Behind every great organization is a great leadership team. However, building a great team requires a clear understanding of the challenges that leaders face -- and that’s exactly what Patrick Lencioni describes in his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.
Each of these functions (or dysfunctions) are connected and build upon one another sequentially. The following is a breakdown of each dysfunction in order from the foundation of the relationship between team members to the qualities that allow the team to accomplish your company’s goals.
Which (if any) is your team suffering from?
Dysfunction #1: Absence of Trust
Trust and respect build the foundation for any relationship, personal and professional. Without trust, members of a team can’t be honest with each other and they can’t be vulnerable in their communication.
Lencioni says that there are two types of trust: the trust that you have in others to fulfill their duties and handle their responsibilities and psychological trust that you won’t be taken advantage of.
Teams that have both types of trust can let their guards down and focus on their work.
Teams That Lack Trust
When there is little to no trust within the team, individuals are more likely to conceal their mistakes, hide their weaknesses. Members of the team will also be more hesitant to provide constructive feedback to others, out of fear of being judged or
Teams Built on Trust
When a team is built on trust, people are more likely to take personal risks for the greater good of the team. Risks such as drawing attention to personal mistakes and requesting critical feedback, as well as offering critical feedback to others.
Members of a trusting team genuinely care about each other and strive to lift each other up, rather than bringing others down to further their own self-interests.
Strategies to Build Trust Within the Team
According to Lencioni, the following actions can be taken to build trust within your team:
- Spend time together
- Confronting behavior that demonstrates a lack of trust
- Taking the time to understand each other’s histories
- User personality profiling (Myers-Briggs)
- Leading by example if you are the leader
Dysfunction #2: Fear of Conflict
Without trust, a team can’t have healthy debates that lead to better decisions. A fear of external conflict within the group only leads to internal conflict. That causes resentment and other negative emotions towards team members.
Open communication is critical for the relationships within the team to thrive. However, it’s important that the focus of debates remains on the issues and not the people involved. (Unless the person is the problem.)
Teams That Fear Conflict
Conflict is inevitable in all relationships. The ironic thing about avoiding conflict is that it always leads to more conflict anyways. Fear of conflict in the team leads to office politics and personal attacks based on built-up animosity.
In addition, the controversial topics, where everyone knows there is disagreement, never get addressed.
Teams That Embrace Conflict
We’re not talking about conflict just for the sake of conflict here, we are talking about conflict for the greater good of the team and the organization as a whole.
Teams that have no fear of conflict can let their guard down and say what they truly feel about an issue, which helps the group get honest opinions.
There’s no need for gossip and office politics because the issues are out in the open. Most importantly, the tough decisions get made.
Strategies to Overcome a Fear of Conflict
The following are strategies suggested by Lencioni to overcome a fear of conflict:
Dysfunction #3: Lack of Commitment
Without conflict, there is no way to get a firm commitment from the team on an issue. Commitment requires that everyone on the team is aligned on the same goal, not necessarily agreed.
Team members might pretend to agree, without fully supporting a decision and they won’t commit because they feel their opinions aren’t heard. However, healthy conflict allows for everyone’s views to be considered and it holds those in disagreement accountable to commit to the task that the group decides on.
Teams That Lack Commitment
Teams that aren’t committed have no clear direction and don’t share the same priorities, ultimately decreasing what gets done. In addition, lack of commitment creates paralysis by analysis and opportunities get missed.
A Committed Team
The team that is fully committed accomplishes more because everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goal(s). Everyone is confident in the group and although they might not agree on everything, they know that everyone’s opinions have been taken into consideration and the best decision has been made.
Strategies to Get the Team Committed
Based on Lencioni’s findings, you can take the following actions to get your team committed:
- Confront behavior that shows a lack of commitment
- Summarize important decisions made in meetings, considering the disagreeing opinions
- Settle for small decisions over no decisions and set a specific timetable for which big decisions must be made within
- Don’t be afraid to change course swiftly when the wrong decisions are made
- Define worst-case scenarios
- Be fully committed as the leader
Dysfunction #4: Avoidance of Accountability
Without commitment, members of the team aren’t going to hold each other accountable. They simply won’t care enough.
Each member of the team has to be invested in the goal and it should be clear what roles and contributions that each person is expected to make. When everyone is committed, they know they have to rely on each other and they are more likely to hold others accountable when necessary.
Teams That Lack Accountability
When accountability is avoided, it creates resentment among team members who feel that others aren’t upholding their end of the agreement or are slacking off. This leads to the acceptance of mediocrity from the group.
As a result, deadlines get missed and important projects fall short of the original expectations. This also put all of the pressure on the leader of the team to take disciplinary actions
Teams That Embrace Accountability
Teams that understand the importance of accountability are quick to call each other out when one person is not fulfilling their commitments. Confronted team members see accountability from their colleagues as an opportunity to improve and necessary for the success of the group.
This allows problems to be identified and corrected quickly. It also builds respect between team members and helps the group manage itself, without having to rely on the leader to intervene.
Strategies to Encourage Accountability
The following strategies are what Lencioni suggests to encourage accountability:
- Confront behavior that discourages or avoids accountability
- Set clear goals and metrics
- Regularly update the team on their progress
- Provide team bonuses and not individual bonuses
- Hold yourself and others accountable as the leader
Dysfunction #5: Inattention to Results
Teams that hold each other accountable stay focused on the accomplishments of the group and not their individual interests. Whenever there is poor accountability within the team, status and ego start to get in the way of the group’s results.
Teams That Don’t Focus on Results
Teams that are inattentive to results become stagnate and fail to make significant growth. These teams create mediocre companies that get beat by the competition and end up losing their best employees as top performers jump ship to work with teams that do focus on results.
Without a heavy focus on results, members of the team get distracted on side projects and become more concerned with furthering their individual careers than furthering the progress of the team.
Teams That Are Attentive to Results
Teams that are focused on results naturally accomplish more and build great companies. These are the companies that top performers want to work for and the teams that they want to be apart of. Retaining the best employees gives the organization an edge on their competition and allows them to create even bigger goals to work towards.
Members of a team that is attentive to results share the credit for their achievements and the blame for their failures.
Strategies to Focus Attention on Results
According to Lencioni, leaders can use the following strategies to create a results-oriented team:
- Confront behavior that isn’t attentive to results
- Make public declaration of the team’s results
- Conduct results-based reviews
- Lead by example