Is Your Team Dysfunctional?
By Chris Frye, CPA

Last year I was involved in a great leadership development program administered by the Associated Builders and Contractors of Virginia.  The required monthly reading provided a great opportunity to further explore my interests in the area of leadership and its importance in the business environment.  One of my favorite selections was Patrick Lencioni’s “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.”  It was a quick Sunday afternoon read that brought to light some ideas that I felt were relevant to share via our newsletter and blog.  The dysfunctions are applicable to any type of group that might interact as a “team”, whether it be in business, sports, life, etc.

Below is a quick overview of the five dysfunctions and how each can ultimately be detrimental to the success of the group as a whole.  Oftentimes, what starts as a single dysfunction inevitably causes a domino effect that leads to the remaining fallacies occurring as well.

Absence of trust:  This first noted dysfunction is often the most common, and routinely is the root cause of the remaining issues.  Without trust, individuals typically will not feel comfortable opening up to candid discussions, and may be wary of their teammates’ intentions.  This in turn stymies important progress from occurring.

Fear of conflict:  This second dysfunction addresses the inherent nature of humans to avoid conflict.  In many cases, healthy conflict in the form of debating opposing ideas can be quite productive.  Nevertheless, when this conflict is avoided, it is difficult for the group to ever reach a true consensus on important decisions.  Many times individuals simply want their ideas to be heard, even if they are not accepted or adopted in the end.

Lack of commitment:  This third dysfunction is closely related to the previous issue of fear of conflict.  When all stakeholders do not have a chance to voice their opinion, it is tough to get 100% commitment or “buy-in” from the group.  Needless to say, initiatives that lack commitment by those involved are normally destined to fail.

Avoidance of accountability:  The fourth dysfunction addresses the necessity to hold team members accountable for their actions or lack thereof.  In a perfect world, all individuals would hold themselves accountable and take responsibility for their own shortcomings.  However, it typically takes other members of the group to bring these things to light.  While this can be difficult and uncomfortable, it is undoubtedly necessary for the entire team to achieve its goals.

Inattention to results:  The final dysfunction refers to the results that are in the best interest of the team.  Many team members put their own initiatives and agendas first.  Often these “individual results” are not aligned with what the “team” would consider successful outcomes.  While it is inherent for individuals to be mindful of their own success, it is critical that they sacrifice personal goals for what is best for the team’s overall success.

Are these dysfunctions noticeable within members of your organization’s team?  If so, are they keeping your team from achieving its full potential?  As the leader of your organization, it is imperative that you take steps to remedy the dysfunctions to allow the group and the decision making process to thrive.