Wrapped in the form of a parable, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable is a leadership model for addressing and reforming five traps teams fall into. By presenting this leadership model as a story, rather than a book of dos and don’ts, the reader is drawn deeper into the lives, emotions, and struggles of the various team members. Lencioni does a masterful job bringing the reader inside the management model he is proposing.
The story takes place within the context of a technology company struggling to succeed in the highly competitive world of Silicon Valley. In spite of the company having many talented and capable top leaders on the executive team, the company is falling behind and missing their marks. Enter the new CEO, a retired business woman in her late 50s brought in to reform the way the team thinks and acts. This new CEO challenges the team’s me-first attitude and instills her absolute commitment to the team and the importance of bringing everybody on the same page. Along the way, she reveals (and the story shows) five dysfunctions that often derail teams, regardless of the skills and abilities of the individuals on the team. Each of the dysfunctions is tied to and builds upon each other.
The Five Dysfunctions:
- An absence of trust – When team members aren’t vulnerable with the group, there is an absence of trust and camaraderie, both of which are necessary for success.
- Fear of conflict – Conflict is seen as something to be avoided rather than pursued. However, good, passionate conflict is necessary for teams to work through. In this, all members of the team can feel like their concerns, opinions and ideas have been heard, and they are then much more likely to buy in to the final decisions and outcomes.
- Lack of commitment – In place genuine buy-in for group decisions, team members may pay lip-service to their commitment to the stated goal, but their hearts and passions will be elsewhere.
- Avoidance of accountability – without trust, healthy conflict, and genuine commitment, team members will avoid accountability for themselves or others on the team… thus lowering the bar and lowering production.
- Inattention to results – since the other four dysfunctions have so demotivated in sense of a collective purpose, team members are left to focus on personal success, states and ego.
As we’ve seen on sports teams, some of the most talented teams and individual stars consistently fall short of ultimate success – a championship. It’s no surprise then that not only have business managers made this book a best-seller, but coaches, pastors, and anyone who leads teams in all fields have also sought to employ Lencioni’s insights for the success of their teams.