Managing Team Conflict Part II: Goal-Driven Accountability

One of the greatest challenges leaders face in the workplace is managing conflict between team members. Businesses encounter many potential sources of internal conflict. Some are signs of healthy disagreement and can actually make teams stronger; other conflicts are symptoms of serious dysfunction and can impede the success of your organization. If not properly addressed, these more serious issues can lead to job dissatisfaction, loss of productivity and profit, or high employee turnover.
Last month, we reviewed the first two problem areas covered in Patrick Lencioni’s book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”: an absence of trust and a fear of conflict. Here we cover the next three types of team dysfunction and offer some guidance on how to address each one.
Avoiding Accountability

Is there anything more frustrating as a manager than employees who are not accountable for their work? Individually, a person who chronically misses deadlines or delivers low-quality results likely needs disciplinary action, but when these habits have become a part of the organization’s culture, leadership has a real problem on its hands. Where do you begin?

Lencioni discusses how, ironically, accountability issues arise when a leader is too strong; you may have taken on too many responsibilities, unintentionally creating an environment where all the important outcomes rest on your shoulders. When this happens, teams need to be taught to hold themselves accountable. This can include the creation of new leadership roles; for example, you could appoint a quality control leader to oversee teams of drivers whose level of work has slipped. Creating such a role would have the dual benefit of reinforcing driver accountability, while also giving a deserving employee a growth opportunity. Be careful not to create unnecessary bureaucracy, but remember that new assignments can energize employees and give them a chance to rise to a new challenge.

Commitment Issues
Have you been part of a team that constantly brainstormed and made ambitious plans, but they never saw anything through? This is a team that fails to commit, not only to goals but also to procedures and individual assignments. Employees may feel a lack of direction or clarity, second guessing themselves and wasting time by continually revisiting the same questions. Things can really get ugly when, similar to the accountability problem, team members begin to blame one another for their poor performance.
A team commitment problem is best addressed by a confident and assertive leader. Employees need to meet agreed-upon standards and deadlines and ask questions when those things are unclear. In the previous example of implementing new quality assurance procedures, drivers would need to know exactly what quality standard they are to meet and given a chance to report when they have met those expectations. For example they could take and send weekly photos of their routes to the quality control supervisor. Whatever the mechanism, communicating attainable expectations and holding people accountable will foster greater commitment to work.
Ignoring the Results

Does your team seem disinterested in the outcomes of their jobs? Are you getting bested by competition while your company’s growth stagnates? Do highly motivated employees lose momentum or even leave? All of these problems are symptoms of a team that does not focus enough on results.

A team cannot get excited about goals which are not clear to them. As the leader, you set the tone and communicate to your employees how much you do (or do not) value results. Start by working with the team to establish an ambitious but attainable goal: perhaps you set a growth goal with your sales team to increase clients by 8% by the end of the year. Check in on progress regularly. Reserve recognition for employees who demonstrate measurable progress toward the goal. When your team sees you valuing results, they will follow your lead and value them as well.

We hope this has given you some ideas about how to address the challenges you face on your teams. The NiteHawk team wishes you all the best and invites you to contact us with questions at…

Lencioni, Patrick. (2002). “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable”. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.