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How many dysfunctions does your team have?

Updated: Jul 26, 2022

In Patrick Lencioni's book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, we learn the different ways your team can fail.

Patrick Lencioni's book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

"Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare". This is how Lencioni's fantastic book starts to tell the story of a typical team and how they fail in a number of ways. From a lack of trust to an inattention to results, he argues that, if you can excel with your team in a way that your competitors can't, you will win.

We are all guilty

“We have all sat in a meeting knowing it is pointless and nothing will get done.”

We are all guilty of badly managing our team. I am not just talking about the managers here, I believe it is everyone's responsibility to collaborate, remove politics from decision making and reach their targets. We have all sat in a meeting knowing it is pointless and nothing will get done. We have all been suspicious of other team members and used information as currency. We have all, at least partially, avoided being blamed for mistakes. Lencioni suggests five areas you need to transform to be high functioning. I will take you through questions you can ask yourself on each of his areas to check the health of your team.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Model

Absence of Trust

The foundation of Lencioni's model is trust. If we are not genuinely open with each other about mistakes and weaknesses, there is no trust. I know it sounds obvious, but think about your team right now and answer these statements:

  • I can be 100% honest with my team about my failures, weaknesses and concerns YES/NO

  • We all share information freely and do not use it as currency YES/NO

  • We do not hide mistakes from a fear of being blamed and punished YES/ NO

  • I trust my team completely YES/ NO

When I ask these questions in a team coaching session, the response I usually get is shock. When put so plainly in four points, it is easy to see where your team is going wrong. So what happens as a result of this? Lencioni argues that its effect filters down into the four other areas of dysfunction, the first one being Fear of Conflict.

Let's agree to disagree

Fear of Conflict

“If we don't trust each other, it results in us being incapable of engaging in debate,...”

We have been taught that conflict is bad. We should avoid arguing and all get along. But what if it was intrinsically necessary to the success of your team? Lencioni says that if we don't trust each other, it results in us being incapable of engaging in debate, unfiltered exchanges of ideas and passionate discussions. These are all essential if we want to guarantee full commitment of our team members on any projects we take on. Look at the below statements and see where you stand:

  • I can openly disagree with my team YES/NO

  • We have healthy debates often YES/ NO

  • My team can disagree in a respectful way YES/NO

  • My team meetings are fun and engaging YES/NO

The fourth point is the most relevant to me. When the team is too busy not stepping on anyone's toes, meetings are really boring and frustrating. Say what isn't being said, be brave and bold! You will all be more committed to the outcome as a result.

How committed are you?

Lack of Commitment

If your team doesn't debate the important issues, they then won't be committed to the decisions made by the team. They will be disengaged with what is going on and it will be reflected in their work. It creates an apathetic environment where nobody actually cares what happens because they haven't bought into the goals that have been set. Be careful that you don't mistake feigned agreement in meetings with them actually caring what happens. I am always sceptical when the whole team immediately agrees on a new point. So how does your team measure up?

  • We have productive meetings where we move our goals forward YES/NO

  • We make decisions in our meetings and follow through on them YES/NO

  • If people disagree, we discuss it and then make a decision YES/ NO

  • Everyone is heard equally in a meeting YES/ NO

Is your team guilty of politics?

Avoidance of Accountability

So nobody has really bought into the project because they didn't actually talk about their true feelings on the matter. They leave the meeting thinking that it isn't their problem. Even if it fails, it wasn't my idea. So nobody is accountable. The goals are not clearly defined, there is not clear plan of action and a lack of follow through. Which of these statements are true for you?

  • My team accepts responsibility for mistakes YES/NO

  • We can call out our peers when we see behaviour which is counterproductive YES/NO

  • People in my team take ownership of their tasks in a project YES/NO

  • When we don't reach targets, we have an open discussion about why YES/ NO

Are you paying attention to your results?

Inattention to Results

The final nail in the coffin for the unproductive team is a lack of focus on results. This is probably the hardest point to swallow for most team members because it suggests they put their own needs (career, recognition, ego) before the needs of the team and company. If no one has been held accountable for a long time in the team, then members will have created a universe where they can protect their own interests at the expense of collective goals. In other words, office politics. Be honest when answering the below points: