Best Practice Leadership

Leadership: Guiding Your Team From Dysfunction to Performance

Man talking in front of employees in a leadership meeting.

Guiding Your Team Past Dysfunction and into Performance

Say you break a bone. While the fracture heals, the site of the break is temporarily stronger because of a protective callus that forms around it. You’ve probably heard this before. Teams are no different, but only if you account for the most significant factor in this metaphor: the doctor.

Your pain and recovery process lead to a positive outcome because your bone was reset by a medical professional with not only personal experience to draw from, but the combined experience of all the predecessors and peers whose work the doctor studied.

We would never attempt to reset our own broken limb while skimming through a used copy of Gray’s Anatomy, yet we often take on the responsibilities of repairing our flawed or damaged teams with little to no dedicated training or professional advice on the subject. As basic concepts, the core principles of both situations seem to be mostly common sense. It’s in the application that things get messy.

I want to share some insights I’ve learned about teams and why the best ones work:

  • High-functioning teams are the most valuable resource of any organization — the deciding factor in achieving long-term success, stability and growth.

The process for achieving this functionality begins with a leader who can recognize that team members aren’t quite there yet and are possibly a long way off — and that this may include the leader as well.

In a recent webinar — the debut installment of the i4 Business Leadership Webinar Series — we covered a lot of ground. Our focus was to impart some simple yet effective knowledge to committed leaders about overcoming dysfunctions to create a high-performance team. But to do that, we first had to examine the role leadership style plays in influencing a team.

  • Teams reach their peak potential when their leader is not only open to improvement, but actively seeking it.

As an organization with decades of combined experience in the implementation and advancement of leadership principles, we at Roto Speaks are confident in this assertion.

It’s a common misconception that a leadership position itself is proof of ability. The assumption is that our earned rank or title, organizational wealth or impressive industry reputation must be evidence of our skill at the helm. Such is not always the case. Personal success does not guarantee capable team leadership. A leader’s merits are determined by daily action and service, not status. A leader’s greatest asset isn’t power, it is influence. A leader’s reward isn’t obedience, it is effectiveness and investment.

  • To enhance your leadership ability and confront team dysfunction, you need objective assessment.

Human beings find motivation, process stress and communicate with each other in noticeably different ways. We’re diverse enough to feel unique, but similar enough that reliable patterns can be observed. As just another human, albeit the one at the top, leaders benefit as much from their own assessment as they do from that of their employees. We’ve found that a full roster of DiSC personality assessments proves to be an indispensable starting point, opening the door to the communication and understanding needed for tackling the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, first presented by Patrick Lencioni in his book by the same name.

Each of the five dysfunctions is directly related to the next, both in cause and in solution. For example, an absence of trust fosters a fear of conflict, and the vulnerability required to build trust makes team members more open to engaging in the passionate debate required to get results. Team development continues along these lines, each dysfunction only able to be addressed once a solution to its predecessor has been found. Accurate assessments of how your team members function as individuals and as part of a group will prove highly advantageous throughout this entire process.

  • Every team, in every domain, struggles with dysfunction.

My firm has gained insights from our partnerships with Lencioni’s Table Group and The John Maxwell Team of coaches, trainers and speakers. In fact, Maxwell’s principles are incorporated in our leadership training and referenced in the webinar. These insights have proved universally relatable to audiences, regardless of background or organizational goals. We’ve had great success implementing these concepts in distinct and contrasting domains, from the federal government and U.S. military to industrial corporations and innovative tech firms.

  • If eliminating team dysfunction gets results, why don’t leaders prioritize it?

As we said, it’s in the application that things get messy. An experienced, objective outsider guiding you through the process is vital for success. As a leader, you take an active role alongside fellow team members on a journey that can feel awkward, confusing and even painful. Healing often is. But the high-functioning team that results from it will be exponentially more effective than the one you started out with.

Hear more about leadership and The Five Dysfunctions from Roto Speaks CEO Bill “Roto” Reuter during the first installment in the i4 Business Leadership Webinar Series at

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About the author

Bill "Roto" Reuter

Bill Reuter

Bill “Roto” Reuter served for nearly 30 years in the U.S. Navy as a test pilot and as commander for its premier training and simulation development organization. He is now the founder and president of R-Squared Solutions, where he and his team facilitate dynamic workshops that empower organizations to reach greater success. He also is the founder of Roto Speaks, which books him as a keynote speaker, corporate trainer and executive coach. He can be reached at roto@r-squaredsolutions.net.

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