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Enhancing Team Behaviors

by Keith Olson, Director Physician Consulting Services for Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.


 In over 30 years of coaching, consulting and organizational development work, this is a very common conversation I have had with a physician or leader:   

Physician: “We need a team building session.”

Coach: “Why do you need team building?”

Physician: “Well, our team is just dysfunctional. There are days I just want to scream: ‘Why can’t everyone just get along!’”

Coach: “Why don’t they get along?”

Physician: “There is a lot of talking about each other behind each other’s backs and our staff meetings can get pretty uncomfortable.”

Coach:  “Does everyone contribute to the team issues?”

Physician: “No, it’s really just a few people; the others are just demoralized by it.”

Coach: “Forget a ‘Team Building’ meeting right now, your issue is the behavior of a few people. In fact, the rest of your team would resent a ‘Team Building’ session because like you, they know it’s the behavior of a few people that needs to change. That’s where you have to start.”

Excellence can only be delivered by a team that is thriving and addressing behaviors impacting the team is a critical function of leadership. These are the essentials to enhancing behaviors on teams:

  • Make very clear the behavior that is expected of every team member and why it’s important.
  • As leaders, role model the right behaviors.
  • Reward the right behaviors/avoid rewarding the wrong behaviors.
  • Address problem behaviors through coaching and discipline/termination if needed.
  • Avoid the wrong behaviors in the future by hiring for fit.

The vast majority of issues I have encountered with teams are because of the behaviors of a few team members. It is tempting to avoid difficult conversations by having a general “team building” session but this is a misdiagnoses of the problem and an inappropriate treatment approach that will not cure the team of its real issues and may even cause resentment and make things worse. By changing the behaviors of a few team members, the potential of the team can be unleashed.



To learn more about the importance of improving team behavior, please be sure to attend the 2014 Time for a Checkup practice management seminar on November 13, 2014. Mr. Olson will be presenting, “Why Can’t Everyone Just Get Along? Enhancing Team Behaviors” at the event. Registration coming soon!


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