The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
Patrick Lencioni’s best-selling team book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, is a powerful tool. It helps teams identify and understand the root causes of politics and dysfunction on their teams.
Invest the time necessary for your team to complete the recommended pre-retreat reading preparation. This will pay dividends in the long run.
Absence of Trust
Almost anyone who has ever played a team sport understands how difficult it can be to get the job done. This is true in the workplace as well, where politics and ego often get in the way of effective collaboration.
In order to overcome this problem, teams must be able to air their dirty laundry and open up to one another. This is why the first dysfunction in Lencioni’s model is absence of trust.
A great way to build trust in a team is through the Personal Histories Exercise, where members go around the table and share personal details about themselves such as the number of siblings they have, their hometowns, unique challenges in childhood and favorite hobbies. This helps team members relate to each other on a more human level and dis- courages unfair and inaccurate behavioral attributions.
Fear of Conflict
In the absence of trust, a fear of conflict causes teams to avoid discussing issues that might cause discomfort. Teammates substitute artificial harmony for productive discussion and stifle debate, resulting in missed opportunities to learn from mistakes and to tap into the full range of resources and talents on the team.
Teams must be encouraged to deal directly with sources of disagreement and become comfortable making conflict a regular part of their decision-making process. Otherwise, these problems will fester beneath the surface and resurface later in more destructive forms—personal attacks, passive-aggressive undermining, resentment, and reduced productivity.
Lack of Commitment
Team members must be fully committed to the team’s goals and objectives. When members are not committed, ambiguity over team goals and direction is the result. This dysfunction impedes progress and can cause teams to get stuck in a rut.
In a dysfunctional team, teammates will struggle to communicate and agree on decisions because of their fear of conflict. They will also squander time revisiting the same topics and spread confusion to their subordinates within the organization.
Patrick Lencioni’s book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is a leadership fable that explores the reasons teams fail to work together for their common good. I recommend using this guide as a launching point for your team’s Five Dysfunctions journey in conjunction with a full-day retreat led by an experienced facilitator.
Avoidance of Accountability
Creating a team that holds itself accountable to the highest standards of performance and behavior is a powerful force that can transform an organization. It also requires courage to tackle the human behavioral tendencies that corrupt teams.
In his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni describes this model through a fictional story about Kathryn Petersen, the CEO of fictional DecisionTech. The story centers around her efforts to improve the team environment at her company and her discovery of the dysfunctional patterns that plague many teams.
Ideally, the exercises and discussion from this guide should be done over a period of months to help your team build its awareness and skills in all five areas. This is important since each of the five dysfunctions feed into each other and one of the most challenging to overcome is the avoidance of accountability.
Ego and Status
Often, a team’s members have ego barriers that prevent them from discussing their performance and behavior. This barrier is a result of fear of disrupting relationships and leads to low standards.
Typical signs of this dysfunction include insisting on taking credit for ideas during meetings, criticizing peers, or playing the victim role. Another common sign is that a team member ignores the needs of others and works in isolation.
The first step to addressing these five dysfunctions is to develop common goals that all team members agree on. You can achieve this by using the exercises in this Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team summary and by incorporating the recommended pre-retreat work, including completing a Behavioral Assessment.