Are business problems really just people problems in disguise?

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Are business problems really just people problems in disguise?

Cameron-Patterson-Co-Business-Accountant-Problem Child


Almost any business owner or manager you talk to will say that people issues are among the biggest challenges in running a business.

The author Patrick Lencioni has written a number of books about the dynamics of work teams.

I find three of these books in particular provide a useful way of looking at how people work together.

These titles, in the order of my discovering them, are:

  1. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
  2. The Three Signs of a Miserable Job (republished as The Truth About Employee Engagement)
  3. The Ideal Team Player

The combination of the ideas presented in these titles conveniently address aspects of the team, the organisation and job specification, and the attributes of the individual.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team are:

  1. Absence of Trust – The fear of being vulnerable with team members prevents the building of trust within the team.
  2. Fear of Conflict – The desire to preserve artificial harmony stifles the occurrence of productive ideological conflict.
  3. Lack of Commitment – The lack of clarity or buy-in prevents team members from making decisions they will stick to.
  4. Avoidance of Accountability – The need to avoid interpersonal discomfort prevents team members from holding one another accountable.
  5. Inattention to Results – The pursuit of individual goals and personal status erodes the focus on collective success.

Try working through these in a group setting. If it’s not confronting or scary, then you’re doing it wrong!

I think (now) The Three Signs of a Miserable Job is a great title, although I hated the title when I first bought the book. I think that book sat on the shelf for a couple of years before I read it just because of its title, but it is now my favorite! Patrick, I hope you didn’t change the title just for me!

The three signs are:

  1. Anonymity – Everyone likes to be acknowledged and remembered, understood and appreciated for their unique qualities by someone in a position of authority.
  2. Irrelevance – Everyone needs to know that their job matters, to someone. I like to think of a range of occupations from mercenaries to volunteers. At one end you have assassins who will act for the highest bidder, and at the other end you have people who will, for no monetary reward, put their lives at risk in the open ocean in a rubber dingy with “Greenpeace” written down the side.
  3. Immeasurement – People like to know how they (or their tribe) are doing. I think one good example of this is the three Wednesday nights each year when most of the eastern population of Australia will yell at their televisions as they compare the blue tribe to the maroon tribe. Down through the ages humans have played games and kept score.

There is some great instruction here for managers

The Ideal Team Player is:

  1. Hungry – They are always looking for more. More things to do. More to learn. More responsibility to take on. Hungry people almost never have to be pushed by a manager to work harder because they are self-motivated and diligent. They are constantly thinking about the next step and the next opportunity.
  2. Humble – They lack excessive ego or concerns about status. Humble people are quick to point out the contributions of others and slow to seek attention for their own. They share credit, emphasise team over self and define success collectively rather than individually. This is not a timid humility, but a confident, calm and strong way of understanding a bigger picture.
  3. Smart – This is not a raw IQ kind of smart, but more to do with common sense about people. Smart people tend to know what is happening in a group situation and how to deal with others in the most effective way. They have good judgement and intuition around the subtleties of group dynamics and the impact of their words and actions.

Think for a moment about the effects on a team when a member scores low or negative on one or more of these. Leaders, this is your cue! If such a situation is left unaddressed, then bad team members will drive out good team members.

If we could have a cameo appearance from Seth Godin here, he might say:

“What will you do when it’s your turn to lead? …and it’s always your turn to lead!”


Source: CP’s thoughts and words blended with those of Mr Lencioni

November 30th, 2017|Categories: Good Business|