Why Isn’t Your Team Functioning as One?

We love to talk about our teams, and I’m not referencing the Colts and Pacers despite lessons to be learned from them. I’m talking about our project teams, work teams, fundraising teams, sales teams, and special event teams. Despite our packaging of the “teams” analogy, the irony is they are often not functioning as the name implies. So how do we bridge that gap and bring the team together?


First, we must acknowledge that it’s just not enough to pay lip service to the team concept. “We’re all part of the team. Our team needs to perform better. We have a talented team.” We’ve all heard the statements and then see our associates or volunteers walk away questioning their role or lacking a sense of engagement. It takes an investment; great teams don’t just happen.


For most, an effective mission, strategic plan, “SMART” goals and objectives will work to bring the people together around a common cause. We also know that group activities can have an impact on team bonding and morale as can a little friendly competition and effective leadership. Yet, that’s not all it takes.



The internet and self-help books are filled with ways to improve the productivity, camaraderie, and trust of your teams and staff. "Eight steps," "ten ways," "five tips," "the three top items," you get the idea. The problem with them is they all overlook a key component. Many are group focused and yet much of our team success is rooted in the personal traits of the individuals involved. To unlock the team potential, we have to understand the individual motivations, behavioral tendencies, strengths, and challenges. This is where the value of an insightful tool such as StrengthsFinder, Myers-Briggs, or DISC can shine. Not only can they help members of the team understand one another, they help a sales force or development staff relate more effectively with their prospects making them more successful. Some of the tools have been around a while, yet they’re still relevant because today's teams have additional challenges in coming together. Take for example the generational differences that often contribute to a "we against them" mentality. Added to those challenges is technology, including remote workers that may lessen the staff interaction. Finally, as we seek to do more with less, the demands of operational efficiencies can exert extra stress on groups, and the most important resources, your staff, so their comfort with one another is imperative. As a Certified DISC trainer, I’m consistently impressed with the surprising accuracy the resulting assessment provides and the valuable insights into the private self, public self, and perceived self. The DISC profile results from participants answering a series of 24 questions with four identifying statements. The person completing the profile chooses statements that are the "most like" and "least like" their typical preferences. Utilizing a tool like the DISC assessment, a group (could be a board, staff, leadership or management team) learns to accentuate the positives and control the negatives while inspiring the needs of specific behavioral styles. In general, the assessment analysis focuses on identifying the four predominant styles among the team. Everyone has a blend of these styles which can flex depending on the environment, but one will generally be more predominant. D - "Dominate" - Representing <10% of our population. The dominate style likes control and they are generally drivers of projects. "D's" are typically good leaders but can be perceived as forceful, direct and strong willed. They’ll want to lead the team. I - "Influencing" - Roughly 27-30% of the population. Those with the influencing style like recognition and people. They are great communicators, enthusiastic, entertaining and persuasive but will make spontaneous decisions. They will promote your team. S - "Steady" – Believed to be the largest group, it’s estimated 29-32% percent of our population will fall within this category. Individuals with this primary style seek acceptance and are great team members. Some even state the "S" is for supportive because you'll often find them in supportive roles. They are great listeners, patient, loyal and like to follow-through. They’ll be a sounding board for the team. C - "Compliant" – It’s estimated 27-30% of the population are of the compliant style and are extremely concerned with doing things right. They like facts and figures and are precise, sensitive and analytical. They also like to work with planning, systems, and the orchestration of those plans. They’ll be the planner for the team. There is tremendous value in a team getting a handle on their members’ styles and tendencies. Additional benefits result when that information is shared within the group. The DISC assessment coaching or follow-up workshop should include identifying potential weaknesses and an analysis of how an individual’s style(s) interact with others. This analysis will also provide the tools needed to identify the styles of others, such as prospects, staff, and potential donors. Building trust, camaraderie, and productivity are byproducts of any assessment process, and it is without question a solid foundation and springboard in seeking to achieve that important goal of bringing your team together.

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