Book Reviews

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

by Patrick Lencioni

Summary Notes by Doug Smith
[Words in this type of parenthesis are my thoughts, not necessarily the authors.]

  • Teamwork begins with trust and trust requires overcoming our desire for “invulnerability”.  Trust occurs when people feel they can share information with others and they will not use that information to hurt them.  In other words, we need to make ourselves vulnerable, to be willing to stick our necks out and forthrightly express our perspective.  Without trust people engage in politics.  And what is politics…“Politics is when people choose their words and actions based on how they want others to react rather than based on what they really think”.
  • Without trust, there is a fear of conflict or a fear to confront the reality that we find ourselves in. This, in turn, leads to artificial harmony.  The kind where everyone in the meeting agrees to something, but the minute they walk out of the meeting they do something different.
  • Without effective conflict, there is a lack of commitment and failure to buy into decisions.  Ambiguity becomes the norm. (“How do we measure sales and cash flow anyway?”)  When people don’t unload their opinions and don’t feel like they have been listened to, they really won’t get on board. [No involvement, no commitment.  If they don’t weigh in, they won’t buy in.]
  • Without commitment, there can be no accountability, which leads to low standards.  Effective teams hold each other accountable for what they sign up for, for high standards of performance and behavior.  This requires peers to go through “interpersonal discomfort” of confronting one another.
  • Without accountability, team members don’t focus on results of the team but tend to focus on individual recognition and attention at the expense of the team.
  • The author illustrates this as follows:

Teamwork really is the ultimate competitive advantage.  In fact, it may be the only competitive advantage. How well we can engage the collective minds of our employees in the pursuit of a worthy vision.  A quote from Lencioni’s book captures it well – “If you could get all the people in the organization all rowing in the same direction you could dominate any competitor, in any market, in any industry, at any time.”  To do this we have to create an environment where everyone demonstrates trust, they engage in effective conflict, they commit to group decisions; they hold peers accountable and focus on the results of the team and not their own egos.

[I believe that people are capable of thinking, dreaming and most importantly acting in a collectively cohesive manner to achieve incredible results.  The true act of leadership is making this happen.  Leadership is not about title or image; it is about enabling people to perform.]