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POPin Blog

Overcoming Team Dysfunctions

As most managers know, it can be extremely difficult getting team members to work together cohesively. Many group dynamics can cause problems, from personality conflicts to differing belief systems to disagreements about the team’s ultimate goals and priorities. To address this issue, Patrick Lencioni is a leadership expert who has devoted his career to solving the most common pitfalls of team dysfunctions. In fact, Lencioni – a best-selling author and speaker – wrote the definitive management book on this topic, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. His insights apply equally well to small project teams, large departments, nonprofit groups, community organizations and even sports teams. Lencioni is the founder and president of The Table Group, Inc., a management consulting firm that’s focused on organizational health. In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, he outlines the root causes of group dysfunctions, and how to overcome them. Here is a brief summary of the five categories: Dysfunction #1: Absence of Trust: The fear of being vulnerable with team members prevents the building of trust within the team. Team members are uncomfortable being vulnerable with one another, unwilling to admit their weaknesses, mistakes, or needs for help. Dysfunction #2: Fear of Conflict: The desire to preserve artificial harmony stifles the occurrence of productive ideological conflict. Team members are unwilling to engage in passionate, unfiltered debate around important issues. Dysfunction #3: Lack of Commitment: The lack of clarity or buy-in prevents team members from making decisions they will stick to. Team members fail to achieve buy-in around clear decisions and courses of action. Dysfunction #4: Avoidance of Accountability: The need to avoid interpersonal discomfort prevents team members from holding one another accountable. Team members fail to confront one another around behaviors and deliverables that do not conform to agreed decisions. Dysfunction #5: Inattention to Results: The pursuit of individual goals and personal status erodes the focus on collective success. Team members put their individual needs for career development and recognition before the shared goals of the team. The role of the leader is to ensure that team members trust one another enough to feel comfortable engaging in open conflict around team issues. Trust starts with team members lowering their guards and opening up to one another by admitting their own weaknesses and mistakes.
  • As Lencioni likes to say, “Trust is knowing that when a team member does push you, they’re doing it because they care about the team.”
  • At the same time, each individual can have a positive or negative effect on the whole group, which requires team members to hold each other accountable. This includes ensuring that everyone pulls their own weight and remains transparent about their intentions. When someone strays from the group’s best interest, it is up to the others to call that person out for unproductive actions or comments.
  • Teams willing to address the five dysfunctions can greatly increase their odds of success. The best teams have members who are comfortable asking for help and admitting their mistakes and limitations. The best teams also tap into one another’s skills and experiences. They avoid rehashing the same topics over and over due to a lack of buy-in. Time is not wasted focusing on the wrong issues, or complaining about shared problems.
  • High-quality teams make high-quality decisions and they accomplish more in less time with fewer resources. They put critical topics on the table and hold lively meetings that align the team around common objectives. As a result, they are able to retain their star employees and build internal synergies that benefit everyone.