Leadership Blog

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Monday, November 01, 2010

These five dysfunctions are outlined in Patrick Lencione’s book of the same name. Building a high performing team is tough to do and a vast majority of management teams struggle with their dysfunction and never get to being a great cohesive team.

Absence of Trust
Trust lies at the heart of a functioning, cohesive team. Without trust teamwork is impossible. Vulnerability based trust cannot be achieved overnight. It requires shared experiences over time, multiple instances of follow-through and credibility.

The role of the leader is to demonstrate vulnerability first. This requires the leader to risk losing face in front of his team so that subordinates will take the same risk themselves.

Fear of Conflict
All great relationships, the ones that last over time, require productive conflict in order to grow. Teams that engage in productive conflict know that the only purpose is to produce the best possible solution in the shortest period of time. People avoid conflict in the name of efficiency, but healthy conflict is actually a time saver. Teams that avoid conflict actually doom themselves to revisiting issues again and again without resolution.

The role of the leader is to demonstrate restraint when their people engage in conflict, and allow resolution to occur naturally. Teams have to learn conflict resolution skills.

Lack of Commitment
In the context of a team, 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.

The two greatest causes of lack of commitment are the desire for consensus and the need for certainty.

The role of the leader is to be comfortable making a decision without complete information, and which ultimately turns out to be wrong. The leader must also be pushing the group for closure around issues.

Avoidance of Accountability
Accountability refers to the willingness of team members to call their peers on performance or behaviors that might hurt the team. Members of great teams improve their relationships by holding one another accountable, thus demonstrating that they respect each other and have high expectations for one another’s performance.

The most effective and efficient means of maintaining high standards of performance on a team is peer pressure.

The role of the leader who wants to instill accountability on a team is to encourage and allow the team to serve as the first and primary accountability mechanism.

Inattention to Results
The ultimate dysfunction of a team is for members to care about something other than the collective goals of the group. An unrelenting focus on specific objectives and clearly defined outcomes is a requirement for any team that judges itself on performance. No amount of trust, conflict, commitment or accountability can compensate for a lack of desire to win.

The role of the leader is to set the tone for a focus on results. If team members sense that the leader values anything other than results, they will take that as permission to do the same for themselves.

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