brings to mind a situation I had to handle as a manager over a team I inherited. There was a team member who customers loved, he was sharp and could handle any situation thrown his way. Issues would be worked to the root cause and service would be restored or it would be escalated to the right team to address. The issue, it was his attitude. He treated others as beneath him and it impacted the morale of the other team members that were outside his circle. The conversations were hard; he did not see a problem because he achieved results. In the end, after exhausting coaching tools and other avenues, it got more direct with formalized write ups and strict action plan expectations. In the end he left the team. The support gap was something that was painful to deal with, yet the other team members dove in and in the end, were stronger for it. While I don’t regret the hard conversations, I do think back and realize that doing something purposefully was the right approach and the pain and hurt helped me and the rest of the team grow together.
When I talk to new managers or those getting assigned stretch goals, I let them know that they are human and not everything is easy. Being a manager doesn’t make people automatically listen. You have to build trust, keep your commitments, and not be afraid of confrontation. Yet the confrontation should be handled with empathy, support, and understanding. The ultimate goal is to all be on the same page and reaching for the same goals. Also, things don’t go away with time, they get worse and if the roots grow deep, fixing it will be so much more painful. Avoidance is not the answer.
To me, the hardest fix is if the manager is part of or is the issue. That is a different conversation for another day.
What do you think of this quote?
If you have never read one of Patrick’s books, I highly recommend them. A good start is ‘Death by Meeting’, it will introduce you to his style and thoughts around leadership. Each books is an easy to consume and flows nicely.
Have a great day.