Notes on The Five Dysfunctions of a Team By Patrick Lencioni
Teamwork is the ultimate competitive advantage, because teams are so rare. Teams are inherently dysfunctional because they are made up of human beings. Building a team is remarkably simple but painfully difficult. In fact, keeping it simple is critical. Teamwork is theoretically uncomplicated, but it takes a great deal of discipline. These objectives cannot be realized outside of a serious time commitment from the team members.
“If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction,
you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competitor, at any time.”
There are five natural pitfalls that doom a team to failure:
Absence of TRUST
Fear of CONFLICT
Lack of COMMITMENT
Avoidance of ACCOUNTABILITY
Inattention to RESULTS
Conversely, effective teams will:
Trust one another
Engage in unfiltered conflict around ideas
Commit to decisions and plans of action
Hold one another accountable for delivering against those plans
Focus on the achievement of collective results
Trust is 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 with being vulnerable with one another. Vulnerabilities include weaknesses, skill deficiencies, interpersonal shortcomings, mistakes, and requests for help. Team members must turn off the insecurities that result in being competitive, protective of reputations and self-seeking.
How do you go about building trust?
Shared experiences over time
Explore personal histories (answer questions like: number of siblings, hometown, unique challenges of childhood, favorite hobbies, first job, worst job, etc)
Team effectiveness exercises (team members identify a single most important contribution and area of improvement for each of the other team members)
Personality and behavioral profiles
The leader must demonstrate a genuine vulnerability first and create an environment that does not punish vulnerability
All great relationships require productive conflict in order to grow. Ideological conflict is limited to concepts and ideas and avoids personality-focused, mean-spirited attacks. But it does contain passion, emotion and frustration. The positive side is that is produces the best possible resolution of issues in the shortest period of time. When conflict is avoided a discouraging tension results. When honest debate is not possible, personal, behind-the-back attacks occur. One good way to communicate frustration is to turn your confrontation into questions (“I need more information”).
How do we create healthy conflict?
Acknowledge that conflict is healthy and that the tendency is to avoid it
Someone may have to be designated the “miner of conflicts”. This person extracts buried disagreements within a team and sheds light on them. It takes courage to call out our sensitive issues and force team members to work through them.
Give people permission and encouragement in the midst of conflict. Remind them that what is going on right now is healthy and necessary.
The leader must be able to personally model appropriate conflict behavior. He must resist the urge to prematurely disrupt disagreements. Let team members work on their conflict skills. He may feel like he is losing control.
In the context of a team, commitment consists of two things: clarity and buy-in. The idea is to 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. Two things are required:
Consensus – even though all may not get their way, everybody’s input is genuinely considered and the group (or when that is impossible, the leader) makes the call. Everyone must buy-in to that decision.
Certainty – Make a decision and boldly go in that direction 100%. Delaying decisions breeds lack of confidence. Unclear decisions result in unresolved discord deeper in the organization.
How do we ensure commitment?
At the end of a staff meeting, explicitly review the key decisions made during the meeting and agree on what needs to be communicated to employees and others about those decisions. This ensures clarity among team members down the line.
Set clear deadlines for the actions called for and honor those dates with discipline.
Discuss contingency plans up front or clarify the worst-case scenario for a decision you are struggling to make.
The leader must be comfortable with the prospect of making a decision that ultimately turns out to be wrong. He must also push the group toward closure on issues of importance.
In the context of teamwork, accountability refers to the willingness of teammates to call their peers on performance or behaviors that might hurt the team. Accountability is usually avoided because it is uncomfortable to confront a co-worker. Great teams “enter the danger” with one another.
How do we establish accountability?
Publish goals and standards. Clarify publicly what the expectations of the team are. The enemy of accountability is ambiguity.
Simple and regular progress reviews. A regular “How are we doing?”
Shift individual rewards to team rewards.
The leader must encourage the team itself to be the primary accountability mechanism. Strong leaders may cause accountability to gravitate to them.
Paying Attention to Results
Every good organization specifies what it plans to achieve in a given period. The ultimate dysfunction of a team is the tendency of some members to care about something other than the collective goals of the group.
How do we focus on agreed results?
Public declaration of results. This causes greater effort to achieve those results
Tie rewards to specific outcomes
The leader must keep his focus on the results first and foremost.