The Five Dysfunctions of a team – Patrick Lencioni
“Not Finance. Not Strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate
competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and because it is so rare.”
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is written as a fable about a struggling technology company. The new CEO recognises that the company has innovative products and great talent, however the executives are not working together as a team, therefore wasting the advantages of the company’s potential. The team falls into a blame culture, no one is accepting responsibility, deadlines are being missed and things are only getting worse. The purpose of the book is to show how a situation like this can be turned around by addressing the five dysfunctions of a team.
Dysfunction 1: Absence of Trust
Lencioni starts by talking about the need for group members to show their weaknesses, to be vulnerable and open with one another. Instead they feel the need to be right, to be strong and competent. Trust requires that team members have confidence in each other intentions, that they are good and therefore have no reason to be protective and careful in the team. The lack of trust amongst teams is a huge waste of time and energy as team members invest their time and energy in defensive behaviors, reluctant to lower their guard and ask for the help of others.
The key to overcoming a lack of trust is shared experiences, multiple follow-throughs and integrity. In the fable the team completes a Myers Briggs assessment to get the team talking about one another’s strengths and weaknesses and so become comfortable with one another. The primary role of the leader in this situation is to lead my example, be the first one to be vulnerable, and create an environment where it’s safe to be make mistakes.
Dysfunction 2: Fear of Conflict
Trust is the foundation of great teams and it’s trust that makes team conflict possible. Teams become dysfunctional when they are unable to productively deal with conflict. All meaningful relationships require productive conflict for them to grow. Healthy conflict occurs when people are confident to disagree with each other without any personal attacks taking place. Teams, particularly new teams tend to avoid conflict often replacing it with a fake harmony.
A team of people being nice to each other so as not to offend is not going to be very productive. Conflict is required for teams to become functional. Conflict allows team members to share their own views openly without the fear of being mocked for having a view. One of the worst team dysfunctions is when you have a group of people all willing to say yes simply to avoid conflict. Leaders need to encourage debate, support it and keep it productive.
Dysfunction 3: Lack of Commitment
Once a team has got to the stage of being able to engage in productive conflict they can confidently commit to decisions. Productive teams make clear decisions and are confident that they have the support from every team member. A lack of commitment usually arises from not hearing all the teams concerns before making a decision. There can be no commitment without debate. People will not buy into something when their opinions and thoughts on the matter were not included and discussed. “If they don’t weigh in, then they won’t buy in.” This is not so much about seeking consensus as it is about making sure that everyone has had the chance to be heard.
Dysfunction 4: Avoidance of Accountability
Without team commitment you cannot have accountability. If the team is to be accountable, everyone must have a clear understanding of what is expected of them.
At the end of the day it’s about each team member being accountable to the team. This means that a team member never lets the team down when it comes to meeting commitments. The team needs to hold their peers responsible for achieving results and working to high standards. It’s the responsibility of each team member to hold one another accountable and accept it when others hold them accountable.
Dysfunction 5: Inattention to Results
In this chapter Lencioni argues that when teams are not committed and therefore not held accountable the team members tend to look out for their own interests, as opposed to the interests of the team. A truly productive team places team results as the most important goal. It is the leaders role to ensure that team results are accurately monitored and communicated to the team and that the team maintains focus on these shared targets.
If a leader is able to address these five dysfunctions within their team then the result should be a functional, productive team. This team would show the following behaviours;
1. They trust one another.
2. They engage in conflict around ideas.
3. They commit to decisions and plans of action.
4. They hold one another accountable for delivering against those plans
5. They focus on the achievement of collective results.”
Ten things you can learn from The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
- To gain the trust of others admit your fears and failures.
- Be open to others sharing their fears and failures to you.
- Don’t avoid conflict, but do avoid personal attacks on others.
- As a leader encourage debate between members, an easy consensus may be the sign of an unproductive team.
- Don’t be a ‘yes man’ (or woman!), never be afraid to express your opinion.
- Don’t agree to a decision that you’re not 100% committed to.
- As a leader don’t always wait for consensus but do make sure everyone has had the chance to express their opinion.
- When working in a team put the achievements of the team ahead of your own achievements.
- As a leader ensure that group goals are monitored and communicated regularly to the team.
- Again as leader ensure that all ‘team wins’ are celebrated.
Many other leadership books tell of the importance of getting the right people on the bus and that success is not possible without synergy. This book goes one step further and gives a step by step guide on how to lead a team to success.