If you haven’t read “The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team,” make sure you add it to your summer reading list. It is a short book, packed with valuable insights. As with most of his books, author Patrick Lencioni presents the 5 Dysfunction concepts in the form of a “leadership fable,” a novella that lays out the main ideas in manner that is easy to follow (and remember). I’ll leave it to you to read the story, but here is a brief review of The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, and its key concepts.
Team Number 1
Before we get to the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team review, we need to understand which team we are discussing. Lencioni is very clear that the the team you MUST be committed first and foremost to is your team of peers (Team Number 1), not your team of direct reports. If you are the CFO, for example, your Team Number 1 would be the team of corporate officers (yourself included) that report to the CEO, as opposed to the team of department heads that report to you. Without a laser focus on Team Number 1, you risk losing the cohesiveness that 5 Dysfunctions works towards developing. A healthy Team Number 1 enables and perpetuates a healthy team of direct reports.
Dysfunction 1 – The Absence of Trust
Trust is absolutely foundational to the performance of a team. Without trust, team members will never go out on a limb, ask for help or provide potentially difficult yet constructive feedback. Trust in this instance is defined as knowing that your teammates aren’t going to attack you as a person, and that they are motivated by what is in the best interest of the team. This allows team members to be vulnerable and to engage in constructive conflict.
How to build trust: Find shared experiences, understand personality types present within the team (I am an ENTP), follow through on commitments, demonstrate unflappable integrity
The leader’s role: Lead by example, show vulnerability, share your experiences, foster an environment that breeds trust
Dysfunction 2 – The Fear of Conflict
Most people fear conflict because it doesn’t feel safe and tends to be personal. However, when your team has a foundation of trust and you know that conflict won’t be personal, nothing should keep you from engaging in passionate, unfiltered debate (AKA constructive conflict!). Constructive conflict helps to quickly refine ideas. As an added benefit, the more difficult a problem is, the more beneficial constructive conflict becomes. In a team with a fear of conflict, not all ideas will be heard, which means valuable insights and perspectives will be lost.
How to overcome the fear of conflict: Share your ideas openly, provide feedback on the ideas of others, fervently avoid passivity, debate to refine instead of to defend
The leader’s role: Mine for conflict, never steer towards premature resolution, compel team members to engage, moderate when needed, model appropriate constructive conflict behaviors
In part 2 of this review, we will look at the remaining dysfunctions – Lack of Commitment, Avoidance of Accountability, and Inattention to Results – and identify how to overcome them, and what the leader’s role is in that process.
Questions about Team Number 1, The Absence of Trust or The Fear of Conflict? Feel free to contact me!