Five dysfunctions of a team

Posted on February 3, 2009


Team.  Dysfunction.  The goal of leadership is to keep a safe distance between these two words.  Unfortunately, many organizations and churches fail to understand the dynamics necessary to create and sustain a healthy team atmosphere, where synergy, trust, and hard work propel a team to achieve extraordinary results.  Even in good churches there is the possibility that an unhealthy team can undermine Jesus’ mission to seek the lost and shepherd the flock.

In his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, author and leadership consultant Patrick Lencioni discusses the five critical ingredients of a successful team.  I am a huge fan of Lencioni’s style of writing – he begins his books with a “leadership fable,” and then summarizes the heart of his principles with the last 1/3 of the book.  You could read this entire book in about two hours.

According to Lencioni,

“Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advangtage, both because it is so powerful and so rare . . . For all the attention that it has received over the years from scholars, coaches, teachers, and the media, teamwork is as elusive as it has ever been within most organizations. The fact remains that teams, because they are made up of imperfect human beings, are inherently dysfunctional.”

With penetrating insight and surprisingly honest commentary on human nature, Lencioni notes five common pitfalls that render teams either completely inept or minimally less effective in the pursuit of their organizational mission:

  1. Absence of trust – “Team members who are not genuinely open (i.e. vulnerable) with one another about their mistakes make it impossible to build a foundation of trust.”
  2. Fear of Conflict – “Teams that lack trust are incapable of engaging in unfiltered and passionate debate of ideas.  Instead, they resort to veiled discussions and guarded comments.”
  3. Lack of Commitment – “Without having aired their opinions in the course of passionate and open debate, team members rarely, if ever, buy in and commit to decisions, though they may feign agreement during meetings.”
  4. Avoidance of Accountability – “Without committing to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and driven people often hesitate to call their peers on actions and behaviors that seem counterproductive to the good of the team.”
  5. Inattention to Results – “Team members put their individual needs (such as ego, career development, or recognition) or even the needs of their divisions above the collective goals of the team.”

Bottom Line: This book is a must read for anyone leading a team.  It is full of practical ideas for moving your team (wherever you currently find yourselves) towards a more healthy and synergistic relationship. This discussion could not be more relevant and critical in a church environment, where the end game is not profit or revenue, but souls for Jesus.

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