When the Teacher Becomes the Student

Last Tuesday, I had the opportunity to speak to a great group of ladies from Texas Tech Health Sciences Center on “Cultivating Culture” in the workplace. It was an interactive half-day training on fostering teamwork, developing a culture of service and communication tactics.

I enjoy training and helping others think differently about a specific topic or sharing personal experiences to help them improve and accomplish their goals. However, training can also lead to self-discovery, and there are moments when the “teacher becomes the student”. I value those moments as a life-long learner, and I had one of those moments last Tuesday.

As I was training on Patrick Lencioni’s 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, I was reminded to self-reflect on the areas I need to improve upon as a leader, as well as areas to work on with my team. Back in 2014, the WT Enterprise Center did a culture training on the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team and it really made a difference in how we worked together and held each other accountable to our goals. I realized it had been awhile since I revisited these concepts. As I was giving the training and reflected on these concepts that helped me grow as a professional, it became very clear that I needed to spend some time evaluating where I am in the pyramid and where our organization currently sits.


If you’re not familiar with the 5 Dysfunctions Pyramid, here’s a quick overview!

#1 Absence of Trust – Great teams trust each other. They feel comfortable being vulnerable with each other about their weaknesses, mistakes, fears and behaviors.
#2 Fear of Conflict – Teams that trust each other are not afraid to disagree, challenge one another, or question one another, all in the spirit of making the best decision for the organization.
#3 Lack of Commitment – Teams that engage in productive conflict are able to achieve genuine buy-in around decisions. They ensure all opinions and ideas are heard and considered, giving confidence to the team.
#4 Avoidance of Accountability – Teams that commit to decisions and standards of performance do not hesitate to hold one another accountable. They don’t rely on leaders; they go directly to their peers.
#5 Results – Teams that trust one another, engage in conflict, commit to decisions, and hold one another accountable, are very likely to set aside their individual needs and agendas and focus almost exclusively on what is best for the team. 
As business professionals, these concepts are not new or revolutionary. However, I think we forget how impactful they are when we get them right. Lencioni’s philosophy teaches that these 5 steps are foundations that build upon each other. It is important for us to remember that if we have cracks or flaws in one section of the pyramid, the rest of the pyramid is unstable and can topple when the smallest problems appear. This concept is especially important for leaders who are building and guiding the cultures in their organizations. Team members won’t approach each other with healthy challenges if there’s not a foundation of trust. A team won’t commit to goals if not everyone is included or team members fear challenging the status quo. Team members can’t hold each other accountable if they are not all on the same page or if they are fearful of conflict. Ultimately, teams can’t achieve what’s best for the organization if their foundations are not solid. A solid foundation positively impacts the overall culture, service and effectiveness of an organization.
Sometimes we take for granted the topics we train or teach daily. It’s good to take a step back and ask yourself if you are taking your own advice. Are you practicing what you preach? At the core of our organization, a culture of service is important. We can always use a good reminder to evaluate what’s important to us! 
As you go about your day and work with clients, team members and community, I encourage you to take a step back and see if you’re missing an opportunity to self-reflect on foundations that are important to you and your organization! There’s always an opportunity to learn something new every day, whether you are the teacher or the student.

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