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Five Dysfunctions book 2019 blog

2019 is the year to learn The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Grow the success of your team with this famous framework

When teams work well, great things are possible

This year, a movie showcasing one of the world’s most powerful examples of great teamwork is expected to go into production.

The extraordinary Thai cave rescue in July 2018 gripped the world, as 12 young Thai footballers were brought out alive after being trapped in a remote part of the Tham Luang cave network for two weeks. Ironically, the boys were in the cave as part of a team-building exercise.

While it's unclear if the football team's bonding experience worked in their favour,  there is no doubt it was teamwork at its finest that saw them rescued, with more than 10,000 people, including over 100 divers, involved.  

With this backdrop, let’s start 2019 by revisiting the famous Patrick Lencioni framework, spelled out in his bestseller Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

Dysfunction 1: Absence of Trust

Trust was imperative in the Thai rescue, and Lencioni says it lies at the heart of every functioning, cohesive team.

He says the word trust is used, and misused, so often that it has lost some of its impact.

“In the context of building a team, trust is the confidence among team members that their peers’ intentions are good, and there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group. In essence, teammates must get comfortable being vulnerable with one another.”

Members of teams with an absence of trust:
  • Conceal their weaknesses and mistakes from one another
  • Hesitate to ask for help or provide constructive feedback
  • Hesitate to help outside their own areas of responsibility
  • Jump to conclusions about the intentions and aptitudes of others without attempting to clarify them
  • Fail to recognise and tap into one another’s skills and experiences
  • Waste time and energy managing their behaviours for effect
  • Hold grudges
  • Dread meetings and find reasons to avoid spending time together
Building trust requires shared experiences over time, multiple instances of follow-through and credibility, and an in-depth understanding of the unique attributes of team members.

Dysfunction 2: Fear of Conflict

Lencioni writes in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team that all great relationships require productive conflict to grow.

However, he says, conflict is considered taboo in many situations, especially at work.

He suggests limiting conflict to concepts and ideas, avoiding mean-spirited attacks on personality.

How do you learn to engage in healthy conflict?

Lencioni suggests:
  • Acknowledge it’s productive
  • Mine the conflict: search for buried disagreements within the team
  • Have the courage to call out sensitive issues, and force team members to work through them
  • Stay with the conflict until it’s resolved. Help each other not to retreat from healthy debate
  • Remind participants that the conflict they just engaged in was good for the team
Dysfunction 3: Lack of Commitment

Commitment is a function of two things: clarity and buy-in.

The two greatest causes of the lack of commitment are the desire for consensus and the need for certainty:
  • Great teams understand that reasonable human beings do not need to get their way in order to support a decision, but need to know their opinions have been considered.
  • Great teams unite behind decisions and commit to clear courses of action even when there is little assurance about whether the decision is correct.
  • The leader must push for closure around issues, as well as adherence to schedules the team has set.
Dysfunction 4:  Avoidance of Accountability

“As politically incorrect as it sounds, the most effective and efficient means of maintaining high standards of performance on a team is peer pressure.” – Patrick Lencioni

Lencioni is emphatic. Team members must be willing to call out their peers on performance or behaviours that might hurt the team.

Lencioni says it’s uncomfortable, but great teams overcome the discomfort by “entering the danger” with one another.
  • Team members should regularly communicate with one another about how they feel their teammates are doing against stated objectives and standards
  • Leaders should encourage and allow the team to serve as the first and primary accountability mechanism.
Dysfunction 5: Inattention to results

The ultimate dysfunction of a team, says Lencioni, is to care about something other than the collective goals of the group.

He says a team that is not focussed on results:
  • Stagnates/fails to grow
  • Rarely defeats competitors
  • Loses achievement-oriented employees
  • Encourages team member to focus on their own careers and individual goals
  • Is easily distracted
The best way to improve is to have a leader who cares.

“If the team members sense that the leader values anything other than results, they will take that as permission to do the same for themselves,” he writes in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.  “Team leaders must be selfless and objective, and reserve rewards and recognition for those who make real contributions to the achievement of group goals.”

There is no doubt the success of the Thai Cave rescue was a result of team members contributing to the group goal, the reuniting of 12 young boys with their families after two weeks spent deep underground. 

It will go down in history as one of the more inspiring stories of the power of a cohesive and effective team. 

thai cave rescue

See Patrick Lencioni live at his first ever Australian visit!  Building High Performance Teams is the theme of the National Growth Summit being presented by The Growth Faculty in Sydney on March 13, 2019, and Melbourne on March 15, 2019. Tickets on sale now. 

Members of The Growth Faculty receive the greatest ticket discount.
Not a member? Join The Growth Faculty today to access exclusive content, including an interview with Patrick Lencioni at The Growth Faculty On Demand Business Book Club.