Building teamwork is tough. It doesn’t come naturally to work as a cohesive team where everyone looks out for each other, no  one leaves until everyone is done for the day, the standards are high, and each person holds themselves and others accountable.

In his seminal book, The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, Pat Lencioni covers the key areas of teamwork from a “dysfunctional”  standpoint to emphasize the damage that occurs to teams when they are not managed properly or embraced by the team  members. He structures the five dysfunctions into a pyramid to help understand the impact of each.

The base of the pyramid is  the Absence of Trust. Without Trust, the pursuit of individual goals and status degrades the focus on group success. Trust is the foundation for teamwork because we must have it for transparency, honesty and the ability to say, “I screwed up.”

The next tier of the pyramid working from the bottom is the Fear of Conflict. This is the inappropriate desire to preserve artificial harmony, which in turn stifles opportunities for productive exchange of ideas, strategies and philosophies. Conflict needs to be treated as a good, productive, open discussion of significant ideas and opportunities. When Conflict is feared, many great ideas are never even thought of, let alone shared or implemented.

In the middle of the pyramid is Lack of Commitment. This prevents team members from making decisions they will stick to and diminishes the desire to follow through on decisions. Without Commitment, people might tend to agree to do certain things, but end up going their own direction. Goals are ineffective.  Commitment needs clarity and buy-in to be effective.

The fourth level from the bottom of the pyramid is Avoidance of  Accountability. This is defined as the need to avoid interpersonal discomfort, preventing team members from holding one  another accountable. If Accountability is not a focus of our teamwork, then we can’t reach our goals. Team members need to hold each other accountable for everyone to feel a sense of fairness, loyalty and equity. It is next to the top of the pyramid  because it is one of the hardest to do. Your people probably don’t feel comfortable telling a coworker, “I don’t think you’ve been pulling your weight lately…” They may say this when they are fed up, but it isn’t done in a tactful and frank manner intended to help that person get back on track and enhance the results of the entire team. More than likely, they tell everyone else on the feedlot that they don’t think someone is pulling their weight, but they never tell that person directly, creating a toxic environment. Remember the need for Trust as the foundation of our pyramid? That’s why it is so important at these higher, difficult levels.

The top tier of the dysfunctionality pyramid is Inattention to Results. This is the inappropriate pursuit of individual goals and personal status that erodes the focus on collective success. If we aren’t focused on results our employees won’t know what they are shooting for and become distracted by their day-to-day challenges, getting their own job done and  immediately going home, avoiding opportunities to help others, and simply putting in their time. It’s interesting that if we are good at the four lower levels of the pyramid— Trust, Conflict, Commitment and Accountability—Results happen almost automatically.

This is a very brief summary of Lencioni’s great book. Because the book has been incredibly valuable to many businesses, a new tool has been developed to help teams understand how they score in each of these five areas. The tool is  computerized, providing extensive reports for each individual as well as to the team as a whole, to facilitate the process they must go through to strengthen their team and maximize their full potential.

If you think this tool might be useful for your  managers, employees, family or other groups, contact me and I can walk you through some options.


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