5 Disfunctions of A Team

  • Categories:
  • All, Personal Development
  • By: Herschel E. Chalk III
  • December 2, 2019


The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team

Based upon the material by Pat Lencioni – President, The Table Group


Dysfunction #1

The fear to be vulnerable with team members prevents the building of trust within the team.


This is vulnerability based trust: “I was wrong,”, “I made a mistake”, “I need your help.”


Work with people to gain trust.



Pat Lencioni –

Teamwork remains the one sustainable competitive advantage that has been largely untapped.”


Absence of Trust


One person can destroy a team’s trust and, consequently, the decision making process.


Example: The person that talks in meetings and no one comments on his ideas because all he will do is defend his position until someone changes the subject.


This shuts a team down


Building Trust


Trust is the foundation of teamwork.

Building trust takes time, but the process can be greatly accelerated.

Like a good marriage, trust on a team is never complete; it must be maintained over time.


Fear of Conflict


Are people holding back? Are they picking their battles?

The most important place for conflict is in meetings!

Example: “Why are there so many meetings?” “Meetings don’t matter”, Why are they so long?”

It’s not that there are too many meetings, it’s that they’re bad meetings.

Meetings should matter, and the first 10 minutes should be the best!


Dysfunctions #2

The desire to preserve artificial harmony stifles the occurrence of productive, ideological conflict.

This is healthy, passionate debate: “What do you think of this idea?”

Trust is essential for conflict.


Mastering Conflict

Good conflict among team members requires trust, which is all about engaging in unfiltered, passionate debate around issues.

Even among the best teams, conflict will at times be uncomfortable.

Conflict norms, though they will vary form team to team, must be discussed and made clear among the team.

The fear of occasional personal conflict should not deter a team from having regular, productive debate.


Dysfunctions #3

The lack of clarity and/or fear of being wrong prevents team members form making decisions in a timely and definitive way.


This is all the cards on the table: “Can you commit to this idea?”


Healthy debate leads to commitment


Achieving Commitment

Commitment requires clarity and buy-in.

Clarity requires that team avoid assumptions and ambiguity, and that they end discussions with a clear understanding about what they’ve decided upon.

Buy-in does not require consensus. Members of great teams learn to disagree with one another and still commit to a decision.


Lack of Commitment

If people do not weigh in/debate during meetings, then they will not actively commit to the final decision.


Example: After the fact meetings, “Can you believe he said that?” , “I am not sure this is the best idea for us at this time”, “I’m not 100% behind this.”


If people do not commit they will not hold each other accountable. The leader has to be willing to do this first.


Dysfunctions #4

The need to avoid interpersonal discomfort prevents team members form holding one another accountable for their behaviors.


This is holding others accountable for their behavior.

Peer to peer is powerful


Avoidance of Accountability

This applies to all levels: Team level; manager level; director level; VP level; C level; Board level


Example: Leaders usually have the hardest time holding their people accountable. Peer pressure and letting down a colleague will motivate a team player more than any fear of punishment or rebuke.


Dysfunctions #5

The desire for individual credit erodes the focus on collective success.

This is about what the team is trying to achieve more than a member’s personal interest.


Embracing Accountability

Accountability on a strong team occurs directly among peers

For a culture of accountability to thrive, a leader must demonstrate a willingness to confront difficult issues.

The best opportunity for holding one another accountable occurs during meetings, and the regular review of a team scoreboard provides clear context for doing so.


Inattention to Results

By nature, people tend to drift and will pay attention to other things if they are not held accountable.

Example: a person more interested in personal growth, own interests, or departmental goals than the team results.


Focusing on Results

The true measure of a great team is that it accomplishes the results it sets out to achieve.

To avoid distractions, team members must prioritize the results of the team over the individual or departmental needs.

To stay focused, teams must publicly clarity their desired results and keep them visible.



Build Trust

Identify and discuss individual strengths and weaknesses

Spend time in face-to-face meetings and working sessions.


The Five Functions

Build Trust

Master Conflict

Achieve Commitment

Embrace Accountability

Focus on Results


Trust Exercises

Get team members to share about growing up

Go around the table answering three questions: where they grew up; how many siblings they have and where they fall in the order; what was the most difficult/important challenge to their childhood.


Behavior profiles

Use Myers-Briggs, DISC, or other such tools

Have team complete tests prior to session

At beginning of session give test overview


Trust Exercises

List all types on a white board and discuss

Have team identify their type and read brief descriptions

Identify team strengths and the weaknesses they must avoid

Within a week have team members go back to the teams they lead and discuss their profiles


Conflict Exercises

Give real time permission as it is happening

As conflict arises, pause to let the team know this is good for the success of the team.

Mine for conflict

Actively look for areas/topics that people are avoiding and lay it on the table for discussion.

Bring clarity to how the team can expect to engage in debate.

Have team members write down their preferences for acceptable and unacceptable



Master Conflict

Acknowledge that conflict is required for productive meetings

Establish common ground rules for engaging in conflict

Understand individuals natural conflict styles


Conflict Exercises

Behavior s around discussion and debate

Have members review their preferences with the rest of the team while someone captures key similarities

Discuss preferences while paying special attention to areas of difference

Formally record and distribute behavioral expectations for conflict/debate


Conflict Exercises

Review Depth Frequency Conflict Model with Team

Have members recreate model on blank sheet with their name at the top

Pass sheets to the right and have each person place an X on the chart indicating how the person named at top engages in conflict

When sheet returns to original owner have each review his chart then plot all members on a large chart for discussion/implications


Depth Freq Conflict Model



Commitment Exercises

Commitment Clarification

Take last 5 minutes of meeting to go to white board and ask, “what have we agreed upon today?”

If no consensus, provoke further discussion

Everyone records all commitments and distributes within 24 hours to needed parties

Clarify team principles

Have team discuss and come to resolution around the following


Commitment Exercises

  1. Structure and schedule for meetings
  2. Preferred methods for communication (i.e. email, voice mail, etc)
  3. Timeliness of responding to one another
  4. Use of common resources, human and otherwise
  5. Availability of members during non-work hours
  6. Level of freedom to engage one another’s staffs
  7. Extent to which being on time is a priority



Embrace Accountability

Explicitly communicate goals and behavior

Regularly discuss performance versus goals and standards


Accountability Exercises

Feedback forum for behavior and performance

Have all team members answer the following two questions about all other members:

1 . What’s the person’s most important behavioral quality that contributes to strength of the team?

  1. What’s the person’s most important behavioral quality that detracts from the strength of the team?

Begin with comments about the leader – read all the positives

Ask for response from leader: Any surprises?


Accountability Exercises

Any questions for clarifications

Continue to focus on leader reading all negative comments

Continue in this format for every team member

At the end have each member summarize 1-2 key take-away points for development

At the next off-site meeting have members report progress in these key areas.



Focus on Results

Keep the team focused on tangible group goals

Reward individuals based on team goals and collective success


Results Exercises

Establish a team scoreboard

Have the team discuss and agree upon a handful of supporting objectives that must be accomplished for the overall goal to be achieved

Make goals public and real


Obstacles to Avoid

The leader is not truly committed to building a quality team

Team members are holding back

Someone is dominating the session

Team members are dispersed and do not generally spend much time together

A top performer is not committed or interested in the team-building process

A team member reports to two different teams


The Role of the Leader

Be Vulnerable

Demand Debate

Force Clarity and Closure

Confront Difficult Situations

Focus on Collective Outcomes



Forceful, Determined, Likes Goals, Takes Action, Speaks Mind, Strong-Willed, Quick to Act, Direct, Wants to Win, Competitive, Fiery, Easily Annoyed, Takes Charge, Proud



Likes Variety, Likes People, Inspiring, Great Communicator, Entertaining, Life of the Party, Loves Fun, Makes Quick Decisions, Blurts Out What Comes to Mind, Risk Taker, Jumps at Opportunities, Lots of Energy, Spontaneous



Peacemaker, Agreeable, Patient, Caring, Supportive, Gentle, Gives in To Others, Warm, Understanding, Easy-Going, Avoids Conflict, Likes Romance



Honest, Desires Fairness, Humble, Values Trust, Committed, Dependable, Spiritual Outlook, Values Respect, Sincere, Can Be Naïve, Purposeful, Thankful, Big Picture Focus, Polite




Likes Clear Instructions, Perfectionist, Picky, Thorough, Accurate, Likes Ideas, Likes to Solve Problems, Under Control, Intense, Likes Order, Likes Details, Curious, Likes Being Alone



Productive, Responsible, Get Things Done on Time, Focused Completes Things, Organized, Level-Headed, Likes to Teach, Follows Rules, Blunt, To The Point, Likes High Standards

About the Author: Herschel E. Chalk III

Herschel is a "MASTER IN THE ART OF LIVING," he makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing, to him he's always doing both.

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