A friend of mine recommended that I read The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni and I’m so glad she did. I found the book particularly relevant to the meetings industry and to executive learning because we so often help teams find a productive and decidely functional way to work together.
The book is an easy-to-understand leadership fable that follows a hypothetical technology company’s (dysfunctional) executive team. In the story, the company’s new CEO takes her executive team to a series of off-site meetings in an attempt to get them back on track. The CEO addresses and works through the five dysfunctions of a team with her staff and ultimately makes a large impact on the overall function of the organization. Here are the five dysfunctions of a team:
1. Absence of Trust
Trust is the core function of a team. All the following dysfunctions stem back to this issue. If team members aren’t comfortable being open, honest and vulnerable with one another, the foundation of the team will be operationally dysfunctional. Leaders who show their vulnerabilities first start to build trust – setting an important foundation for the rest of the team.
An absence of trust is directly correlated to frustrating office politics and passive-aggressive behavior among team members. Leaders must call this behavior out at the time it occurs in order to work towards creating a successful team.
2. Fear of Conflict
If people don’t trust one another, they most definitely won’t be comfortable sharing what they really think during meetings. Strong teams must be willing to debate and engage in conflict in order for progress to be made.
Many people fear conflict because they don’t want to hurt a coworker’s feelings, but it’s important to remember that not speaking up now can do more damage later.
Constructive conflict during meetings may feel slightly uncomfortable at first, but it is an important step in your team’s progress. By addressing conflicts out in the open, there is no room for back-handed conflict later.
3. Lack of Commitment
As teams begin to work through their trust issues and start opening up, they’ll find themselves more commited to ideas, which leads you towards your business objectives.
Lencioni says, “teams with weigh in, buy in.” In order to achieve universal commitment, each person’s ideas need to be heard and respected. While everyone may not agree on the solution, team members can agree to commit to something for the good of the organization and keep moving forward.
4. Avoidance of Accountability
Avoiding accountability typically comes out during meetings and can create a very toxic environment for the entire organization. Great teams hold each member accountable to their commitments.
This peer-to-peer accountability can be the stronger than you may think. People can often be more concerned about letting down someone they work side-by-side with than their boss.
5. Inattention to Results, Close Attention to Ego
Those who don’t pay attention to company-wide results are often busy worrying about their own status and ego. If each individual is more concerned with their own ego, the organization doesn’t move toward their goals. While it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day responsibilities of your role or worry about the future of your career, this type of behavior can wreak havoc on a team and stop progress completely. Through the story told in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Lencioni indicates that sometimes people who are too focused on ego should be removed from the team completely.
I highly recommend reading and following the advice given in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Organizations that are struggling with missed goals, trust issues, or office politics can learn a lot from the dynamics and solutions arrived at in the book.