The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

“A Leadership Fable” by Patrick Lencioni
Phil Holmes
August 15, 2013
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is a book by Patrick Lencioni, a prolific business
consultant and author; it was published in 2002 and is widely used
This book was the focus of EDLP 700 – Effective Learning Networks, the first
course in my EdD in Leadership program at VCU this summer
In the spirit of our team’s ongoing development, and to optimize the investment
that the bank is making in my education, I am sharing books, lessons, and
exercises from my program as the opportunity to do so arises
We are not leadership development consultants, but we are HR professionals,
and we spend a great deal of time with our teams across the company. The
lessons from Lencioni’s book may influence our support of those teams
This presentation will draw from and adapt the concepts, graphics, and points that
can be found in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
Lencioni’s “leadership fable” tells the story of the leadership team at
DecisionTech, a hypothetical (and struggling) Silicon Valley technology firm
The story focuses in particular on Kathryn Petersen, the firm’s new CEO
Soon after taking the reins as CEO, Kathryn schedules a series of Napa Valley offsite meetings for her leadership team, during which she explains how effective
teams should operate, and she begins to turn the team around
An outsider from the automobile industry, Kathryn is brought into the company by the
board of directors to make the leadership team work
Through this simple narrative, Lencioni presents his thoughts about what makes teams
work and not work, based on his many years of experience consulting with leadership
Since no teams in the Global Learning Organization are dysfunctional , I have
amended this presentation’s title to “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” and we
will expand our focus to include the five components of successful teams, from
Lencioni’s point of view
Inattention to
Status and Ego
Avoidance of
Lack of Commitment
Low Standards
Fear of Conflict
Absence of Trust
It begins with the
absence of trust…
A Single, Agreed-upon Goal is Impossible to Achieve
Artificial Harmony
Our Ego, not
My Ego
with team’s success
Expectation of
Passionate Ownership of
Clear & Defended
Clear Measurement
Embracing Conflict as a
Positive Tool
Humble Confidence
Output After Step 2 is a Single, Agreed-upon Goal
Access to others,
prompting change
AND humility
“Trust lies at the heart of a functioning, cohesive team. Without it, teamwork is all but
“In the context of building a team, trust is the confidence among team members that
their peers’ intentions are good, and that there is no reason to be protective or careful
around the group. In essence, teammates must get comfortable being vulnerable
with one another.”
“(Trust) requires team members to make themselves vulnerable to one another, and
be confident that their respective vulnerabilities will not be used against them. The
vulnerabilities I’m referring to include weaknesses, skill deficiencies, interpersonal
shortcomings, and requests for help.”
“As ‘soft’ as all of this might sound, it is only when team members are truly
comfortable being exposed to one another that they begin to act without concern for
protecting themselves. As a result, they can focus their energy and attention
completely on the job at hand, rather than on being strategically disingenuous or
political with one another.”
Lencioni, pp. 195-196
Personal Histories Exercise
Team members “… answer a short list of questions about themselves, (such as)
number of siblings, hometown, unique challenges of childhood, favorite hobbies,
first job, and worst job.”
Team Effectiveness Exercise
“This exercise is more rigorous and relevant than the previous one, but may
involve more risk. It requires team members to identify the single most important
contribution that each of their peers makes to the team, as well as the one area
that they must either improve upon or eliminate for the good of the team.”
The Role of the Leader
The most important action that a leader must take to encourage the building of
trust… is to demonstrate vulnerability first… (to) risk losing face in front of the
team, so that subordinates will take the same risk for themselves. What is more,
team leaders must create an environment that does not punish vulnerability.
Lencioni, pp. 198 - 201
Lencioni, P. (2002). The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.