The 5 Dysfunctions: What are we doing?

I’m inspired by reading. I think reading helps us to see and understand ourselves and others in novel ways. And if this blog hasn’t made clear by now, I’m kind of a self-help junkie. I believe if we’re not getting better, we’re getting worse.

With that, the latest book I’ve read is Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable. This book was another suggestion by my company’s CMO and it’s a really, really good one. Why? Because this story forces you to think hard about what you’re doing to contribute to the dysfunction in your life’s teams, such as your job, relationships, athletics, etc. I played sports for many years of my life, so I like to consider myself a team player, and still, this book was eye-opening.

But, I won’t pretend this is my story. I’ll share directly from Lencioni’s book. Here they are. The five dysfunctions:


If this is tricky to understand, try reading it this way from the bottom up: The black text and red text are the cause and effect of each other. Where there is an environment lacking in trust, members of the team have a fear of being vulnerable which limits their desire to speak up even when they should. Where there is a fear of conflict, we see artificial harmony among the group. And so on and so forth all the way up to status and ego leading to and being the outcome of inattention to results.

I wonder from here, considering my own personal teams (relationships), what and how much of these dysfunctions have I caused or contributed to. I can mention quickly that I’ve been in plenty of situations where I’ve allowed artificial harmony. Being a non-confrontational person was a huge issue for me that took years to overcome. I’ve also felt invulnerable at times, I’ve been ambiguous with my commitments, and on and on in plenty of circumstances.

Like me, I’m sure you can pull out many examples from your own life as well. And what becomes obvious the further we get into some of these details, is just how easy it is to allow dysfunction to remain in our lives. It’s nice to know, however, that dysfunction can be overcome with communication, openness, and accountability. Because look what happens when these dysfunctions are reversed:


Now, we’re on to something. But how do you get all the way there? How do you understand your motivation, your role, and those of others, with the common goal of creating a successful team? How do you cast ego aside and create an environment where each member feels comfortable to look out and call out the other members? How do we encourage everyone to clearly speak what they mean, and to mean all that they say without belittling or being fearful?

These are the challenges. And like any challenge I pose, it’s with the effort to make us all our best selves. It isn’t easy. Easy is continuing in dysfunction. But at some point, the dysfunction can’t go on. Our emotions won’t allow it. We’ll lash out. We’ll bother others. We’ll be bothered ourselves. And eventually, something will have to give.

So, what are we doing to make it better? Do we know what we’re doing to make it worse? Are we afraid? Are we proud? What’s holding us back from being successful within our teams? And likewise, what is it that propels us to make our teams stronger?

Of course, I have to mention the not-so-pleasant side of this, which is that sometimes our team membership is just not meant to be. Sometimes we can’t, or are unwilling, to function well with this group of people, or this person, or these players. And in these cases, sticking around does nothing more than worsen the situation for all.

But I don’t want to focus too much on that. I want us to try. Even if we determine that the dysfunction is too much, I want us to try first to make it work.

So are you with me? Great! Let’s do it! Let’s encourage each other to step us as leaders under shared goals and help our teams succeed. Let’s understand and motivate and thrive. And let’s do our best to keep it all in perspective, especially when the going gets tough.

That’s all from me. Happy Friday and have a fantastic weekend.




3 thoughts on “The 5 Dysfunctions: What are we doing?

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