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            [post_content] => Top Dysfunctions of a Team

In every organisation the top team is that critical component that is tasked with setting the wheels in motion. The way in which the top team operates sets an example for the rest of the organisation and can and should be a motivating example for the rest of the business.  But just how effective are top teams in setting an organisation on the right course? And how good are they in engaging and motivating employees to do what is needed?.

Working with many top teams, observing their behaviours and listening to their conversations when they meet, I have noticed some interesting patterns.

Common Top Team Dysfunctions...

Turf wars
Many top team conversations focus on reviewing large tables of numbers and explaining how they are different from forecasted expectations.  At this point the conversations shift to who is to held "responsible" and which department or function should take praise or blame.

Top teams often talk about how employees fail to "understand the gravity of the situation", the importance of the "drastic change"s ahead or even "remember that they are paid to do a job".

While many top teams are aware they need to be a team, they often believe that any time spent working on the team is time taken away from talking about important business issues. A dysfunctional top team cannot make good decisions let alone execute them.

While each top team has certainly different group dynamics and many function well in particular areas, the above behavioural patterns seem to be quite pervasive.  Where the above dysfunctions are present they are almost undoubtedly at the root of larger business challenges.

...And how to overcome them

Behavioural change begins with understanding of current behaviours and a clear picture of the desired behaviours. Overcoming the above potentially destructive patterns of behaviour requires the top team to be united, caring, and authentic.

Be United
Firstly, while each team member has a functional role and is responsible for a specific business unit, all organisations need a unanimous commitment to a course of action. This has little to do with consensus and much more to do with well defined success criteria, a clear sense of the priorities, and a well defined decision-making process. Everyone is responsible for the success or failure of a business through clarity of purpose, consistent performance feedback and mutual accountability.

Be Caring
Secondly, simply paying someone to do a job is not always enough to motivate them to do the job right. People are engaged in doing a great job when they are inspired to do so by leaders that walk the talk, are honest in their interactions and more importantly care about what's going on in the life of their employees.  Being caring is not a nice-to-have - it can make the difference between a deadlocked organisation and one that is engaged to deliver.

Be Authentic
Finally, for top teams to be effective they need to become aware of their influence on the mood of the entire organisation.  A top team must operate as a true team, working through organisational issues with candour, vulnerability and most importantly with mutual accountability. The visible daily behaviour of the organisation's leaders is a much more powerful message than any vision or mission statement.  When the words are incongruent with the behaviours, it is the behaviours that set the truth.

Before an organisation's leaders can expect the rest of the business to operate effectively, it is important that they understand how they themselves work as a team to contribute to the common goal of delivering business results.

If you are interested in having your senior team work with IMI contact us on +353 1 207 8400 or or read more about our approach.

Fabio Grassi is Executive Learning Director at IMI. He is a specialist in the development of team performance, collaboration and motivation.  His approach involves the facilitation of tailored workshops aimed at the achievement of specific business outcomes. He is passionate about the development of ethical leadership through executive coaching. e-mail Fabio Grassi or call on +353 87 9183282.
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Touching back on my last blog I mentioned that culture needs to become a strategic business priority (like sales, profit, etc.) and not just a HR priority.

boat with leader Source:

Leadership teams can start the creation of high performance cultures by implementing the following 6 steps:

1. Establish a sense of urgency

They need to make it clear that the current culture needs to change, articulate the vision and business case, and describe the opportunity (as John P. Kotter states in his book The 8-Step Process for Leading Change) in a way that appeals to the hearts and minds of people.

2. Develop a set of strategic beliefs

These are the beliefs senior executives have about their organisation’s environment that enables shaping business strategy e.g. Dell believed that customers would, if the price was right, buy computers from a catalogue rather than go to computer stores as the conventional wisdom dictated they would. They created a $7 billion business.

3. Develop a set of values

Values enable the organisation to act on its strategic beliefs and implement their strategy the right way. Values shape the culture of an organisation, define its character and serve as a foundation in how people act and make decisions. Dell’s values supporting its strategy and strategic beliefs include: Delivering results that make a positive difference; leading with openness and optimism and winning with integrity.

4. Capitalise on quick wins

Capitalize on and honour your cultural strengths and act quickly on any critical behaviour changes required.

5. Challenge those norms that get on the way of high performance

Norms are informal guidelines about what is considered normal (what is correct or incorrect) behaviour in a particular situation. Peer pressure to conform to team norms is a powerful influencer on people’s behaviour, and it is often a major barrier affecting change. It is always easier to go along with the norm than trying to change it…. Common samples of negative norms in some organisations: Perception that it is ok to yell at people, ignore people’s opinions, etc.

6. Role model and recognise the desired behaviours

As Gandhi wonderfully put it “Be the change you want to see in the world”. This empowers action and helps embed the desired culture you are trying to create. Behaviour is a function of its consequences. Behaviour that results in pleasant consequences is more likely to be repeated, and behaviour that results in unpleasant consequences is less likely to be repeated. According to B. F. Skinner and reinforcement theory “future behavioural choices are affected by the consequences of earlier behaviours”. The argument is clear; if you want people to be brave and challenge the status quo, you shouldn’t make them feel awkward or like difficult employees when they do. Furthermore, if want people to contribute at meetings make sure you actively listen to them and act on their suggestions and ideas.


On his famous article “On the folly of rewarding A while hoping for B” Steven Kerr argues that the way in which we reward and recognise people doesn’t always deliver the desired results. We all have being in situations where we are told to plan for long-term growth yet we are rewarded purely on quarterly earnings; we are asked to be a team player and are rewarded solely on our individual efforts; we are told that the way in which results are achieved is important and yet we promote people who achieve results the wrong / in a Machiavellian way. A friend of mine was recently at a hospital and he complained to the ward manager about the doctor’s bad manners and rudeness. The answer he got was “do you want to be treated by the best heart doctor in the country or a not so good doctor but with a really nice bed manner?”.

My argument is why can’t we have both?

Pedro Angulo is the Programme Director of the IMI Diploma in Strategic HR Management starting on 16th November 2016. Pedro is an Organisational Effectiveness Business Partner in AIB and Chairperson of the Irish EMCC (European Mentoring and Coaching Council). He is a motivational speaker and regular presenter at HR, coaching, change and business conferences / events. _____________________________________ [post_title] => 6 Steps to start the creation of high performance cultures [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 6-strategies-start-creation-high-performance-cultures [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-08 09:57:47 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-08 09:57:47 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 19309 [post_author] => 6 [post_date] => 2017-04-04 16:31:42 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-04-04 16:31:42 [post_content] =>  

Not for the first time in recent years we face the dilemma of engaging a multi-generational workforce. The workplace has always had multiple generations at work at the same time, and there have always been challenges and gaps between generations in work as in society. In some ways, it is a necessity for any society to have such generational gaps as they fuel innovation that prompts positive change and evolution.

istock_000039430846large-917x600I believe that before we look at the generational difference in the workplace, we have to understand individuality. First and foremost each person brings a unique combination of attitudes, behaviours, strengths, and talents to the workplace. These unique combinations are not fixed but are influenced by everyday experiences. Therefore, when we engage with people in the workplace, such interactions are setting the premise of the way we work with each other.

The outcome of each interaction is a shared responsibility.

Every new generation has commonalities with older generations. For example, younger generations tend to be more idealistic in their outlook of the world. They are enthusiastic and willing to succeed but usually are not too clear about what they would like to succeed at. Newer generations are also often very ingenious, full of ideas but lack the experience to communicate these thoughts.

Older generations, on the contrary, can be disillusioned, attached to modes of working that they have practised over time. Older generations are influenced by a large body of experiences and therefore less keen on changing too quickly and more sensitive to potential risks.

All of these are generalised patterns of course, but they immediately provide an insight into the kind of generational conflicts that commonly arise in the workplace.

Working with many graduates, I get interesting but obvious answers when I ask the question "which behaviour do you find most challenging dealing with people in the workplace?" The answers are very consistent:

  • Unwillingness to change
  • Not open to new ideas
  • Dismissive attitudes
  • Don't follow through
  • Not willing to share
  • Set unrealistic expectations
  • They keep dumping work on me!

On the contrary working with older generations of managers the answers I get in relation to graduate behaviours are:

  • They all want to become executives tomorrow
  • They don't have relevant experience
  • They don't seem to understand the concept of responsibility
  • They have very high expectations but are not willing to put in the work
  • They seem to know everything even if they don't
  • They have no idea how things really work.

It seems clear to me that the most effective way for older generations to work with newer generations is to pay attention to the behaviour they demonstrate in the first place.

It’s on the shoulders of the older generation to take on the roles of mentor and supporter not only in building work experience but also in navigating the challenges newer generations face when entering the workplace.

Empathy plays a critical role here, taking the time to understand graduates’ perspectives and help them find a way to work through the challenges they encounter in influencing people around them, considering and exploring key stakeholder perspectives, and in developing confidence and credibility.

Indeed, the impact of technology on millennials has changed significantly the way new generations engage with each other. It is critical to recognise how they usually engage from behind the safety of social media networks, where it's easy to express one's opinion and shape one’s identity.

Face to face engagements on serious issues can be daunting for them. It is important for older generations to spend time building trust, confidence and psychological safety to help them become comfortable with relevant performance conversation.

New generations need a lot of feedback but they also need to be involved and listened to, they need to be helped engage in adult to adult conversations rather than parent to child conversations.

Another critical difference the age of technology has brought about in the new generations is the easy access to a wealth of information, which is often not necessarily verifiable. This situation has brought about three critical challenges.

  • Because information is at their fingertips, they don't need to remember it, and therefore the missing memorisation process of association causes them to evaluate information superficially. They usually find it hard to connect information and develop deep complex thinking.
  • Because their sources are often unchecked, it is easy for them to take on misguided positions with all the potential consequences these can bring on when making critical decisions.
  • Because everything is at their fingertips the idea of waiting for change to happen and sticking to hard work to achieve specific results is usually a challenge.

The role of older generations in helping and supporting younger generations to develop as individuals is critical. Graduates have a lot to offer to any organisation, but in order for them to contribute effectively, it is important to create the appropriate environment for them to thrive. Such an environment starts with good role models who provide healthy examples of behaviour while paying attention, listening and remaining open to new ideas.

fabio-grassiFabio Grassi is an IMI associate who teaches on IMI Diploma in Executive Coaching & High Performance TeamsFabio is a specialist in the development of team performance, collaboration and motivation. 

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Tanya Hudson

Tanya Hudson

9th Dec 2019

Tanya is an associate on the IMI Professional Diploma in Organisational Development & Transformation

Related Articles

Are Mummy & Daddy Fighting? 3 Ways of Overcoming Top Team Dysfunctions
6 Steps to start the creation of high performance cultures
Bridging The Generational Gap In Modern Organisations.

Bulletproof Teams: Building Resilience in Organisations

In modern workplaces, where disruption, innovation and organisational change are the norm, the ability to cope with stress and unexpected challenges is vital. Teams who not only survive, but rather thrive, in these situations are key to organisational growth and development. There has been a tendency to focus predominantly on resilience as an individual or personal skill, but it is much a characteristic of high-performing teams as high-performing individuals.

Resilience has many definitions depending on who you read but, ultimately, it is the ability to recover quickly from adversity and stressful situations. When you apply this concept to the workplace, a team that demonstrates resilience will produce better results over time because they are invested in the purpose of the organisation, they foster trust and psychological safety, they are able to adapt in the face of a challenge and they support each other to achieve their mutual success.

While it is a skill that comes from experience, we can accelerate its development through learning, changing mindsets, and deliberately practicing habits that encourage its development.

An essential paradigm required for resilience is our ‘mind-set’; a term coined by psychologist Carol Dweck to describe how we perceive ourselves; our abilities, our capacities and our interests.  Dweck distinguishes between two different mind-sets: fixed and growth.

A fixed mind-set is where we believe our character, our talents and our abilities are fixed and do not change with development or practice.  An example of this is where we might say ‘I’m not musical, I don’t have a note in my head!’ or ‘Maths is not my thing, I’m no good with numbers!’.  We will internalise these comments and come to believe that they are, in fact, true.

A growth mind-set is where we believe our talents and abilities are malleable and can be improved through development or practice.  Here, we relish challenge and view failure as a learning opportunity and springboard for growth.  We are encouraged by, not rendered helpless by, difficulty.

With a growth mind-set, a team will understand they are fallible, human. They’ll do their best at any task but won’t be governed by low self-confidence or incessant worry that are potential pitfalls of perfectionism.  Rather, they’ll see challenge as opportunity, see failure as learning, and focus on the improvements they make throughout.

As a leader or a team player, you can foster this mind-set and develop resilience in your team by creating an environment that is conducive to bouncing back, where your team is not shaken by every setback or challenge:

Share What’s Going Well

Whenever you have team meetings, start off by talking about what’s going right than what’s going wrong.  Doing this regularly will build resilience as people begin to focus on their successes rather than their failures, raising energy in times when it may be low.

Tell Empowering Stories

Tell your team stories of achievement and allow them to extract the advice they need, rather than issuing orders. This way, you are empowering your team and building confidence by providing a choice rather than a command.

Celebrate Success

Whether you choose to display a success board, share news of achievements, give others informal praise in everyday interactions or formally celebrate through awards or other recognition, celebrating success within your team will build resourcefulness, energy and positivity.

Focus on What’s Wanted

If your team is discussing an issue and you notice energy draining, shift the focus from the problem to the desired outcome.  Instead of talking about the problem itself and what has caused it, ask your team what they would like see happening instead. You can discuss the same topic but from a different viewpoint, focusing rather on what you want and what to do to get there.

Each of these actions, if carried out regularly and over time, will change what your team pays attention to, shift their mindset, develop their resilience and elevate their performance.


IMI associate on the IMI Professional Diploma in Organisational Development & Transformation. Tanya works as a business psychologist for KinchLyons –