Friday, April 08, 2011

The Five Dysfunctions Of A Team

Over the years and at various places I've worked or visited, I've heard people mention this book by Patrick Lencioni called The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.  Finally after many years of conversations where the book has come up, I have been able to read it.

I'd highly recommend it to anyone who works on a team, whether it is a sports team or a leadership team.  The book is extremely easy to read (it's written as a fable), and it covers five areas for growth for any team.

What are these five dysfunctions? I've included them below. They are listed in the book as a pyramid with each one building on the other. In my list below the pyramid is inverted, and so the first dysfunction to deal with is at the top of the list.

Absence of Trust This is the the foundation of problems on teams and in organizations. If people don't trust each other, they will be unwilling to share weaknesses and ask for help because they will believe that other members of their team will pounce on these weaknesses. The solution is to cultivate a willingness to be open about weaknesses so other members of the team can help move things toward the win.

Fear of Conflict People are afraid of conflict. We 'extend grace' and 'foster harmony' and avoid hard conversations because they are, well, hard. And as a result, the teams we are on suffer. Now conflict isn't always good. If people are tearing each other down constantly or the conflict becomes rooted in personal attacks over moving more aggressively toward a win, then the whole team suffers, and trust is eroded.

Lack of Commitment It's hard to move forward toward any goal if people aren't committed to making it a reality. Our generation is extremely tentative about commitments, we are in a world that is quickly moving, and we long for fluidity, so commitments feel kind of, committing.  When we fail to commit to a course, a plan, or a specific direction, we can flounder, and never quite move forward. It's kind of like driving a car. When we start the car moving, it becomes much easier to adjust our plans and directions but we have to be willing to set forth in a direction, or we go nowhere.

Avoidance of Accountability People don't like to be accountable for anything. When we choose not to be accountable or hold others accountable, we see a lowering of standards. Often we can be wracked with guilt for holding another person accountable for their contribution and it prevents us from holding to standards--this hurts the entire team.

Inattention to Results When a team loses focus on results that benefit the win for the whole team, then individual players become concerned with their own status and ego being satisfied. This happens when individuals become more concerned with advancing their own careers or receiving accolades rather than seeing the team move to a win.  A great example might be a person on a sports team who is more concerned with their own stats than they are with whether their team is winning.  Wins take on a more selfish and personal nature, and team members are working toward boosting their own career rather than the health and vibrance of their team.  When this happens, the team loses sight of it's big win, and never fully achieves it's potential.

As I share this synopsis, if you've ever been on a team, you've probably experienced one or more of these dysfunctions. They are part of our nature as human beings, but to become a truly successful team or organization, they need to be challenged and overcome. Unfortunately, it takes more than an intellectual assent to these to make that a reality.

I highly recommend the book, but even more than reading the book, I want to encourage you to examine your own life and involvement with teams to determine how you can eliminate your tendencies toward these dysfunctions and help others do the same.  Our world needs people working together to accomplish great transformative dreams and to help this world become a more beautiful place than we could ever make it alone.

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