Lead Strong Teams: Beat Dysfunction & Win

photo of people looking on laptop

In any organization, aligning every team member towards a shared goal can drive unparalleled success, regardless of the industry, market, or competition. Yet, most organizations grapple with internal politics and misaligned teams. Patrick Lencioni, a renowned coach for numerous CEOs and Fortune 500 companies, presents a compelling model in “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” to overcome these barriers and build exceptional teams. This guide distills the essence of Lencioni’s insights and provides actionable strategies for fostering trust, encouraging healthy conflict, ensuring commitment, promoting accountability, and maintaining a results-oriented focus.

Warming Up

Imagine a scenario where every individual in your organization is moving in the same direction. Such unity could lead to dominance in any industry. However, most organizations struggle with internal politics and fragmented teams. This guide, inspired by Patrick Lencioni’s “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” will explore how to overcome these common barriers and build world-class teams.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

1. Lack of Trust

Trust is the foundation of any successful team.

Trust within a team is paramount. When team members fail to understand and open up to one another, they hinder their collective potential. Trust enables teams to share weaknesses and skill deficiencies openly, fostering an environment where everyone can ask for help and leverage each other’s strengths.

Building Trust

  • Personal Questions: Simple, non-intrusive questions about personal history can help build rapport.
  • Contribution Assessment: Encourage members to identify significant contributions and areas for improvement for each other.
  • Behavioral Profiles: Tools like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator can drive empathy among team members.
  • Leader Vulnerability: Leaders must demonstrate genuine vulnerability to foster an environment of trust.

2. Fear of Conflict

Conflict is essential for growth and innovation.

Teams often avoid conflict to maintain a facade of harmony. However, this avoidance leads to unresolved issues and growing tension. Encouraging healthy conflict allows teams to address and resolve issues swiftly and thoroughly.

Encouraging Healthy Conflict

  • Ideological Conflict vs. Personal Politics: Focus on debating ideas, not personalities.
  • Conflict Mining: Designate a team member to bring hidden disagreements to the surface.
  • Real-time Permission: Coach members to recognize and embrace the necessity of conflict during discussions.
  • Leader’s Role: Leaders should allow conflicts to resolve naturally and not shield members from discomfort.

3. Lack of Commitment

Clarity and buy-in are the cornerstones of commitment.

Without a culture of honest conflict, some team members might feel unheard and thus uncommitted. True commitment arises from clarity and genuine buy-in, even from those who initially disagreed.

Fostering Commitment

  • Cascading Messaging: Review and agree on key decisions at the end of meetings to ensure clarity.
  • Set Deadlines: Establish clear deadlines for decisions to reduce ambiguity.
  • Leader’s Role: Leaders must be decisive and push for issue resolution despite uncertainties.

4. Avoidance of Accountability

Accountability ensures high performance and respect.

Holding peers accountable is challenging but crucial. Avoiding accountability can lead to deteriorating relationships and eroded standards. Teams must uphold high-performance standards through mutual respect and peer pressure.

Promoting Accountability

  • Public Goals: Clearly defined goals and standards make accountability easier.
  • Regular Progress Reviews: Structured feedback processes help maintain high standards.
  • Leader’s Role: Leaders should enable the team to be the primary accountability mechanism and intervene only when necessary.

5. Inattention to Results

Collective success must trump individual achievements.

Teams that prioritize individual status and ego over collective results stagnate. Organizations must define actionable goals with specific timelines to ensure a focus on results.

Ensuring Focus on Results

  • Public Declaration of Results: Teams are more driven when they publicly commit to specific results.
  • Results-Based Rewards: Tie rewards to tangible results rather than effort alone.
  • Leader’s Role: Leaders must model behavior focused on collective success and reward those who contribute significantly to group goals.

Case Study: DecisionTech

A high-profile Silicon Valley firm’s transformation under a new CEO.

Kathryn Petersen took over DecisionTech, a well-financed startup plagued by internal dysfunctions. By addressing these dysfunctions head-on, Petersen transformed the team’s dynamics and steered the company towards success.

Building Trust at DecisionTech

Petersen initiated trust-building exercises, such as personal history sharing and behavioral assessments. These activities helped the team members connect on a deeper level and fostered a sense of camaraderie.

Encouraging Healthy Conflict

Petersen emphasized the importance of productive ideological conflict. She encouraged team members to openly challenge each other’s ideas, which led to more robust decision-making and innovation.

Fostering Commitment

By ensuring that every team member’s voice was heard and valued, Petersen fostered a culture of genuine buy-in. Clear decisions and defined action plans helped the team commit to collective goals.

Promoting Accountability

Petersen established clear goals and behavioral standards. Regular progress reviews and a structured feedback process ensured that team members held each other accountable.

Ensuring Focus on Results

Petersen set clear, actionable goals for the team. By tying rewards to these goals, she ensured that the team remained focused on collective success.

Practical Tools and Techniques

Building Trust

  • Personal Histories Exercise: A quick activity where team members share non-intrusive personal information.
  • Behavioral Preference Profiles: Use tools like Myers-Briggs to foster empathy.
  • Leader’s Vulnerability: Leaders must show genuine vulnerability to build trust.

Encouraging Healthy Conflict

  • Mining: Assign a team member to surface hidden disagreements.
  • Real-time Permission: Encourage members to embrace necessary conflicts.
  • Leader’s Role: Leaders should allow natural resolution of conflicts.

Fostering Commitment

  • Cascading Messaging: Ensure clarity by reviewing key decisions at the end of meetings.
  • Set Deadlines: Establish and adhere to clear decision deadlines.
  • Leader’s Role: Leaders must be decisive and push for resolution.

Promoting Accountability

  • Public Goals: Clearly define and make goals public.
  • Regular Progress Reviews: Implement structured feedback processes.
  • Leader’s Role: Enable the team to hold each other accountable and intervene only when necessary.

Ensuring Focus on Results

  • Public Declaration of Results: Commit to specific results publicly.
  • Results-Based Rewards: Tie rewards to tangible results.
  • Leader’s Role: Model behavior focused on collective success.


How can I build trust within my team?

Start with personal history exercises and behavioral assessments to foster empathy. Leaders should demonstrate genuine vulnerability.

What is the difference between productive conflict and personal politics?

Productive conflict focuses on ideas and concepts, while personal politics involve personality-based disputes. Encourage ideological conflict to achieve the best outcomes.

How can I ensure my team is committed to decisions?

Create a culture of open conflict where every member’s opinion is heard. Ensure clear decisions and defined action plans for buy-in.

How do I promote accountability among team members?

Define clear goals and standards, and implement regular progress reviews. Leaders should enable the team to hold each other accountable.

How can I keep my team focused on results?

Set clear, actionable goals and tie rewards to these goals. Leaders should model behavior that prioritizes collective success.

Wrapping Up

Building a world-class team requires addressing the five dysfunctions identified by Patrick Lencioni: lack of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results. By implementing the strategies outlined in this guide, leaders can foster a culture of trust, encourage healthy conflict, ensure commitment, promote accountability, and maintain a results-oriented focus. This holistic approach will help any organization achieve unparalleled success and dominate its industry.

For more insights and strategies on team building and organizational success, explore additional resources on Steffi’s Blogs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *