The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

by Patrick Lencioni

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team examines the root causes of organizational politics and the challenges that teams face when trying to work together effectively. It shows how the failure of teams to thrive is often due to a lack of trust, commitment, and accountability, a fear of conflict, and inattention to details. By giving actionable advice on how to create a team that is successful simply by being "exceedingly human", this book helps teams recover from this dysfunction and thrive!

Summary Notes

Vulnerability-Based Trust

“Trust is the heart of a cohesive team. Teamwork is impossible without it.”

For a strong team to function efficiently and effectively, vulnerability-based trust needs to be established between team members. The ability to achieve vulnerability-based trust is crucial to a winning team. It allows for a quicker decision-making process, maximum productivity, and high morale among team members. All of these factors ultimately contribute to a company’s success.

During team building, trust is established when members are aware that their teammates will not take advantage of their weaknesses, such as skills deficiencies, interpersonal difficulties, mistakes, and requests for assistance. When members trust each other, they can let their guard down and work together to finish the job well rather than competing with each other.

However, building vulnerability-based trust between team members can be challenging because it goes against their natural instinct to protect their reputations and compete with their teammates. That’s why team-building activities that focus on trust can be so useful. This can help members turn off their competitive, self-centered instincts and make them more open to admitting their weaknesses and mistakes. It can also help them take accountability, provide feedback to their teammates, apologize without hesitation, look forward to time with other team members, and dedicate time and energy to their work.

Actions to take

Developing Trust With Your Team as a Leader

“Risking a loss of face in front of the team encourages subordinates to do the same.”

To encourage trust, leaders must integrate themselves into the team and also be vulnerable to their members. This means being willing to admit your mistakes and being open to uncomfortable conversations. By being vulnerable, you set an example for the rest of the team and encourage them to do the same.

When team members feel like they can be open and honest with each other, it creates a sense of trust within the team, allowing everyone to work toward a common goal rather than competing with each other. It also encourages uncomfortable discussions on touchy subject matter, which result in timely problem-solving and team members coming up with the best possible solutions.

But remember to always be authentic with your vulnerability. If you’re a leader who’s faking it, you’ll be losing the trust of your team, and it will be difficult to regain. It’s also important to evaluate whether your team members are open, trusting, and vulnerable enough with one another. If someone is unwilling to be open, trusting, and vulnerable with their teammates, it can make the rest feel uncomfortable and hinder productivity within the organization. In this case, you may want to reconsider if that member is a good fit for the team.

Actions to take

Fear of Conflict

“All great relationships, including marriages, parenthood, friendships, and business, need productive conflict to thrive.”

Most people hate conflict and would rather avoid it at all costs, especially in the workplace, where it’s often considered a taboo subject. Great teams, however, need passionate debates from their members, and avoiding productive conflicts may actually be detrimental to both the team and the organization as a whole. But what do we mean exactly by productive conflicts?

Productive conflicts involve expressing, developing, and refining ideas and plans to improve them. It’s focused on finding solutions as quickly as possible, and it doesn’t involve personal attacks. Sure, team members may get heated and emotional in the process, but in the end, they’ll emerge from the session without any hard feelings and ready to tackle the next important issue.

While avoiding conflicts altogether may seem efficient in the short term, it can actually waste more time and energy in the long run. When teams avoid addressing painful issues, they keep revisiting them without any resolution. But when they engage in productive conflicts, meetings become more enjoyable, important issues are discussed constructively, and real problems within the organization are solved relatively quickly. Team members are also able to extract ideas from everyone on the team and use them to their advantage.

Actions to take

Being a Leader Who Promotes Productive Conflict

“If you avoid conflict when it is necessary, you’re allowing dysfunction to survive and thrive.”

As a leader, it’s important to strike a balance between protecting your team and allowing them to work through conflicts on their own. Or course, you want to protect them from harm against other members during discussions, but it’s also important for them to learn how to handle disagreements and come up with the best solution to the problems at hand. Plus, if you always step in to stop conflicts, they may not develop the skills they need to resolve conflicts effectively.

At the same time, there will be moments when it’s necessary for the leader to get involved in conflict resolution. This may include confronting team members when they are out of line or acting outside of the organization's best interests. A leader has to be an example of what productive conflict looks like.

Ultimately, it’s also the leader’s job to ensure that everyone is committed to the final decision, even if they don’t all agree with it. After all, it is impossible to always reach a consensus amongst team members every single time. But the important thing is that everyone’s input is heard and that everyone follows through on the final decision.

Actions to take

Lack of Commitment

“Great teams pride themselves on committing to a clear course of action.”

All members of a team must be able to commit to the final decision and act accordingly with the organization's goal in mind. There are two main components for establishing commitment within a team: clarity and buy-in.

First, it’s important to have clarity about the decision. This means having open and honest discussions where everyone shares their ideas and comes up with the best possible solution for the organization.

Buy-in is also important. It occurs when each member contributes to the discussion and has their ideas, thoughts, and plans heard. It is much easier for all members to commit to a final decision after clarity and buy-in have been established, even if they don't agree with it. This is because their points were heard and they are clear on what the plan is. With everyone sharing their input, even those who initially opposed the plan, teams can make clear, timely, and confident decisions.

One mistake teams often make is trying to get everyone to fully agree on a decision. This can be a huge time-waster and often leads to no real progress. . As long as all team members are heard, the decision that is reached will be supported by all.

Another mistake is to wait until you have all the information before taking action. Sometimes it's better to act boldly and commit to a decision, even if you don't have all the details. When a team is fully committed, they're united around a common objective and clearly define their priorities and direction. This makes the team move forward without hesitation, take advantage of opportunities before competitors do, learn from mistakes, and make the necessary changes to reach the common goal.

Actions to take

Avoidance of Accountability

“Great teams bond by holding one another accountable. This demonstrates mutual respect”

For a team to succeed, members must be willing to call their peers out on actions that might cost the team or aren't in the organization's best interests. This can be tough because it means having difficult conversations and dealing with strong emotions. But great teams recognize that this is unavoidable and are willing to engage in it.

One of the best ways to maintain high-performance standards is to have team members hold each other accountable. This way, the company doesn't have to constantly monitor and correct employee performance.

Conversely, if a team avoids accountability, it can lead to mediocrity and leave the entire organization vulnerable to missed deadlines and failure to deliver on commitments. But if team members hold each other accountable, everyone is held to high standards. They’ll notice when someone is performing poorly and hold them accountable. This helps the team identify potential problems early on, meet deadlines consistently, and deliver on their commitments.

To ensure that team members are accountable, a leader must not act as the only source of discipline. Instead of monitoring accountability yourself, allow and encourage team members to do so. People are often hesitant to speak up when something's wrong, so it can be helpful to let the team police themselves to keep everything running smoothly.

Actions to take

Inattention to Results

“Successful teams make collective results more important than individual goals.”

When team members are more focused on their own success and building their own empires than helping the team and organization achieve its goals, it can lead to serious dysfunction.

Instead, it's important for the team to have clear, focused objectives and outcomes that align with the organization's goals, and to work towards achieving them together. A team that's focused on collective results is better able to avoid distractions, compete more effectively, and retain achievement-oriented staff. Plus, it helps minimize selfish behavior.

As a leader, it’s also your responsibility to set an example by also focusing on the collective goals of the organization, not just your own personal gain. You should be objective, and selfless, and only give rewards and recognition to those who serve the group's goals.

Actions to take

Don’t just read. Act.
Read comprehensive summaries and discover carefully compiled action lists for active learning