The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

2 min read
Apr 12, 2019 11:38:37 AM

The health of your team is one of the most crucial aspects of your leadership. Recently, we had the opportunity to hear from best selling author Patrick Lencioni on what he calls the five dysfunctions of a team. According to him, these five barriers to team effectiveness will make a significant impact on the health of your team!

The first step towards reducing misunderstandings and confusion within a team is to understand the dysfunctions, and that each one that applies to your team has to be addressed separately. He makes it clear that these principles are not rocket science, but that he believes people need to be reminded more than they need to be instructed.

The first dysfunction is the absence of trust. Most people think of trust like predictive trust. But we are talking about vulnerability based trust. This means you can say things like “I don’t know”,  “I’m sorry”, “You’re so much better than me at this”, or “I need help”. This creates an open and honest atmosphere. The hard part is, the leader must go first. You may have heard the saying, “don’t let them see you sweat”, but the reality is the people who work for us know we are sweating before we do. Your team responds positively when they get to share in your humanity.

With the absence of trust comes the fear of conflict. On teams, conflict is a good thing! With trust, conflict is simply the pursuit of truth. There is far less conflict in organizations than needed. Conflict is the only way to ensure the best possible answer / outcome. You can’t have your team holding back on anything important. Many leaders don’t participate in conflict because they don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, but If we don’t disagree over topics, we will end up really hurting people in the long run through gossip, attacking their character, or firing.

If you have a fear of conflict on your team, the next dysfunction that happens is, a lack of commitment. If people don’t weigh in, they don’t buy in. Lencioni coins the phrase: disagree and commit. When people feel heard, they will support even if they don’t agree. Leaders aren’t there to bully everyone into their decision, they are simply there to break the tie. There is nothing worse than your team passively committing. Don’t allow them to watch a train wreck!

Passive commitment produces an avoidance of accountability. If people haven’t committed to a decision, they will not hold each other accountable. Peer pressure is the best form of accountability. This may seem strange, but ironically, it’s true. How it works well is when we as leaders, confront difficult issues, so that our team knows we will, then they end up doing it themselves. Firing someone is often times the last act of cowardliness, not accountability.

Behavioral accountability always precedes the results. Many leaders take this approach: “We will just see how the numbers turned out.” Lencioni says this is actually selfishness. If we love someone, we owe it to them to hold them accountable, even if they don’t love you back. Which leads to the last dysfunction of a team, the inattention of results. Other distractions such as budgets, department, ego, status, and/or career can grab your attention. Healthy teams stay focused on the results, no matter what.

When you focus on the results, you’ll have the courage to hold your team accountable. When you hold your team accountable, they will have no choice but to commit. If your team is committed, that means they have already had conflict and the best idea has been decided upon. The only way your team can freely have conflict is if they trust each other.

Until next time, lead on.

The Leadr Team

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