Skip to content
Visionary MBA
Visionary MBA Academy

icon picker
5 Dysfunctions of a Team



RIG_Overcoming the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team Text Summary.pdf
301.8 kB
RIG_Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team Graphic Summary.pdf
396.9 kB


Load content from
Loading external content may reveal information to 3rd parties. Learn more

Book Summary

The founder of a company that grew to over a billion dollars in annual revenue once said:
"If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time."
Like anything worth achieving in life, this is much easier said than done - mainly because teams are made up of human beings, and human beings are the most complicated and dysfunctional organisms on the planet.
While all teams are different, their issues tend to be the same; they encounter them repeatedly.
In his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, author Patrick Lencioni takes a deeper look at these common dysfunctions and how they impact teams. Lencioni explores the root causes of all the problems you can face as a leader when trying to get your team to "row in the same direction."
So let's uncover each of the five dysfunctions and explore what you can do as a leader to address them so that you can achieve your most important goals.

Dysfunction #1: Absence of Trust

This first dysfunction is about the lack of trust among your team members.
As Lencioni points out, trust is one of those words that gets used so often that it has lost some of its meaning. He intends it to mean: "The confidence among team members that their peers' intentions are good, and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group."
Based on this definition, the root cause of this first dysfunction is most people's unwillingness to be vulnerable with the group. The natural tendency of most people is to hide their mistakes and weaknesses from their peers and bosses.
Teams with an absence of trust (a) hide weaknesses from one another, (b) don't ask for help or provide constructive feedback, (c) don't offer help outside their areas of responsibility, (d) jump to conclusions about the intentions and skills of others quickly, (e) don't recognize and tap into each others' skills and experiences, (f) waste time and energy trying to look good, (g) hold grudges, and (h) dread meetings and find reasons to avoid spending time together.
Teams that exhibit trust (a) admit weaknesses and mistakes, (b) ask for help, (c) accept questions and input about their roles, (d) give each other the benefit of the doubt, (e) offer feedback and assistance to others, (f) tap into each others' skills and experiences, (g) focus time and energy on important issues, not politics, (h) offer and accept apologies without hesitation, and (i) look forward to meetings and other opportunities to work as a group.
Overcoming a lack of trust
You can do a few things to overcome a lack of trust in your team.
One of the most powerful exercises you can do is a "personal history" for each person on your team, where each member shares information about themselves. When people find areas to connect with their team members (i.e., connections in common or shared interests), they are much more likely to trust one another.
It would help if you also considered having your team take one of the many personalities and behavioral preference profile surveys. Understanding exactly how people are different on a team can help create empathy for each other and help them work more effectively with one another.
Finally, as a leader, your most crucial action is demonstrating vulnerability.
How this relates to Dysfunction #2 - The Fear of Conflict
By building trust with one another, constructive conflict becomes possible. Teams know they can argue and debate with one another without fear of being branded destructive or critical.

Dysfunction #2: Fear of Conflict

Most people dislike conflict and avoid it at all costs. Unfortunately, it's also one of the biggest drivers of dysfunction impacting teams.
Before we hop into promoting conflict, we must distinguish between ideological conflict (the good kind) and destructive fighting and internal politics (the wrong kind). We are looking for more of the excellent kind and less of the bad ones.
Teams that fear conflict (a) have boring meetings, (b) create environments where internal politics and personal attacks occur, (c) ignore controversial topics that are critical to team success, (d) don't tap into all the opinions and perspectives of team members, and (e) waste time and energy with posturing to one another.
Teams that engage in conflict (a) have great meetings, (b) pull out the ideas of all team members, (c) solve real problems quickly, (d) minimize politics, and (e) address critical topics regularly.
Overcoming fear of conflict
The first and easiest step is to acknowledge publicly that conflict is productive.
The second step is to mine for any unresolved disagreements among team members and get them resolved. Consider assigning somebody this role.
Coach your team members so that they each have permission to nurture healthy debate amongst one another. If you find them shying away from a tough conversation, coach them toward understanding that what they are doing is essential to the team's success.
Finally, on the flip side, as a leader, you should practice restraint when resolving conflict. Our natural tendency is to eliminate conflict because it is uncomfortable. Resist the urge to step in when constructive conflict is happening.
How this relates to Dysfunction #3: Lack of Commitment
When team members feel free to engage in productive conflict, they can commit and buy into a decision that's made - even if they disagree with it - because they feel like they have been heard.

Dysfunction #3: Lack of Commitment

On a team, commitment is a function of two things: Clarity and Buy-in. Great things can happen if there is clarity around decisions and buy-in on what those decisions require from the team.
A team that fails to commit (a) creates ambiguity around direction and priorities, (b) over-analyzes and under-acts, (c) creates a lack of confidence and fear of failure, (d) revisits old discussions and decisions again and again, and (e) encourages second-guessing among team members.
A team that commits (a) creates clarity around direction and priorities, (b) aligns the entire team around common objectives, (c) develops an ability to learn from mistakes, (d) takes advantage of opportunities before competitors do, (e) moves forward without hesitation, and (f) changes direction without hesitation.
Overcoming a lack of commitment
One of the most valuable things you can do is end each meeting with a thorough review of the critical decisions made during the meeting and agree on what needs to be communicated to other team members about those decisions. This should take you at least 10 minutes to do correctly and is critical to your success in getting things done.
Another area of discipline that will help overcome a lack of commitment is creating deadlines around decisions. If any unresolved decisions need to be made, set a deadline around when you have a decision, and stick to it.
You can also bring contingency plans into your discussions to ensure everybody understands the worst-case scenario if you've made the wrong decision. Sometimes teams won't commit because they haven't considered the consequences of things going wrong.
If your team is genuinely commitment-phobic, start by having them make decisions concerning low-risk situations.
And finally, as a leader, you need to be comfortable making decisions that ultimately turn out to be wrong.
How this relates to Dysfunction #4: Avoidance of Accountability
When decisions and commitments are made publicly, team members are much more likely to be able to hold one another accountable.

Dysfunction #4: Avoidance of Accountability

Lencioni suggests that the most effective and efficient means of maintaining high standards on a team is through peer pressure.
That said, however, most people avoid accountability like the plague. They don't like others holding them accountable for things they said they would do and feel just as uncomfortable holding others accountable for things that don't get done.
A team that avoids accountability (a) creates resentment among team members who have high standards, (b) encourages mediocrity, (c) misses deadlines and key deliverables, and (d) relies on the leader as the sole source of accountability.
A team that holds each other accountable (a) ensures that poor performers feel pressure to improve, (b) identifies potential problems quickly, (c) establishes respect among team members who are held to the same high standards, and (d) avoids excessive bureaucracy around performance management and corrective action.
Overcoming a lack of accountability
The first and obvious thing you can do is publicly clarify what the team needs to achieve and exactly what each team member is expected to contribute for that to happen. Then, simple and regular progress reviews will ensure that people continue to take action toward the goals you've set as a team.
You may also want to consider shifting rewards away from individual performance to team achievement so that people feel the need to ensure their performance is up to par and that their team members are also living up to their end of the bargain.
As a leader, your role will be the ultimate judge of discipline if and when the team fails. If you've set up the culture correctly, these instances should be fewer and far between.
How this relates to Dysfunction #5: Inattention to Results
When team members are not held accountable for their contributions, they are more likely to pay attention to their own needs and wants than the results the team should be achieving together.

Dysfunction #5: Inattention to Results

Lencioni deems Inattention to Results the ultimate dysfunction of a team. Here, the tendency is for team members to care about something other than the team's collective goals.
There are several reasons why team members might focus on something other than results. For some, just being a part of the team is enough to satisfy them. For others, focusing on their career and status is more important than the results the team generates. Whatever the reason, having a team with this 'illness' ensures everything else will fall apart.
A team that is not focused on results (a) fails to grow, (b) rarely defeats competitors, (c) loses high-performing employees, (d) encourages team members to focus on their careers, and individual goals, and (e) is easily distracted.
A team that focuses on results (a) retains achievement-oriented employees, (b) minimizes individualistic behavior, (c) enjoys success and suffers failure acutely, (d) benefits from individuals who subjugate their own goals/interests for the good of the team, and (e) avoids distractions.
Overcoming inattention to results
You can do several things to overcome this dysfunction, but by far the most important thing to do is publicly declare results. Teams willing to commit publicly to results will often do whatever it takes to get them done. A public scoreboard visible to everybody on your team will help drive this home.
Once you've done this, consider tying compensation and rewards to achieving those shared goals. As a leader, your role is to model attention to results. If the people on your team feel you are focusing on anything other than results, they'll feel like they can do the same.
Want to print your doc?
This is not the way.
Try clicking the ⋯ next to your doc name or using a keyboard shortcut (
) instead.