Patrick Lencioni: How To Build Functioning Teams

Five Dysfunctions

“Not finance.  Not strategy.  Not technology.  It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage” (p. vii).

  • When we fail to Focus on Results, we

    • fail to grow
    • fail to win
    • lose achievement-orientated people
    • encourage people to focus on themselves
    • are distracted
  • When we Avoid Accountability, we
    • cause resentment
    • encourage mediocrity
    • miss deadlines
    • burden the team leader
  • When we Lack Commitment, we

    • create ambiguity about goals and priorities
    • contribute to a lack of confidence
    • ignore “the elephant in the room.”
    • revisit previous discussions
  • When we Fear Conflict, we

    • conduct boring meetings
    • encourage a political environment
    • ignore controversy
    • fail to engage team members deeply
  • When we Lack Trust, we
    • hide weaknesses
    • are slow to ask for help
    • are slow to contribute
    • hate meetings
How to Overcome The Five Dysfunctions

From Patrick Lencioni’s Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team.


Trust is not the ability to predict the behaviors of others.  “Trust is all about vulnerability.  Team members who trust one another learn to be comfortable being open, even exposed, to one another around their failures, weaknesses, even fears…Vulnerability-based trust is predicated on the simple—and practical—idea that people who aren’t afraid to admit the truth about themselves are not going to engage in the kind of political behavior that wastes everyone’s time and energy, and more importantly, makes the accomplishment of results an unlikely scenario” (p. 14).

“The idea of putting themselves at risk for the good of others is not natural, and is rarely rewarded in life…” (pp. 16, 17).

“The key ingredient to building trust is not time, it’s courage” (p.18).

Trust-building Tools

Personal histories.  “At a staff meeting or off-site, go around the room and have every member of the team explain three things: where they grew up, how many kids were in their family, and what was the most difficult or important challenge of their childhood” (p. 19).

“When team members reveal aspects of their personal lives to their peers, they learn to get comfortable being open with them about other things.  They begin to let down their guard about their strengths, weaknesses, opinions, and ideas” (p. 20).

The personal history exercise helps everyone overcome “one of the great destroyers of teamwork:” the fundamental attribution error.  “The fundamental attribution error is simply this: human beings tend to falsely attribute the negative behaviors of others to their character (an internal attribution), while they contribute their own negative behaviors to their environment (an external attribution)….“As a result [of going through the personal histories exercise], there is a far greater likelihood that empathy and understanding will trump judgment and accusation when it comes to questionable behavior” (p. 21).


Conflict: “productive, ideological conflict: unfiltered debate around issues of importance to the team” (p. 37).

“If team members are never pushing one another outside of their emotional comfort zones during discussions, then it is extremely likely that they’re not making the best decisions for the organization.”  Conflict is the median between “artificial harmony” and “mean-spirited personal attacks” (p. 38).

Tools for Constructive Conflict

“The best way is simply to talk about it.”  What is their conflict profile based on Myers-Briggs?  How was their view of conflict “shaped by their childhood or maturation process?”  “The point is that when people self-identify and publicly declare their outlook on conflict, they become much more open to adjusting it to whatever the team norms need to be established”  (p. 42).


“Let’s be clear about something: commitment is not about consensus….It’s about a group of intelligent, driven individuals buying in to a decision precisely when they don’t naturally agree.  In other words, it’s the ability to defy a lack of consensus” (p. 51).

Tools for Getting Buy-in

Commitment Clarification.  “With five minutes to go at the end of the meeting—any type of meeting—the leader of the team needs to call a question: What exactly have we decided here today?…By being extremely explicit about what has been agreed upon, a team will be able to identify discrepancies before a decision has been announced” (pp. 54, 55).

Commitment to Key Principles.  “Teams must commit to rules of engagement around timeliness at meetings, responsiveness in communication, and general interpersonal behavior.  But beyond behavior commitment, there is the commitment to other principles such as purpose, values, mission, strategy, and goals” (p. 57).

Commitment to Thematic Goals, a Common Cause.  “At any given time, all the members should know what its top collective priority is, and how they can each contribute to addressing it” (p. 57).


Accountability is “the willingness of team members to remind one another when they are not living up to the performance standards of the group…. For peer-to-peer accountability to become part of the team’s culture, it has to be modeled by the leader…. That means being willing to step right into the middle of a difficult issue and remind individual team members of their responsibility, both in terms of behavior and results” (p. 61).

“The most important challenge…is overcoming the understandable hesitance of human beings to givre one another critical feedback….When teammates stop holding one another accountable, what ultimately happens over time is that they lose respect for each other, and those good feelings begin to fade” (p. 63, 64).

Tools for Practicing Accountability

Team Effectiveness Exercise.  “During an off-site meeting, or any other session where you have well over an hour available, have everyone on the team write down their answers to two simple questions about every member of the team, excluding themselves: ‘

  • What is the single most important behavioral characteristic or quality demonstrated by this person that contributes to the strength of the team?
  • What is the single most important behavioral characteristic or quality demonstrated by this person that can sometimes derail the team?

Once everyone has finished jotting down their answers, the facilitator starts by putting the leader of the team up first” (p. 65).

Meetings and Accountability.  “First, team members must know what each of the others is working on in order to hold them accountable.  The best way to do this is…asking team members to each take no more than thirty seconds to update the team about their three top priorities that week….Second…the team must track progress against its goals and highlight any shortcomings before they become problematic” (p. 67, 68).

“What is it about us that makes it so hard to stay focused on results?  It’s this thing called self-interest.  And self-preservation.  We have a strong and natural tendency to look out for ourselves before others, even when those others are part of our families and our teams.  And once that tendency kicks in on a team, it can spread like a disease, quickly eroding the roots of teamwork until eventually even trust has been destroyed.  How do we avoid this?  The key lies in keeping results in the foreground of people’s minds” (pp. 69, 70).


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