One of the biggest teamwork challenges is lack of commitment.When teams lack commitment, it’s an indication that the participants haven’t fully explored the issues. The idea is not for team members to reach a consensus, but to get buy-in even when some members have reservations and don’t agree.

In my previous post here, I discussed how teams that avoid conflict produce mediocre outcomes. Not arguing, not debating does nothing to build trust and even less to produce good results. Fear of conflict is the #2 dysfunction of teams cited in the book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni.

“Commitment is about a group of intelligent, driven individuals buying into a decision precisely when they don’t naturally agree. In other words, it’s the ability to defy a lack of consensus.” ~ Patrick Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

In an article called “If Your Team Agrees on Everything, Working Together Is Pointless,” (Harvard Business Review January 31, 2017) Liane Davey makes the point that teams are most valuable when they explore ideas and debate comfortably.

What should be a messy back-and-forth process far too often falls victim to our desire to keep things harmonious and efficient. Collaboration’s promise of greater innovation and better risk mitigation can go unfulfilled because of cultural norms that say everyone should be in agreement, be supportive, and smile all the time.~ Liane Davey

When teams lack trust and they fear conflict, members are likely to avoid commitment. Instead, they focus on self-preservation and maintaining amicable relationships. As people attempt to avoid confrontation, they stop listening to others’ concerns. Discussions become superficially polite.

I hear about this a lot in coaching sessions. Most people can sense when someone isn’t listening to their ideas or questions. This single dynamic―often subtle―will shut down team engagement and commitment, and tension continues to grow.

Teammates who are cut off or ignored feel left out. They’re less committed to team effort, so they’re unlikely to “get with the program.” It becomes difficult for a team to move forward amid stalled decisions or incomplete assignments. Enthusiasm for projects takes a nosedive, and confrontations become commonplace. Some members even stop caring about whether the team succeeds.

Lack of commitment also becomes a problem when you fail to convey clear goals or direction. People are left to wonder what they’re supposed to do, and the team’s success is no longer their top priority. They mentally check out and just start going through the motions.

When teams have clear plans and directions, members become infused with confidence and commitment. People want to be led in ways that assure success and fulfillment.

What do you notice where you work, in your teams? Is there real commitment, open debates and constructive conflict? How strongly do people trust one another? I’d love to hear from you. As always, I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.

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