Teams are complex. They are made up of individuals that each have their own story, their unique background, their values, motivators and drivers. Most teams have specific issues, and managing effective teams can be difficult. To build an effective team, a manager should be aware of the most common problems in a team.

Patrick Lencioni (The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, 2002) has defined five dysfunctions of teams. Let’s explore each dysfunction and what a leader can do to drive change.

1) Absence of Trust

What does it mean if there is a lack of trust in a team? They potentially don’t know each other well. They might not have spent much time to bond and learn about each other. It means that the team is not really comfortable with sharing personal details, being vulnerable, admitting mistakes, or asking for help.

What to do?

As a leader, you should spend time getting to know every team member and support them to understand each other as well. What are their motivators and drivers? What are everybody’s strengths? Start to build trust.

And most importantly lead by example. If you share your mistakes, if you ask openly for help, your team will start to see that that’s the norm and that it’s okay.

When they make mistakes, make sure that you’re there in a supportive way and coach them through it. Empower them to find the solution themselves. 

Slowly, you will start to build trust with and within the team. It takes investment, and it takes empathy.

2)Fear if Conflict

The second dysfunction is the fear of conflict. If there is no trust in the team, then there’s also not the ability to engage in productive and effective discussions and conflict. Team members might not voice their opinions effectively. And if a conflict arises, it can often get out of hand.

What to do?

It’s important to acknowledge and teach the team that each team needs conflict to have healthy debates and drive for the best conclusions. 

As a leader, invest in your learning to understand more about conflict management and how to drive positive conflict in your team. Share that conflict is normal, and nobody has to be worried about it. Encourage different point of views and give feedback regularly. When you see a problem or spot a potential problem, approach the team members straight away. Don’t wait for the yearly or quarterly performance review, speak to them regularly, share what you observe and give them recognition.

3)Lack of Commitment

The third dysfunction is lack of commitment. And this can come through the lack of discussion in meetings due to the fear of conflict. But it also happens when clarity is lacking about the outcome of the meeting, the actions, responsibilities or targets.

What to do

To provide that clarity, summarize key points and decisions after every meeting. Provide a clear path forward. How does this fit into the bigger picture and vision for the team?

Follow up regularly, provide updates along the way and communicate consequences for the outcomes, if the team does not commit.

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4)Avoidance of Accountability

The fourth dysfunction is the avoidance of accountability. Without trust, fear of conflict and no commitment, it is also impossible to hold each other accountable. Individuals won’t provide feedback, and won’t keep others accountable to the required standard. This lead to bad results and performance as well as unacceptable behaviours.

What to do

The key as a leader is to ensure your team feels committed as described in the first step. From there, make sure that you lead by example. Regularly follow up on tasks and show the consequences of the performance on the project. Address performance issues and call people out for behaviour that is not acceptable.

5)Inattention to results

The fifth dysfunction is that team members do not identify themselves with the team goals. If all the previous dysfunctions are visible in your team, then team members might also put their personal goals above the team or company goals. In the end, we all want what’s best for us. They won’t be motivated by the company goals and might not deliver great results.

What to do

As a leader, make sure you address the other dysfunctions first. Build the trust, lead healthy conflict, make people commit and feel accountable, and then communicate the goals regularly. Connect the goals to your purpose and vision. The key here is to inspire the team. Make them believe what you believe and to see why this goal is so important. 

And most importantly help them to see how their goals align with the company goals. How can they achieve their personal goals while working towards the team goal?

Celebrate success regularly to make everybody excited for what they have achieved, reward the team and make sure that you always give recognition.

Final thoughts

In summary, it takes a great leader to create a great team. To manage the five dysfunctions of a team by Patrick Lencioni, it takes a lot of empathy and patience. 

Leaders have to invest in understanding the team and their motivators and drivers. Leaders also need the ability to be assertive and to have the courage for the tough conversations. 

I have recently released a podcast episode about this topic. Check it out here.

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