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The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team

MM | The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team

The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team

Patrick Lencioni’s work with leadership teams spans decades.  He constructed sound, systematic methods to teamwork by detailing what can derail teams.  His 5 Dysfunctions are explained here:

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

Lencioni defines trust as “confidence among team members that their peers’ intentions are good, and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group.” It’s about being ‘okay’ with being vulnerable with each other.

Vulnerability is being open, honest and transparent. Now, imagine leading a team where this exists.  Some of us have been on such a team…have you?  What existed in the team’s culture that enabled that?

Trust is the foundation in developing team competence in the other four areas below.

Team composition and personalities will ensure a difference of perceptions; thus conflict is inevitable. Inviting and utilizing constructive conflict will deliver better results, reducing hidden agendas and group think, and other barriers…

How to ensure differences are discussed: Invite it!  Ensure ALL participate in discussions and challenge team members to “Reverse engineer our recommendations.” Ask, “What can be the downside to this recommendation?”  Ensure you have a rich discussion on “What could be” and “What are the unintended consequences?” This invites healthy dissent and will not only invite more discussion but save you from sub-optimizing and other decision-making faux pas.

Lencioni identifies Clarity and Buy-in as necessary ingredients to team effectiveness. Tapping into the wisdom of the team is necessary and don’t assume that certain team members hold all the keys to a decision.  Sometimes “perceived experts” try to drive decisions.  Spend time brainstorming, debating, and contingency planning decisions. Ensure you have everyone rally around the decisions.  Consensus is obtained when everyone is heard and will support the decision.

Lencioni describes this as “an unwillingness of team members to tolerate the interpersonal discomfort that accompanies calling a peer on his or her behavior and the more general tendency to avoid difficult conversations.”

One way to ensure accountability is to publish what each person is responsible for and use staff meetings and one-on-one meetings to discuss the progress towards outcomes.  The RASCI is a valuable tool to record and monitor these.


Like the other dysfunctions, this is a tough one if it is happening.  It is likely that your team members are steeped in their own individual and team outcomes and measures versus the leadership team “organizational” macro results. These individual team results need to be secondary to the leadership team results; this will take some time due to the fact that their alliance has been to their own team and its results. Re-learning loyalties to the leadership team first is necessary.

What’s most important here from this research?  Teams function best when they subordinate “Egos” realizing it’s about the Team:  Highly Functioning Teams have mutual trust, constructive conflict, “line of sight” direction towards clear Goals and Objectives, strong, transparent accountability, and regular check-in’s on individual and organizational metrics.

We at SEE, inc., utilize many tools related to Team Effectiveness.  Lencioni’s team assessment: “The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team” is an in-depth team assessment yielding rich dialogue and deliberate outcomes through a facilitated process.

Coming soon: “Productive Conflict” a DiSC assessment instrument facilitated with teams to learn individual and team styles to conflict and how to deal more effectively with self and others.


For questions or comments please contact me

Reading Recommendations:

The Advantage, Patrick Lencioni, Jossey-Bass, 2012

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni, Jossey-Bass, 2002

Steve Forstby STEVE FORST

A talented facilitator, Steve specializes in organizational excellence, strategic planning, leadership development and working with teams to maximize performance.

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