Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.


Putting the work in Teamwork

Recently, I've been involved in some discussions about team dynamics in corporate environments. Specifically, discussions about how teams hold each other accountable, remain focused on the "bigger we," and improve the team's ability to work together.

In my career, I've been part of lots of teams - ranging from the criminally dysfunctional to the high-performing. One of the things I've noticed is that the better the team, the better they want to be - and the more they focus on improving team function.

One of the teams I'm on now is working improving team dynamics, and we're preparing for our first meeting soon. This has sent me back to my bookshelf to review my "top 5" books that have made their mark on me in this area.

I'd like to share my short list with you, and invite you to share any gems of your own with me in the comments.

  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

    • This is an easy read with some hard advice. It describes a team engaged in some destructive, disloyal, and counterproductive habits - many of which sound exactly like some of the screwed up teams I've been on. Through the fable in this book, you learn how to do things the right way (or at least in a much better way) with a strong focus on holding each other accountable. Every team can learn from this book.

    • My top takeaway: Focus on results and insist on mutual accountability through constructive conflict.
  • The Offsite: A Leadership Challenge Fable

    • I've reviewed The Offsite here before. This one (another fable) focuses on team dynamics but on provides some tools to figure out whether you have a process problem or a leadership (or leader) problem.

    • My top takeaway: Create a unifying purpose and don't let ineffective leaders destroy the team.

  • Managing with Aloha

    • This book isn't just about teamwork, but teamwork runs through it. Concepts like "The Daily Five Minutes" are written from the perspective of a manager connecting with their team, but I find this concept - and many others in this book - can be applied to increasing the effectiveness of your relationships with peers / team members. This is another book I've reviewed here.

    • My top takeaway: Effective teams require people to feel respected and valued, even when things aren't going well.

  • Silos, Politics, and Turf Wars

    • Well, Patrick Lencioni gets to be on my short list twice (he also wrote the "Five Dysfunctions..." book above). You've probably seen the dynamic in teams where it's always "their" fault, and the easiest way to get ahead is to make the other people in the room look bad (and you usually do that behind their back). This book helps you deal with these bad behaviors and get them out of your team - they have no place in an effective team.

    • My top takeaway: Work toward "the bigger we" and stop the in-fighting. Your business should be focused on collective success in the market, not individual success inside the company walls.

  • Why Smart Executives Fail

    • OK, OK. So this isn't a book about teams, but it is a book about leadership and leadership debacles. It's useful, however, for anyone in a leadership position to better recognize their contribution to dysfunction. Remember what you've brought to the party. There is a spot-on summary in this post at Aussie Rules.

    • My top takeaway: If your team is dysfunctional, you are probably part of the problem.


I've read lots of other good books, but found these to by my preferred "must re-visit" list around the topic of team effectiveness.


What books are on your short list?