Are Team Assessments Self-Serving?

It seems like every time I administer an off-the-shelf leadership team assessment, the results are horrendous! I’ve been through a gauntlet of team assessments as a leader, team member, and facilitator, with a variety of companies and teams, and the results always seem to be the same. At best, average, but still room for improvement, and at worst, I see descriptors like “dysfunctional”, “toxic”, “serious problem”, “needs immediate attention”, etc…

In fact, one of the most popular team models out there (and I like it) is appropriately called “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”. Seems like a pessimistic view of teams.

The worst teams I’ve worked on and observed wouldn’t even think of doing a team assessment, so the one’s I’m referring to were actually pretty good teams. Nice people, competent, respectful of each other. So the cynic in me makes me wonder: are the companies that develop and sell these team assessments designing them in a way that no team could possibly score well? Most of these companies are of course in the team development business – that is, once you get your lousy team scores, you are encouraged to buy their services, books, or videos as the remedy to your myriad of problems.

Would a better approach be for a team to simply ask themselves to define what kind of a team they would like to be? To define their own team behaviors and goals, then rate themselves and choose what they want to work on to improve? I’ve tried this, and it seems to create more buy-in and positive energy.

Oh, and one last thing on team assessments and team development: don’t ever use this approach if it’s really the behavior or performance of ONE person that’s really the problem. As a leader, deal with the individual, and spare your team the pain of having to attempt to fix your problem for you.