Teams are important. It takes people to have a team. For a team to perform optimally, each person must have a voice and be allowed to contribute.
This has been on my mind in relation to a corporate client who, while having a management team, really has a top down decision making process driven by a single person, the owner. I was asked to participate in a meeting on issues related to a legal matter. Each member of the team of four was allowed to speak. After each one spoke I watched and listened to the owner kind of acknowledge what someone said and then replace it with what he thought or wanted to do. This went on for two hours, after which I was directed to do what the owner had told me he wanted to do a few days before the meeting. He allowed his people to speak and ignored their thoughts and input.
This is an example of a dysfunctional team. An owner has the right to be the ultimate decision maker, but if you give someone a voice only to ignore it, what’s the point of even giving the illusion of wanting input?
That meeting made me think of a non-profit board I am a member of. The members of the board are diverse in many ways and each bring things to the table the others don’t. During a recent meeting on strategic issues, I listened as committee members spoke. People actually listened to each other and helped form the ideas and action steps on the matters being decided by the board. This is a functional team.
Functional teams involve input from all and team members being open to ideas different from their own. If you think about this, most of us are involved in teams at work and home. How these teams function makes a difference. Of course, at home, parents need to dictate family decisions on many issues, but allowing children a voice at the table on certain issues seems like a smart strategy for them to be part of a functional team from a young age.
People on a team won’t always agree with the decisions coming out of the group. Once a decision is made, those who may not have agreed with the decision need to align so there is a singular message coming from the team. This happens with high functioning teams: respectful discussion and disagreement when meeting and then sending a unified message to those not on the team.
If you are on a functional team, it just makes things easier. If you are on a dysfunctional team, make changes. Change is hard, but it’s the path forward to more ideas and better decision making.