A 3 Step Conversation Starter for Dynamic Teams
75% of cross-functional teams are dysfunctional. (Tabrizi)
(Any team that has members from different departments is cross-functional. If marketing and production are present, for example, your team is cross-functional.)
7 challenges of cross-functional teams:
- Turf wars and pissing contests.
- Blabbermouths at the table.
- Maps without roads. Where are you going? Really?
- Dead weight and energy vampires. It’s hard to perform when someone’s sucking your blood.
- Resource hogs. Who gets the money and the people?
- Avoidance. Sweeping awkward conversations under the carpet.
- Glory hounds. Who gets the credit when projects succeed?
A 3 step conversation:
You can’t improve what you avoid.
There are three steps to conversations that elevate team dynamics – assessment, celebration, new behaviors.
- Where are we now?
- What are we doing well?
- What behaviors might nudge our team toward the next level?
Example: A conversation starter for psychological safety:
Step one: On a scale of one to ten how comfortable are we at bringing up tough issues? (Answer anonymously. Average the score and write it on the board.)
Step two: Why didn’t you choose a lower number? This is your chance to honor what’s working. You don’t have to declare your response to step one. Describe behaviors. What is our team doing right?
Step three: What behaviors nudge our team toward greater comfort at bringing up tough issues? Generate a list of three or four simple behaviors. Avoid the seduction of perfect solutions. Choose one behavior to practice for a month. Set expectations for yourself. Pat people on the back when they practice preferred behaviors. Choose a new behavior next month.
On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate our practice of …
- Supporting each other.
- Seeking and giving feedback.
- Staying on topic.
- Clarifying purpose.
- Creating actionable plans.
- Holding each other accountable.
- Establishing clear structure and process.
- Having fun.
- Sharing success stories.
- Evaluating progress.
What challenges do teams face?
What conversation topics might you add to the list?
- Cross-Functional Dysfunction
- 5 Dysfunctions of a Team
- Conquering team dysfunction
- Team Effectiveness Discussion Guide