Book notes: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni book summary review and key ideas.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni

Synopsis:

“In keeping with the parable style, Patrick Lencioni begins by telling the fable of a woman who, as CEO of a struggling Silicon Valley firm, took control of a dysfunctional executive committee and helped its members succeed as a team. Story time over, Lencioni offers explicit instructions for overcoming the human behavioral tendencies that he says corrupt teams (absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability and inattention to results). Succinct yet sympathetic, this guide will be a boon for those struggling with the inherent difficulties of leading a group.

Building a cohesive team is not complicated, declares Lencioni. Departing from the dry, theoretical writing of many management books, he presents his case in the context of a fictional organization, and in doing so succeeds at communicating his ideas. The scenarios are recognizable and can be applied anywhere teamwork is involved, whether it is a multinational company, a small department within a larger organization, or a sports team. At the end of the story, the main points are summarized, and clearly expressed suggestions and exercises are offered to help bring about change. Concise and easy to follow, this program is recommended for anyone who is a member of a team that needs improvement.” -Audible


Opening thoughts:

This book has been on my to-read list for a while now because I’ve had it referenced and recommended from various sources years back. I’ve heard it referenced by many people who talk about leadership within organizations. I finally decided to pick this one up because I work with a lot of teams in my current job. I figured it would be a useful topic to study at this point in my life and to learn about further.


Key notes:

  • Teamwork remains the ultimate competitive advantage both because it is so powerful and so rare
  • Dysfunction #1: Absence of trust
  • Personal histories activity: Everyone answers five, non-intrusive personal questions having to do with their backgrounds
    1. Hometown
    2. Number of kids in the family
    3. Interesting childhood hobbies
    4. Biggest challenge growing up
    5. First job
  • Ultimate dysfunction #5: The tendency of team members to seek out individual recognition and attention at the expense of results
    • The key is to make it the collective ego rather than individual ones
      • This isn’t about removing ego necessarily
  • Politics is when people choose their words and actions based on how they want to react rather than based on what they really think
  • Disruption #2: Fear of conflict
    • A team must have a willingness to argue effectively about an issue and then walk away with no collateral damage
  • Dysfunction #3: Lack of commitment
    • The result of this is ambiguity
    • When people don’t unload their opinions and feel like they have been listened to, they won’t get on board
    • This isn’t a consensus thing because consensus is horrible
      • Usually consensus becomes an attempt to please everyone, which usually turns into displeasing everyone equally
    • Most reasonable people don’t have to get their way in a discussion
      • They just need to be heard and to know their input was considered and responded to
    • Disagree and commit
      • You can argue about something and disagree, but still commit to it as though everyone originally bought into the decision completely
    • The lesson: people need to weigh in before they can buy in
  • Dysfunction #4: Avoidance of accountability
    • Once we achieve clarity and buy in, it is then we need to hold each other accountable for what we signed up to do
  • The single most important arena or setting for conflict is during meetings
    • It is key for a team to learn to engage in productive ideological conflict during meetings
  • Meetings are like movies, they need conflict in order to be interesting and engaging
  • She made them realize that for the good of the entire organization, their first team has to be to the executive staff
    • Their direct reports have to be secondary
  • Trust is knowing that when a team member does push you, they’re doing it because they care about the team
    • Push with respect under the assumption that the other person is probably doing the right thing but push anyway and never hold back
  • Katherine learned the lesson the hard way that someone who affects team morale and harmony hurts the team no matter how well they perform individually
    • Their negative attitude harms the team more than their performance helps
  • It’s important for the executives to argue productively about the issues and hash out a solution to the problems
    • Otherwise they leave it to their people below to solve problems that they can’t solve
    • They need the managers to figure it out so that the people below can get clear direction

Dysfunction #1: Absence of trust

  • In the context of building a team, trust is the confidence among team members that their peers’ intentions are good and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group
  • How to build trust:
    • Vulnerability-based trust cannot be achieved overnight and requires:
      • Shared experiences over time
      • Multiple instances of follow through and credibility
      • An in-depth understanding of the unique attributes of team members
  • Personal histories exercise: 30 minutes minimum
  • Team effectiveness exercise: team identifies single most important contribution each of their peers makes to their team as well as the one area they must improve upon or eliminate for the good of the team
    • Minimum time requires: 60 min
  • Personality and behavioral preference profiles
    • Minimum time required: 4 hrs
  • 360 degree feedback
  • Experimental team exercises
    • Rigorous and creative outdoor activities
  • The role of the leader: the most important action a leader must take to encourage the building of trust on a team is to demonstrate vulnerability first
  • Leaders must also create an environment that doesn’t punish vulnerability

Dysfunction #2: Fear of conflict

  • 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
  • Functional teams know that the only purpose of productive conflict is to produce the best possible solution in the shortest period of time
    • Mining – A designated “miner of conflict” who extract buried disagreements within the team
  • Remind the team that conflict is good and should not be avoided
  • Role of the leader: demonstrate restraint when their people engage in conflict and allow resolution to occur naturally

Dysfunction #3: Lack of commitment

  • In the context of a team, it is a function of 2 things, clarity and buy in
  • 2 greatest causes of lack of commitment:
    • Desire for consensus
    • The need for certainty 

“A decision is better than no decision. It is better to make a decision boldly and be wrong and course correct with equal boldness, than it is to waver”

Militarism axiom
  • Tools: cascading messages to facilitate clarity and deadlines to ensure commitment
  • The leader must be comfortable with making a decision that may turn out to be wrong
    • The leader must push the group for closure as well as adherence to schedules set
    • Cannot place too high a premium on certainty or consensus

Dysfunction #4: Avoidance of accountability

  • In the context of a team, accountability is the willingness of team members to call their peers on performance and behaviors that might hurt the team
  • The most effective and efficient means of maintaining high standards of performance on a team is peer pressure
    • One of the benefits is the reduction of the need for excessive bureaucracy around performance management and corrective action
    • More than any policy or system, there is nothing like the fear of letting down respected teammates that motivates people to improve their performance 
  • Suggestions: Publication of goals and standards
    • Clarify public what the team needs to achieve, who needs to do what, and how everyone must behave in order to succeed
      • The enemy of accountability is ambiguity
  • Shift awards away from individual performance and towards team achievement to create a culture of accountability
  • The leader must encourage and allow the team to serve as the first and primary accountability mechanism

Dysfunction #5: Inattention to results

  • The ultimate dysfunction of a team is for the tendency of members to care about something other than the collective goals of a group
  • Many teams are simply not results-focused
    • They exist merely to survive
  • Suggestions: Make results clear and reward behavior that contribute to those results
    • Public declaration of results
  • The leader must set the tone of a focus on results

Main ideas / Themes:

  • Teamwork remains the ultimate competitive advantage both because it is so powerful and so rare
  • Usually consensus becomes an attempt to please everyone, which usually turns into displeasing everyone equally
  • All great relationships require productive conflict in order to grow
  • Disagree and commit
  • People need to weigh in before they can buy in
  • Trust is knowing that when a team member does push you, they’re doing it because they care about the team. It is the confidence among team members that their peers’ intentions are good and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group
  • Someone who affects team morale and harmony hurts the team no matter how well they perform individually
  • Accountability is the willingness of team members to call their peers on performance and behaviors that might hurt the team
  • The most effective and efficient means of maintaining high standards of performance on a team is peer pressure

The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team

  • DYSFUNCTION #1: ABSENCE OF TRUST
    • Role of the leader: Encourage the building of trust on a team by demonstrating vulnerability first
  • DYSFUNCTION #2: FEAR OF CONFLICT
    • Role of the leader: demonstrate restraint when their people engage in conflict and allow resolution to occur naturally
  • DYSFUNCTION #3: LACK OF COMMITMENT
    • Role of the leader: Be comfortable with making a decision that may turn out to be wrong, push for closure, adherence to schedules
  • DYSFUNCTION #4: AVOIDANCE OF ACCOUNTABILITY
    • Role of the leader: Encourage and allow the team to serve as the first and primary accountability mechanism
  • DYSFUNCTION #5: INATTENTION TO RESULTS
    • Role of the leader: Set the tone of a focus on results

Closing thoughts:

This book was a lot better than I was expecting, to be honest. I knew it was one of those classic books on a lot of reading lists pertaining to leadership, developing good organizations, teamwork, etc. However, I wasn’t expecting to get so much good insight that I actually have not heard of from all of the other books I’ve read. And trust me, I read a lot of books (at least I think so, lol).

There were some really good concepts about handling conflict and those difficult discussions, which this book emphasizes is good and necessary for growth. Some of the ideas and principles I’ve learned I am actually implementing them at work and in other organizations I work with (like a couple of the dance organizations where I work with leadership to help improve the team).

I think the fact that there wasn’t so much overlap of the main ideas in this book compared to other books really speaks to how specific and valuable this book is. A lot of other leadership books talk about people skills and communication. However, this has a focus on how to turn around a “dysfunctional team” into a high performing one that is able to work better together. I agree with the author in that this is key to making any good team perform at a higher level.

Overall, I highly recommend this book to anyone in a leadership and/or management position, whether this be in a professional or non-professional sense. In fact, even if you’re not in that type of position, insight into how to create a better work environment is useful to everyone as we all will work in groups or teams at some point in our lives. These principles can even apply to 1:1 relationships or friendships.


One Takeaway / Putting into practice:

The most powerful concept / idea I got from this book that I’ve adopted immediately is:

  • All great relationships require productive conflict in order to grow. The only purpose of productive conflict is to produce the best possible solution in the shortest period of time. Conflict is good and should not be avoided

I think there’s this misconception we all have that good relationships are void of any conflicts. Clearly, this isn’t the case. The best marriages we’ve learned are ones with people who know how to best work through their conflicts productively and grow.

Developing a strong organization requires the same mindset. Conflict is good and necessary to produce the best possible result in the shortest period of time.

For me, I’m slowly shifting my mindset to not be afraid of conflict. I don’t plan on SEEKING conflict just for the sake of conflict. Some people do so because they like the ego trip of being right and proving others wrong. However, I would like to get better at identifying where conflicts lie and where productive conversations can happen. This is so that the group can move forward together in the right direction with the right attitude.

This also serves to help be aware and suppress my own ego when in these conversations. As the book illustrates, the most important thing is to put aside your own personal goals (ego) and focus on the team’s goals.


Nutshell:

How to overcome the 5 dysfunctions of a team and ultimately produce better results for the team.


Similar books:


Rating:

4/5


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