# 6 - The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
by Randi Brenowitz
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# 6 – The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (Jossey-Bass, 2002), Patrick
Lencioni presents a leadership fable revealing five factors that
go to the very heart of why so many teams struggle. This
is the same technique that Lencioni used in his two best-selling
books, The Five Temptations of a CEO and The Four Obsessions
of an Extraordinary Executive--and it's a bit too gimmicky
for my taste. The actual meat of the book does not start
until page 195. The book is not very expensive, and the
20% that is substantive is definitely worth the read.
five dysfunctions are identified as:
absence of trust
fear of conflict
lack of commitment
avoidance of accountability
inattention to results
provides a short and straightforward questionnaire that is a diagnostic
tool for helping a team evaluate its susceptibility to each of
the five dysfunctions. The team can then work toward overcoming
– Trust is the confidence among team members that their peers'
intentions are good, and so there is no reason to be protective
or careful around the group. Teams that lack trust waste
inordinate amounts of time and energy managing their behaviors
and interactions within the group. Trust cannot be achieved
overnight. It requires shared experiences over time and
multiple instances of follow-through.
team can accelerate the process by using a deliberate and focused
approach that includes a personal history exercise, a team effectiveness
exercise, a behavioral preference profile, 360 degree feedback,
and experiential team exercises.
– All great relationships that last over time require productive
conflict in order to grow. It is important to distinguish
productive conflict from destructive fighting and interpersonal
politics. It is ironic that many teams avoid even constructive
conflict in the name of efficiency, because healthy conflict is
actually a time saver. Contrary to the notion that all conflict
wastes, teams that avoid conflict may doom themselves to revisiting
issues repeatedly without resolution. Teams must demonstrate
thoughtful restraint when members engage in conflict, and allow
resolution to occur naturally, as messy as that can sometimes
members should have an agreement to coach one another-- not to
retreat from healthy debate, but also to recognize when the debate
has turned into discord and destructive fighting. At this
point, they must have the courage to stop the debate, acknowledge
what is happening in the team, and work together to come to resolution.
– Commitment is a function of clarity and buy-in. Great
teams ensure that everyone's ideas are genuinely considered, which
then creates a willingness to rally around whatever decision is
ultimately made by the group. Only when everyone has expressed
their opinions and perspectives can the team confidently come
to a decision. In order to overcome a lack of commitment,
the team must be assured that it can be in their best interest
to make a decision boldly and be wrong--and then change direction
with equal boldness--rather than waffling.
a decision is made, the team should explicitly agree on what needs
to be communicated to whom by whom. Another wonderful tool
for ensuring commitment is the use of clear deadlines for when
decisions will be made, and honoring those dates with discipline.
Contingency plans and "worst-case scenario" analysis can help
reduce team members' fears of making a commitment to a particular
decision or direction.
– Accountability refers to the willingness of team members to
challenge their peers about behaviors or performance that might
hurt the team. This is easier said than done, even among
cohesive teams with strong personal relationships. In fact,
team members who are particularly close to one another sometimes
hesitate to hold one another accountable precisely because they
fear jeopardizing a valuable personal relationship. Ironically,
this can cause the relationship to deteriorate as team members
begin to resent one another for not living up to expectations
and for allowing the standards of the group to erode. Adhering
to a few classic management tools--publication of goals and standards,
simple and regular progress reviews, and team rewards in place
of individual rewards--can help overcome the avoidance of accountability.
– The ultimate dysfunction of a team is the tendency of members
to care about something other than the collective goals of the
group. An unrelenting focus on specific objectives and clearly
defined outcomes is a requirement for any team. A team that
is not focused on results will stagnate and fail to defeat its
competitors. In order to overcome members' inattention to
results, the team must make results clear and reward only those
behaviors and actions that contribute to those results.
They must be careful not to get sidetracked to tangential action
and I agree that teamwork ultimately comes down to practicing
a small set of principles over a long period of time. Success
is not a matter of mastering subtle, sophisticated theory, but
rather of embracing common sense with uncommon levels of discipline
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– Trust and Betrayal in the Workplace: Building
Effective Relationships in Your Organization by Dennis Reina
& Michelle Reina ( Berrett-Koehler, 1999).
– A Manager's Guide to Conflict Resolution: Proven Techniques
for Reducing Workplace Tensions and Improving Effectiveness
by Tony Bleak (downloadable through amazon.com).
– Personal Accountability: Powerful and Practical Ideas for
You and Your Organization by John Miller (Denver Press, 1999).
– Coaching for Commitment: Interpersonal Strategies for Obtaining
Superior Performance from Individuals and Teams by Dennis
Kinlaw (Jossey-Bass, 1999).
– Results-Based Leadership by David Ulrich, Jack Zenger,
& Norman Smallwood (Harvard Business School Press, 1999).
– The best writing about teams in general is The Wisdom of
Teams by Katzenbach & Smith (Harper Perennial, 1999).
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New at Brenowitz Consulting
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