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Six Steps to Apply Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team


As speakers, facilitators and consultants, we are often asked by our clients to focus on the subject of teamwork. One of our favorite resources is The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. Below are some ideas on how you can apply the principles outlined in Five Dysfunctions to your organization.

Step #1: Read The Five Dysfunctions of a Team cover to cover.

One of the things that amazes our team about business books (or other resources) is the scribble or nod factor. In conversation, if you ask someone, “Have you read The Five Dysfunctions of a Team?,” a common response is for someone to nod energetically and say, “Oh, yes … I have that book.” That’s the nod factor. If they haven’t, they will equally as energetically find the closest thing to write with and scribble the name of the book with a fervent promise to order it the very next day. This is the scribble factor. (Note: Having/buying a book and reading a book are two very different things. Trust us … The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is a worthwhile read.)

Step #2: Identify the take-a-ways for yourself, your team and your organization.

•What was interesting/unique about this book compared to others you’ve read?
•Were there any ideas that you feel are applicable to yourself, your team and/or your organization?
•If so, should others in your organization read this book? Would a book discussion be of value?

Also recommended: Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team – A Field Guide for Leaders, Managers and Facilitators.

Step #3: Answer the tough questions … honestly.

“The fact remains that teams, because they are made up of imperfect human beings, are inherently dysfunctional.” Patrick Lencioni

In the field guide, Patrick Lencioni warns readers, “Before embarking on a team-building effort, your team needs to answer two big questions: (1) Are we really a team? (2) Are we ready for heavy lifting?”

Whether you are leading, building or participating on a team, looking at yourselves as closely as Lencioni encourages you to do can be emotionally taxing. We must always remember that behind our roles and our titles, we are all people with strengths, weaknesses and feelings. If a commitment is made to work on ourselves and our teams, it is fair and necessary for everyone – including leadership – to give it their all. It is critical to honestly assess if you and your team can invest the time and energy in focusing on becoming a more functional team.

Step #4: Identify if a facilitator would be helpful.

In many cases, the type of exercises that allow your team to face the difficulty of vulnerability-based trust, to master conflict, achieve commitment, embrace accountability and focus on results are far more effective with an experienced facilitator.

Step #5: Accept that commitment is forever.

As you embark on your journey, keep in mind that teams are not built by guest speakers, book discussions or retreats. Teams are built over time and it takes work. The most meaningful work that we do that relates to teamwork is a process we call The Catch Your Limit Challenge which focuses on developing leadership and innovation skills at the individual, the team and the organizational level.

Clients that take on this challenge are committed to working on, understanding and growing teams for at least one year and in most cases more. Old habits have to be discarded, new skills need to be introduced, understood and practiced, new habits have to be formed and teachers/coaches of team building have to be developed within the organization to ensure that the next generations of team leaders and team players have the skills they need to be a part of your team-oriented culture.

Step #6: Believe in the power of teamwork.

“As difficult as teamwork is to measure and achieve, its power cannot be denied. When people come together and set aside their individual needs for the good of the whole, they can accomplish what might have looked impossible on paper. They do this by eliminating the politics and confusion that plague most organizations. As a result, they get more done in less time and with less cost. I think that’s worth a lot of effort.” Patrick Lencioni

Teamwork is an on-going, ever changing dynamic. The key to success is that you have leadership that recognizes the importance of teamwork and encourages everyone to constantly work on improving themselves. Another favorite quote from Patrick Lencioni is, “When it comes to helping people find fulfillment in their work, there is nothing more important than teamwork. It gives people a sense of connection and belonging, which ultimately makes them better parents, siblings, friends and neighbors. And so building better teams at work can – and usually does – have an impact that goes far beyond the walls of your office or cubicle.” Although teamwork takes courage, persistence, discipline and emotional energy … it is well worth it!

><(("> Melissa Laughon

Melissa is a ><(("> Team Member at Catch Your Limit, a management consulting firm with offices in Tallahassee, Florida and Richmond, Virginia. To learn more, visit www.catchyourlimit.com.


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