Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lecioni

Posted on January 13, 2010


Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Ever been in a team or headed a team which seemed to epitomise the very meaning of corporate politics? Chances are that you probably have. Corporate politics represents a culture of a team which just fails to achieve synergy, where behaviours commonly known as ‘backstabbing’ and ‘badmouthing’ are prevalent. The team could possibly contain many talented individuals, but the mutual resentment for each other and fear of being put down results in a lack of trust, which makes productive conflict impossible, leading to slipshod decision making where team members are uncommitted and thus lack accountability as they place their needs before the teams’.

In his book, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable (J-B Lencioni Series)”, Patrick Lencioni presents a highly organised and entertaining account of the mechanics of a successful team in the form of a fable, describing the challenges of a new CEO of a technology based firm and the path she took to mould an effective team from a dysfunctional one.

The Five Dysfunctions are structured in the form of a pyramid, where each dysfunction builds on the preceding one as follows:

1. Absence of Trust. For a team with a lack of trust that each member has the best intentions for the team, one would be unwilling to be vulnerable in the eyes of others and show signs of weaknesses for fear that their weakness would be exploited and use against them. Instead, there is a need to be right, and team members would adopt defensive behaviour. The lack of trust results in productive conflict to be impossible to attain. Trust can only be fostered via uncensored sharing and the willingness to appear vulnerable with confidence that each member will hear it with the right intentions. Often, leadership by example is the best way to encourage sharing, where the leader first proves that he is willing to lower his defences and appear weak.

2. Fear of Conflict. It is with trust that conflict is possible, for team members have to believe that speaking their ideas only brings the team towards a common goal. This way, team members will not avoid conflict and create artificial harmony where they focus on being nice as opposed to generating ideas and solutions. It is imperative that for a team to be productive and grow, meaningful dialogue must take place. A leader could encourage debate through leadership by example, where he bears the appropriate behaviours such as being outcome-oriented rather than personality oriented in his discussions.

3. Lack of Commitment. Only with productive conflict can a team hope to achieve buy commitment and buy-in from its members. A lack of commitment results from a lack of debate and members feeling that their voices are not heard in the process of making the decision. A leader could achieve commitment form his team by reviewing key decisions at the end of meetings, as well as clarify the responsibilities and deadlines.

4. Avoidance of Accountability. With a lack of commitment, a team cannot hope to achieve accountability. Accountability requires firm bedrock of clarity, both in terms of the plan and standards. Members should be on the same page with regards to what they are to achieve, and the standard of work expected of them. Only then can they be accountable to their peers and how their peers accountable for fulfilling their parts.

5. Inattention to Results. Without accountability, members of a team would more likely look out for themselves and forsake the common results of the team. Only when every member place the team results above their interest can the team function healthily. A leader can direct the team towards results by constantly clarifying the desired outcome as well as rewarding behaviours that contribute towards achieving it.

In addition to discussing the Five Dysfunctions, Lecioni also shows us a model process of how we can help our team to correct these dysfunctions and achieve effectiveness and success for our team.

This book provides an excellent guide for leaders of all fields and at all levels. Countless top CEOs and executives have applied the concepts of this book in their teams to achieve massive results. For the aspiring leader, this just means that you should too.

You may purchase this book by clicking Here or from the Books page.