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Finding Perspective

4 Tips for Dealing with Dysfunction in Teams

September 18, 2017
Lead Others
Rusty Chadwick

At WinShape Teams, our work is driven by the fulfillment and effectiveness we believe individuals can experience when they participate in healthy teams.

We believe teams can and should be a rewarding environment where value is created for members as well as those served through their work. Healthy teams are an accelerant that multiplies individual work beyond the sum of the parts. However, teaming can be tough.


Frustrations caused by team dysfunction often consume more of our physical and mental energy than they should.


Most of us have experienced the effects of a dysfunctional team. This environment can lead to abrasive relationships, unproductive meetings, active disengagement, competition between team members, poor communication, unsolved problems, and an overall sense of discouragement and frustration.


Amid this reality, it is easy to lose faith that a healthy team environment is possible. When a team is unhealthy, the benefits of teamwork are not present and discouragement can give way to a bit of hopeless resignation that things will never get better. Worse yet, this workplace difficulty can spill over into other important relationships at home and in the community, further compounding the problem on a personal level.


If you are in this situation, don’t give up on your team just yet—there is hope!

Perhaps the following four tips will be a helpful reminder as you continue the journey.


1. Remember to keep things in perspective.

Given that so much of our time each week is spent at work, it is easy for daily challenges to consume our thinking. When we lose perspective, we dedicate a disproportionate amount of our mental energy toward today’s pressing problems. However, while our work is a wonderful way to purposefully impact the world around us, our lives are much bigger than the work we do. Our families, friends, and communities are gifts to us; each of these domains has the potential to be immensely fulfilling for us and those with whom we positively interact. We’ve all heard the adage about making mountains from molehills; the reality is that most symptoms of team dysfunction are not towering peaks barring our way, but small irritants that cause us to stumble.


2. Create rhythms that help you maintain perspective.

Perspective is not often permanent. Even when we’ve clarified our thinking and refocused our priorities, two or three work-related “molehills” in a row can easily distort our mindset. To counteract this pattern, try to build in regular opportunities to reset and regain perspective. This could be done through a periodic check-in with a trusted supervisor, putting work away in the evenings and on weekends, serving in your local community, mentoring someone, family vacations, spending time in nature, or developing hobbies. When we encounter challenging circumstances, the temptation is to dedicate increasingly more thought and energy to the issues at hand. However, the closer things get, the larger they appear. Create space to step back, and don’t underestimate the power of perspective.


3. Take a step outside your world.

When I was 15 years old, I traveled to Africa for the first time on a medical relief trip. Talk about a new perspective! Since that trip, I have had the privilege of visiting many countries and I am always struck by the immensity of the world in which we live. Not to minimize the challenges any of our teams face, but a goldfish looks bigger in a bowl than in an ocean. Whether it is a visit to another country, or time spent in a community different from your own, find an opportunity to expand your world.


4. Work toward better.

Finding and maintaining perspective is critical to experiencing fulfillment during difficult team circumstances; but don’t stop there. The ultimate goal is to see your team become strong and healthy. Toward this end, recognize that high-performing teams do not happen overnight. Bumps on the path toward high-performance are normal. Commit to the success of your team and remember that successful team development can multiply your efforts and add real value to your life. When traction is difficult to find, keep trying. Someone needs to be the champion of a better future for your team. Why not you?


Building a team is hard work. The fruits of that work are sweet; however, the process can, at times, be discouraging. Be careful not to waste effort climbing mountains that don’t really exist. Maybe all you need is a little perspective.