When I think about the reasons I’m hired into an organization as a coach & trainer, it’s to fix dysfunction. Dysfunction in the organizational context means, “abnormality or impairment in the function of a system” and/or “deviation from the norms of acceptable behavior in a way regarded as bad”.

I think the two definitions represent a cause and effect. That is, one or more people are behaving against the acceptable norms and therefore impairing the function of the system.

So, what is the cause of “normal behavior” deviation? I see two things over and over:

Lack of management & leadership skills: In organizations, people need to be led. Period. Having solid managers and visionary leaders should be the norm. After all, people need to know what to do, why they’re doing it, have clear expectations, and then be held accountable. If organizations had decent managers with proper skills, more than half of the organizational challenges would be resolved. Yet they don’t. Most often, companies promote strong individual contributors into managerial roles without any training. This would be equivalent to me being a good basketball player and then being asked to coach the team after just a few years. Where some might naturally rise to the occasion, most do not because it’s a totally different set of skills.

Different Perspectives: Interesting huh?! Second only to bad managers creating dysfunction, the next most common source of dysfunction is simply that people are different. But it’s not just that they’re different, they don’t know how to name and celebrate their differences in a way that would best support their team. I work with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality tool often. Most people are familiar with the four dichotomies that are assessing preference on: introversion vs. extroversion (I-E); detailed vs. big-picture processing (S-N); analytical vs. people-oriented decision making (T-F); and structured vs. flexible task orientation (J-P). This framework shapes our innate personality. Although humans adapt to their environment to “flex” their preferred styles, the fundamental differences in the way people take in information and make decisions about that information creates a ton of dysfunction.

What’s the solve?

Invest in training managers and leaders. It’s really that simple. Adult learners need more than on-the-job training. Give them formal skills training so they can be their best. This will lesson dysfunction because your company has appropriately aligned people in roles with the right skills, AND it is extremely engaging for managers to be invested in and developed.

Name and own different perspectives: With the teams who have taken a MBTI training with me, it is illuminating for them to see (within the safety of a trusted psychological framework) how exactly their team members are different. It gives them permission to own and appreciate their unique perspectives and then share them openly with the team. I can’t tell you how many times people have come together during a training to say something like, “I had no idea that my flexible approach was being interpreted as procrastination. That must be frustrating for you! I can be more structured if you can be more options oriented.

ORWow, I can see why my big-picture style of connecting dots seems haphazard to your sequential mental process. No wonder you were left in the dark on how I was making meanings. I thought you were right there with me.”

Nope. They probably weren’t.

See how much dysfunction this can create?! I invite you to invest in a personality assessment training for your team and experience these ah-has. It’s truly revelatory.

Go forth today and consider how you can lesson dysfunction on your team.