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In his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, Pat Lencioni identified team behaviors that reduce positive results in an organization. In my opinion, this book is a must-read for all managers and C-level leaders. As the company leader, you are the core of your team. Your primary responsibility is to motivate and use the team to create customer loyalty; deliver products and services; execute the company strategy and anything else required to achieve goals. Some teams are big, and some employees may have to play on more than one team. This is where problems could arise. Lencioni identified the most common problems that arise in teams and how to overcome them. I’m summarizing here, but seriously recommend reading the whole book. It’s a great read and worth every penny.


1. Absence of Trust

Absence of trust is the hardest dysfunction to overcome and it can be a killer. In some teams, too much time, energy and good ideas are wasted trying to protect reputation. Employees are reluctant to ask for help and to offer assistance to others, causing lower morale and unwanted turnover. As a leader, you can prevent this dysfunction by encouraging open dialogue in meetings. Then, work with your managers to identify situations where employees demonstrate lack of trust and bring it out in the open through discussions that focus on the strength of each team member, and address behaviors that lead to mistrust.


2.Fear of Conflict

If you’ve overcome the absence of trust dysfunction, your team is now mentally prepared to engage in passionate discussion without the fear of judgment. They know that while their idea may not be accepted, at least it will be heard. What is important here is to focus on discussion and resolving issues quickly without resorting to personal attacks. That being said, healthy conflict saves time and results in better decisions. Practice restraint and allow conflicts to resolve naturally. But as the company leader you must set the expectation that personal attacks will not be tolerated. Wipe out this dysfunction by looking for passive-aggressive behavior behind the scenes or back-channel attacks and calling it out.


3.Lack of Commitment

Is commitment lacking in your organization? It may have resulted from a lack of healthy debate in meetings, which led to false consensus and no buy-in. Productive conflict taps into everyone’s perspectives, which allows everyone to confidently buy in and commit to decisions. Build commitment in your company by demonstrating decisiveness, and communicating awareness and acceptance of the fact that some decisions may turn out wrong. Then, cascade messaging to key people in your organization to support follow-through on decisions and ensure that everyone is aligned.


4.Avoidance of Accountability

Accountability is a team effort. Team members need to hold each other accountable when behaviors and actions do not support team goals. Peer pressure is the most effective means of producing performance. Foster accountability by creating clear standards with defined indicators that enable each team member to know that they are doing their part. The more detailed the action plans and the more specific the performance metrics are, the easier it will be to hold people accountable. However, there should be an external fail-safe measure in place so that the team cannot run too far off course.


5.Inattention to Results

Sometimes ego and self-preservation get in the way of company goals, and that results in inattention to results. If teammates are not being held accountable for their contributions to the collective results, they will likely look to their own personal interests. You can avoid this trap by having good measures in place that align an individual’s incentives with that of their team. Set the tone to focus on results and make sure your conversations with individuals are consistent with focusing on organizational results and not encouraging selfish behaviors.

You can significantly increase your team results by improving their performance by nipping these dysfunctions in the bud.

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Larry Rutkowski

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Mo Rousso

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