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When polite is NOT good for business!

August 23, 2016


Building a cohesive team in today's world of constant change and transiency across most sectors is difficult, and at the same time vital for the survival of most organisations. On the one hand it is almost impossible to measure by most recognised numerical means, whilst on the other it is one thing which, done right, can be the greatest differentiator between organisations competing for market share, customer headspace or product/service supremacy. Unlike technology or human assets it cannot be bought, it must be home-grown.


Team dysfunction, on the other hand, is more rife than we might imagine, particularly when we know the telltale signs to look out for; these are not what you might expect. In previous blogs on the subject of teamwork, we have explored some of the definitions of successful teamwork and discussed the 'rules' necessary for teams to perform well.


Patrick Lencioni's 'Five Dysfunctions of a Team' model clearly shows how dysfunction grows in

 teams where there is a lack or a breakdown of trust. In fact this is sequentially the first of the five dysfunctions in teams that are not working well. The question is, how do we know when trust is lacking or has broken down? 



Think about your personal relationships, outside the workplace, for a minute. Think about your relationship with the person you trust most in the world; this could be your significant other, a parent or sibling, for example. How do you know there is trust in that relationship? Because you can be yourself, share your opinions, your hopes and fears without fear of reprisal, judgement or losing that person's affection.



If we accept this as true, then the converse must also be true; where there is a lack or loss of trust, you would tend to be more guarded, more choosy about what you shared... and ultimately more 'polite' for fear of rocking the boat.


This is just the same in teams where there is no trust. People do not speak out in team meetings


for fear of repercussions, they do not give the team leader honest feedback on his/her ideas and decisions for fear of that feedback being taken personally. They don't share their reservations about the project for fear of conflict and being seen as the voice of negativity. Ultimately they don't dare to be vulnerable in front of their colleagues or the boss, so they take the easy route by being polite instead.


As a manager or team leader, if you want true teamwork, engagement and a shared vested interest in the team's outcomes and success, the time to worry is when all you're getting is politeness!

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