Team members smiling

Five Dysfunctions of a Team Character Analysis

Trouble with Fran. 

Fran is a twenty-year team member who earned her spot on the executive team almost immediately. She performs her role well – passionately working long hours – demonstrating fervent belief in the mission and values of the organization. Rough around the edges, when team members do not show up for work, Fran steps up and in. 

When a team member is not delivering, Fran is quick to step up. Unfortunately, while Fran’s passionate approach certainly has its benefits, there are sometimes hurt feelings. 

With the pandemic, turnover in Fran’s department has increased dramatically in the past eighteen months. The CEO is aware of this increase in turnover and sensitive to understanding why. The CEO has spoken with Fran’s team members and is concerned about the interpersonal friction that seems to be occurring. While the CEO is deeply grateful for Fran’s contributions, they are concerned that Fran has a blind spot that needs to be coached through. 

Do you have a Fran on your team who is very good at the job but rough around the edges with others?

I am concerned. The CEO requested that we coach Fran and only Fran. This is a very common approach to situations such as this. However, coaching Fran should not be the only strategy. There is likely a deep lack of understanding and awareness between Fran and the rest of the team. While coaching a single team member can certainly be beneficial, maximizing the team’s collective Emotional Intelligence (EQ) through improved self and interpersonal awareness is even more beneficial. 

I have been a passionate believer in the power of Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team since it was published. The reasons are his model is simple, yet effective when applied. And after observing teams work through his model literally hundreds of times, I have come to appreciate what I believe to be three truths. 

  1. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Model works and works well when the work is done on an ongoing basis.
  2. The most important work is building vulnerability-based trust within the team.
  3. Vulnerability-based trust requires work at the individual team member level.  

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team suggests that the capacity of each team member to examine their behavior and attitudes and understand and articulate them to others is critical to driving positive change in an organization. Every team has a rich story played out by its characters - their people. Lencioni’s book describes the five dysfunctions that commonly plague teams: Absence of Trust; Fear of Conflict; Lack of Commitment; Avoidance of Accountability; Inattention to Results. 

Patrick Lencioni writes, "The bottom line is this: no matter how well people think they 'know' one another under normal circumstances, real information about character — particularly hidden or distorted character — becomes available only in times of dire stress."

This article will demonstrate why individual character is essential to team performance and how to begin performing effective character analyses.

 

Why Individual Character Analysis is Essential in Overcoming Team-Wide Dysfunction

The Individual in Relation to the Team

“To understand the whole it is necessary to understand the parts. To understand the parts, it is necessary to understand the whole. Such is the circle of understanding.” - Ken Wilber

The objective of a team is to create value greater than the sum of its parts. Teams that work well together are more efficient, collaborative, and idea-rich. Teams face headwinds when they are challenged with group conflict and individual differences.

The two team development errors I often observe are leadership looking at the “team” as a single entity or focusing on improving (fixing) one team member to improve the team. 

While it is easy to look at the "team" as a single entity from a development growth perspective, this ignores the essential role of the dynamics created by individuals on the team, which are often the source of team-wide conflicts and problems. These differences must be understood, navigated, and leveraged. 

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team model, when implemented correctly, can create powerful lasting results. The foundation of the model is vulnerability-based trust. A key requirement to fully-developing vulnerability-based trust is through thoughtful development of self and interpersonal awareness. When team members understand what makes themselves and each other “tick,” they are better equipped to interact and perform together more effectively going forward.

 

Characters in the Five Dysfunctions of a Team Fable

The fable structure of the Five Dysfunctions of a Team book allows author Patrick Lencioni to bring workplace characters to life true to form, and it’s safe to conclude that Lencioni likely pulled these characters from direct experience.

In this way, the characters invite us to draw parallels between Michelle, Carlos, and JR with Team members and people we actually know.

Just as understanding each character in the fable helps us to gain a deeper insight into team dynamics, understanding the characters on your Team will help improve performance.

Through careful improvement of self- and interpersonal awareness, your team members can own and change their self-narrative and the stories they tell themselves about others to create a more functional environment.

 

The Importance of Team Diversity

Great teams are comprised of team members responsible for performing their respective roles well. Accordingly, the best teams are richly diverse in their skill sets, talents, and personalities. 

It is important to celebrate, value, and understand this diversity. Team members who are self and interpersonally aware view diversity as a strength. Teams that lack awareness will let diversity lead to conflict.

Leaders: your challenge is to understand and celebrate the character of the individuals on your team to change the narrative. A secondary challenge is to help each team member better understand themselves and one another. Do this and you and your team will measurably improve vulnerability-based trust.

 

How to Use Character Analysis with Your Team to Overcome the Five Dysfunctions

Before moving into the how-to for the practical applications of using character analysis, crucial paradigms must be present.

The first is desire. You and your team must desire to do this well and see it through to the end. It is hard work. It can be emotionally draining. Yet the rewards of improved understanding and changing the narrative are often incredible. 

Secondly, you must realize that every human being has a unique story, background, circumstance, and influence. Leaders may unleash great potential through understanding and adjustment based on these factors.

 

Step 1: Assess


The Benefits of Assessments to Character Analysis

Begin your character analysis with assessment.

A solid evaluation can help answer the questions:

  • How does a team member behave?
  • What is the preferred communication style of a particular team member?
  • What creates dissonance with each team member?
  • How does a team member view and engage in conflict?
  • How does a team member view and engage in conflict?
  • Why does a team member do what they do? What motivates or demotivates them?

Assessments can also bring an objective, common language of understanding. They help reset and reshape the “voice” in each team member’s head, influencing the narrative (mindset) for how they view themselves and their team members.

When working on a team, members will seek to achieve balance through normalization, but that begs the question: what is normal or not normal? A more nuanced understanding of oneself will lead to a more nuanced understanding of “normal.”

If a person can identify with what they read about themselves in an assessment report, can it possibly reshape their perspective about themselves? Human beings want to be “normal” and to fit in. 

The Right Assessment for Character Analysis

It is critical to use a solid psychometric assessment because the insights into character found through evaluations are the foundation of building vulnerability-based trust. 

We recommend a powerful psychometric assessment like the TriMetrix® HD because it is objective and accurate with validity backed by brain research.  

As team members review their own assessments, we often observe an awakening. Team members feel a sense of relief like they have been granted permission to be who they really are, loosening the reins of self-judgment. Assessments can profoundly change the self-narrative of team members.

Analogously, we often observe that as team members review the assessments of their team members, a similar awakening occurs. Through an improved understanding of each team member, team members reduce judgment and improve empathy toward each other.

Another narrative shift occurs— this time, that narrative is about others.

 

Step 2: Analyze

In the Assess phase, team members seek to understand and examine their character. This understanding is not intended to paint anything as “good” or “bad.” It is to analyze what Is. 

In the Analyze phase, team members look at their own potential impact on the team and how they perceive and handle conflict. They become more aware of how others may perceive them based on what they seem to know. In turn, each team member becomes more aware of others' perceptions of themselves and their own character. 

In this phase, team members become more aware of their strengths and how their strengths can help them perform in their roles. They also become aware of the strengths of the fellow team members. 

With strengths come blind spots. Accordingly, self and interpersonal blind spot awareness can also be very beneficial. 

Character analysis is an essential step in team development. It is not only a functional activity; character analysis also helps to build rapport and trust among members. 

An experienced Five Dysfunctions of a Team Facilitator can be invaluable in maximizing this experience for a team. 

 

Step 3: Create an Immediate Dialogue

Finally, smart leaders are mindful to create an immediate and ongoing dialogue that continues beyond the initial assessment and awareness creation. The important work of helping your team improve how they work together should NOT be a one-and-done event. Improving how your team works together is an ESSENTIAL cornerstone of your team’s monthly and quarterly meeting rhythm. Proactively working on your team will lead to incredible engagement, productivity, and ideas. 

Use personal histories exercises in combination with Behavioral Style training to help each team member better understand the backstories of their colleagues. 

Longer-term, hard-code icebreaker activities into particular weekly and monthly agendas to ensure ongoing trust-building.

Teams committed to addressing and improving their dysfunctions are strongly encouraged to implement a form of ongoing character analysis into their efforts – particularly when new team members join the team. 

The insights gained through this powerful process will provide you a foundation for true transformation and ongoing high team performance.

Begin today with a sample TriMetrix® HD assessment to reveal your own character traits, enhancing self and interpersonal awareness.