The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Workshop / Training 5

What are the Five Dysfunctions of a Team and Why Do They Matter?

by Chris Young

Let's get real. Most teams are not operating anywhere near their true potential. Vulnerability-based Trust is lower than it should be. Productive, ideological debate is not occurring as it should. People are not as committed as they must be for true accountability to occur. And team members are more focused than they should be on their own agenda rather than that of the team.

We guide leaders to navigate The Five Dysfunctions of a Team through impactful workshops / training so that they may unleash their team's true potential.

The following forces have the greatest influence on the trajectory of your team and organization:

  • Who you hire.
  • How effectively your team works together.

High performing team working on The Five Dysfunctions

The team effectiveness framework shared in this article was first introduced in 2002 by Patrick Lencioni through his powerful book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team has been a bestseller for 22 years for good reason. If team members do the hard work overcoming each dysfunction, there is no greater advantage.

“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."

― Patrick Lencioni -  The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

Every team is dysfunctional to some degree...

Make no mistake. Every team is dysfunctional to some degree. Acknowledging this painful truth mandates an effective leader be mindful of the often-hidden damage and lost potential when a team is allowed to become dysfunctional. Many teams have become accustomed to muscling through the long-term friction associated with being dysfunctional and have developed workarounds. Workarounds are expensive. 

The prescription is simple. Read everything Patrick Lencioni authors (his content is that spot on). And then commit to engaging your team in a continuous quest to minimize the five dysfunctions of a team. 

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

  • Absence of Trust
  • Fear of Conflict
  • Lack of Commitment
  • Avoidance of Accountability
  • Inattention to Results

ALL teams experience some degree of friction through one or a combination of these dysfunctions. Strong hint - these dysfunctions are inter-connected. For example - without vulnerability-based trust is essential for productive ideological debate - conflict.

The good news is you can (and must) address each dysfunction head-on in order to improve your team's overall performance.

You just need to commit to doing the work. 

Keep reading to learn more about the Five Dysfunctions of a Team and why they matter.High performing team that uses The Five Dysfunctions

Absence of Trust 

“Remember teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.” 

― Patrick Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

Trust is the foundation upon which successful teams are built. To be clear, we are speaking of "vulnerability-based trust". It is essential that team members have enough trust in one another that they feel safe expressing their opinions without fear of retribution or criticism. Without vulnerability-based trust between team members, communication breaks down and collaboration suffers. Without vulnerability-based trust, effective conflict is difficult-to-impossible. To build vulnerability-based trust within a team, leaders should focus on developing relationships through improved self and interpersonal awareness, personal histories exercises, and shared experiences outside of the workplace. 

Fear of Conflict

"You need people who can argue and debate with passionate commitment to the organization." 

― Jim Collins - BE 2.0 (Beyond Entrepreneurship 2.0): Turning Your Business into an Enduring Great Company

It is easy to understand why many teams avoid conflict—it can be uncomfortable and sometimes even intimidating—but avoiding conflict will hinder progress as important issues go unresolved or misunderstood. Fear of conflict leads to suppressed ideas which ultimately limit potential solutions to problems that arise. To foster healthy debate while minimizing negative feelings or reactions from team members, use strategies such as having well-defined ground rules prior to discussions that encourage respect and engagement for all parties involved. 

Without conflict, effective commitment is difficult-to-impossible. 

Lack of Commitment 

When team members fail to commit themselves to decisions and actions individually as well as a group, the result is reduced performance, outcomes and morale. Effective leadership requires ensuring everyone understands the objectives clearly so that there is no confusion about what is being asked from one another. When every team member knows what has been decided and what is expected from them there is more motivation for action and commitment. 

Without commitment, accountability is difficult-to-impossible. 

Avoidance Of Accountability

Accountability must be taken seriously if projects are going to be completed in a timely manner with quality results. A lack of accountability hampers results and creates undo pressure on the leader of the team. Accountability is avoided when team members fail to call out their peers for behaviors that may harm the team. When team members fail to call out one another, the standards (culture code) of the team atrophies. 

Without accountability, achieving results are difficult-to-impossible. 

Inattention To Results 

Keeping tabs on how projects or initiatives measure up against goals set out at the beginning allows leaders insight into how well their team has been working together – if there are discrepancies here then it could indicate underlying problems with working relationships among teammates which need addressing. Additionally monitoring results helps identify areas where improvements may be needed so teams can adjust accordingly – this will ensure better long-term success for both individual team members AND your overall organization.

Why It Matters 

I have yet to identify an approach to improve team effectiveness that can materially and sustainably move the needle of productivity and performance like adopting of the The Five Dysfunctions of a Team framework. Teamwork is of such importance that Verne Harnish has determined The Five Dysfunctions of a Team to be the most important Rockefeller Habit. From my experience, he is correct. 

How a team works together should stop being a mystery left to chance and must become a competitive advantage. Teamwork can be beautifully messy. 

There is good news. Building an effective team is not rocket science. You and your team simply need to commit to doing the ongoing work. 

The foundation of a high-performing team is vulnerability-based trust. Teams require a strong foundation built on trust if they expect sustainable success over time - understanding the five dysfunctions of a team (absence of trust; fear of conflict; lack of commitment; avoidance of accountability; inattention to results) helps proactively identify underlying issues before they become major problems so you can take actions accordingly!

With clear expectations among all team members involved coupled with consistent monitoring and feedback your teams will have everything they need for long-term success.

To learn more

Schedule a dialogue to discuss how to implement The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Workshop. 

Read The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni as well as Lencioni's The Advantage.