5 Dysfunctions


Recently I’ve been contacted by leaders who are interested in making their teams more cohesive. Specifically, they’ve also asked how to implement the concepts from the book The FIVE DYSFUNCTIONS of a TEAM by Patrick Lencioni. The book covers multiple pitfalls that teams face as they seek to grow together. Originally published in 2002, the book has appeared on American best-seller lists including the New York Times, Business Week, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today.

“Building an effective, cohesive team is extremely hard.  But it’s also simple….more than anything else it comes down to courage and persistence.” 

Patrick Lencioni

I personally love the book and use it in building teams in courageous and impactful ways.  The five areas of work include (quotations are from the book):


  • Building Trust

“Members of great teams trust one another on a fundamental, emotional level, and they are comfortable being vulnerable with each other about their weaknesses, mistakes, fears, and behaviors.  They get to a point where they can be completely open with one another, without filters.”

Trust is the first fundamental barrier for any team.  If you can’t trust one another, you really have no foundation to build upon. How do you build trust? You become vulnerable to one another and show each other how you are human, instead of a work robot. I’ve used numerous exercises to achieve this, and have witnessed real moments of connection within a team.

It’s important to see one another as people with the same issues, fears, and insecurities. We can relate to each other and are more willing to have some compassion the next time someone falls short. Therefore, we’ll be more likely to ask how we can help, instead of fanning the flames.


  • Mastering Conflict

“Teams that trust one another are not afraid to engage in passionate dialogue around issues and decisions that are key to the organization’s success. They do not hesitate to disagree with, challenge, and question one another; all in the spirit of finding the best answers, discovering the truth, and making great decisions.”

Through exercises aligned with the book, teams discover tools to manage conflict and keep communication open, without damaging relationships. We do this by examining the preferred conflict styles of individuals and the team. Then we can create agreed-upon norms for conflict resolution going forward.

In one instance, a team decided to change the term ‘conflict’ to ‘debate and discussion’. Everyone agreed that there was a negative connotation associated with the word ‘conflict’. This worked better in their environment and gave them permission to engage when someone wanted to push back. The key is to find what works for your team and nurture it as the leader. The leader sets the tone for how conflict is seen, accepted, and resolved.


  • Achieving Commitment

“Teams that engage in unfiltered conflict are able to achieve genuine buy-in around important decisions, even when various members of the team initially disagree.  That’s because they ensure that all options and ideas are put on the table and considered, giving confidence to team members that no stone has been left unturned.”

Using conflict norms and trust-related insights, the team determines real thematic goals that are needed for team success. Ideally, the team identifies and commits to the most important behavior changes and disciplines that the organization requires, immediately.

Commitment is one of the elements commonly missed in the accountability conversation. Just because you’ve given a task to someone, doesn’t mean that they have committed to achieving it. Commitment shouldn’t be understated or overlooked.

In one case, one of my coaching teams selected short term sales as their number one issue that required everyone’s commitment. Once a target was agreed upon, every team member then committed to the actions required for success. This strengthened the team, created an immediate focus that was communicated throughout the organization, and also gave them the tools for accountability.


  • Embracing Accountability

“Teams that commit to decisions and standards of performance do not hesitate to hold one another accountable for adhering to those decisions and standards.  What is more, they don’t rely on the team leader as the primary source of accountability, they go directly to their peers.”

Using the team norms and personal commitments thus far, the team needs to explore and develop the tools and forum for team members to provide one another with focused, direct, and actionable feedback about how their individual behavior can improve the performance of the team. This is where the rubber hits the road and productive honesty is the asphalt. Not surprisingly, this is where most teams fall short consistently. We forget that accountability is a two-way street and that commitment has to be the pre-requisite. In most cases, the expectation was not clear, and there was no real commitment.  It was just a vague request made and received. When we create habits of huge clarity in each request, as well as a clear commitment from the receiver, we increase the likelihood of success.

I was extremely impressed with one of my coaching teams which came together to hold one of their own accountable for some egregious behavior. After obtaining a commitment from the individual and seeing the patterns of behavior continuing, the entire team came together to ask the CEO to remove their team member. Ultimately this was the best decision for the individual, the team, and the organization.


  • Focusing on Results

“Teams that trust one another, engage in conflict, commit to decisions, and hold one another accountable are very likely to set aside their individual needs and agendas and focus almost exclusively on what is best for the team.  They do not give in to the temptation to place their departments, career aspirations, or ego-driven status ahead of the collective results that define team success.”

Every team should be focused on results and measurements. Again, many times this does not receive the continual and focused attention that it deserves.

The best way I know to track results is to use a tool, which breaks down silos, increases communication, and provides laser clarity and focus. My favorite is The One Page Business PlanTM. This tool allows everyone to clearly document their key business success indicators. It also keeps everyone focused on success, and aware of the progress of all teams. All team members have access to the plans of each department and routine department head meetings to discuss results, allows for team members to ask questions, determine overlaps, and leveraging opportunities as well as areas where they can help.

Lastly, it’s also necessary to determine the communications needed to trickle down to other staff members and gain their commitment to action plans as well. This ensures alignment with the plan and promotes inclusion.

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