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The 5 Dysfunctions of Teams, Patrick Lencioni – John Ainley book review

By John, Jun 8 2014 08:00AM

“ If I cannot say no, then my yes means nothing”. Peter Block


One of the most difficult and rewarding aspects of coaching is to help a CEO coach, develop and facilitate their top team. Group coaching contains additional layers of complexity, in that one has to be aware of the feelings of each individual team member and the dynamics operating between them.


Team coaching is not a part of the Meyler Campbell programme, but is a feature of many coaching assignments. In pursuit of improving my effectiveness as a team coach I sought knowledge from two sources: Manfred Kets de Vries and Patrick Lencioni. I have been familiar with Kets de Vrie’s work since the late 1980s and have met and studied under him at Insead (Advanced Management Programme). I have always identified with his ideas and direction but have found his writing style to be a difficult one for me.


Kets de Vries contends that “Humans are driven to be together, but are often mutually repelled by disagreeable qualities of others, a simultaneous need for and fear of intimacy….this is why people find it hard to work in teams”. In my experience most executives work from a belief that human beings are rational and therefore fail to understand and take account of the unconscious dynamics that affect our behaviours.


Lencioni translates this insight into a process for enabling teams to perform. In my experience his approach is effective and valuable. The book is written in the form of a case study and I find this approach distracting, however the key points that the book makes are invaluable.


Lencioni asserts that there are 5 key dysfunctions of teams that need to be considered, in hierarchical order, for the team to be effective: 1. The confidence that peers intentions’ are good and that there is no need to be protective or careful in the group. The leader must demonstrate vulnerability; 2. The group must engage in productive conflict knowing that the only purpose is to produce a better solution. The leader must not protect team members; 3. There must be clear and timely decisions, people need to be heard but don’t need to get their own way. The leader must push for closure, be comfortable that a decision might be wrong and be clear about timescale for implementation; 4. Team members must be willing to call each other on performance or behaviours that might damage the team. The leader should ask the team to be the primary accountability mechanism and finally, 5. There must be an unrelenting focus on objectives that drive outcomes. The leader must be focused on results and reward those that get them.


In discovering Lencioni I have found a coherent and easily understood approach to coaching a team. It is a very useful model for entering into conversations about what an effective team is as well as how to become one.


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