CRM Is All About Teamwork

ORLANDO, FLA. -- It's one thing to set aside research and development funds to try to find the best CRM strategies for your company. It's another to have a sound philosophy and strategy in mind in order to best implement any CRM solutions purchased. Both of these areas are essential, but this morning's keynote address at SAPPHIRE 2008 stressed one more aspect that is crucial to any successful company, let alone implementation: teamwork.

Patrick Lencioni, founder and president of The Table Group, a management consulting firm serving organizations in helping them improve teamwork, clarity, and employee engagement, spoke about the lessons from his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. He argues teamwork is not only a competitive advantage, but the competitive differentiator in today's business world. "[Teamwork] is so rare in organizations today, and because of that, it provides a different competitive advantage like nothing else," he explains. "Teamwork allows us to leverage our investments in technology, strategy, and intelligence. The absence of teamwork crushes any investments a company makes."

Lencioni likened teamwork to being a parent -- he says we generally know the right things to do and say in order to be an effective team member or leader, but like parenting, it takes dedication everyday. "There is a great deal of information on teamwork and leadership," he says. "But, what I'm trying to leave with you all today is a practical reminder in order for you all to best leverage your [company] investments."

According to Lencioni, the five dysfunctions of a team are:

  • Absence of Trust;
  • Fear of Conflict;
  • Lack of Commitment;
  • Avoidance of Accountability; and
  • Inattention to Results.

Lencioni stresses that the trust he speaks of is not predictive trust, but vulnerability based trust--being able to admit when you need help and when you're wrong. "Vulnerability is a completely authentic emotion," he says. "The most important thing you can do as a leader is show you are vulnerable, and you team members can follow suit." Failure to show vulnerability-based trust can be lethal, Lencioni believes. "If one member of a team refuses to be vulnerable, it will spread like a disease to the whole team," he adds.

The dysfunction Lencioni believes is the worst of the five he mentions is avoidance of accountability. Lencioni believes the most valuable accountability comes from within a team. "Teammates must trust each other and hold each other accountable," he argues. "Peer-to-peer accountability is the most powerful form." While teammates are tasked with holding each other accountable, Lencioni says leaders cannot take a backseat. Leaders have to show they are willing to confront difficult issues that go beyond the bottom line. "I can't tell you how many senior executives I've heard tell me 'I'm too busy and tired to deal with this right now,'" he recalls. "It's never about taking an employee to tasks over not making their numbers, either. It's always behavioral issues that senior executives want to avoid having to deal with." That, he believes, is a recipe for failure. "Accountability on a team starts with behaviors, because they almost always precede results," he adds.

Lencioni concluded by reinforcing for leaders the value of teamwork--it is not just about being a competitive differentiator; it's also about changing lives. Lencioni argues that the lessons a leader instills in team members start a chain reaction. These team members take the lessons and incorporate them into both their professional and personal lives. "Many leaders think they would like to retire early and do 'meaningful' work with children or philanthropies," he says. "That's wonderful, but in their capacity as leaders now, they have the opportunity to change team members' lives."

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