The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Unfortunately, I was sick most of the weekend, so on Sunday I forced myself to sit down and get some R&R. The worst part about being sick is, well, being sick. But the best part is that I usually have a lot of uninterrupted time to read. One of the books that I’ve been eager to read for some time is The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni. My wife manages a team of about 10 people, and she said this book was very helpful to her and what’s she’s doing at her company. And given that I’ve been thinking a lot about team dynamics lately and my wife gave such a stellar review of how much she liked the book, I decided it was time to give it a read.

In summary, the book tells the fictional story of Kathryn, a former auto manufacturing executive, who is hired as the CEO to help revive a struggling, early-stage software technology company, DecisionTech. Kathryn has a background in leadership and building strong executive management teams. Within the first two weeks at DecisionTech she’s able to diagnose the key issues at the company by breaking down their problems into the following five areas. I took a few excerpts from the book and listed them below:

  • Absence of Trust (Invulnerability)
    • “In the context of building a team, trust is the confidence among team members that their peers’ intentions are good, and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group. In essence, teammates must get comfortable being vulnerable with one another.”
  • Fear of Conflict (Artificial Harmony)
    • In an effort to avoid conflict, many teams stay stuck in the rut of professional politics. As defined by the Author, “Politics is when people choose their words and actions based on how they want others to react rather than based on what they think.”
      • Side note: This was one of my favorite sentences in the entire book!
  • Lack of Commitment (Ambiguity)
    • “Commitment is a function of two things: clarity and buy-in. Great teams make clear and timely decisions and move forward with complete buy-in from every member of the team, even those who voted against the decision.”
  • Avoidance of Accountability (Low Standards)
    • Accountability refers specifically to the willingness of team members to call their peers on performance or behaviors that might hurt the team. More often than not, team members are unwilling to tolerate the interpersonal discomfort that accompanies calling a peer on his or her behavior and the more general tendency to avoid difficult conversations.
  • Inattention to Results (Status and Ego)
    • “The ultimate dysfunction of a team is the tendency of members to care about something other than the collective goals of the group. There is a familiar tendency of people to focus on enhancing their own positions or career prospects at the expense of their team.”

Very rarely do I finish an entire book in one day, but this book was so wonderfully well-written and packed full of so many great takeaways, that I simply could not stop to put it down. I’ve intentionally left out several other vital and helpful points from the book, because I don’t want to spoil it. However, I highly recommend that anyone who is a part of a team to read this book and apply the principles. I’ll be working on many of these principles myself so I can make as positive of an impact to my team as possible in 2018. I’m looking forward to the challenge! Cheers – KM

Photo by Olga Guryanova on Unsplash


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