Five Dysfunctions of a Team Re-imagined
Lead Coach and Facilitator at Choose Leadership | Working with Purpose Driven Leaders and Organisations
5 dysfunctions of a team - psychological safety, candour, engagement, responsibility, impact

Patrick Lencioni’s 5 Dysfunctions of a Team (2002) is a classic framework to better understand why a team may not be delivering hoped for results.

It is a means of diagnosing what might be wrong, and it offers remedial steps which allow a team to move forward more successfully.

The model is built on 5 dysfunctions:

  • Dysfunction #1: Absence of Trust, which leads to…
  • Dysfunction #2: Fear of Conflict, which leads to…
  • Dysfunction #3: Lack of Commitment, which leads to…
  • Dysfunction #4: Avoidance of Accountability, which leads to…
  • Dysfunction #5: Inattention to Results

As time moves on, this approach seems to work less well than it used to. Is it really the case that TRUST and a FEAR of CONFLICT live at the heart of dysfunctional teams?

In my experience teams are typically not dysfunctional, but rather sub-optimal in terms of performance. They are performing, but not necessarily at the level they could. Trust may be part of the reason, but that lack of trust  is likely to be a part of a wider problem: the lack of psychological safety.

The following set of questions need to be answered with “Yes” for psychological safety to be experienced.

  • Can I show up as I am?
  • Can I make mistakes?
  • Can I contribute in a meaningful way?
  • Can I challenge the status quo?

Can colleagues contribute to this lack of trust? Yes, and yet it is more likely that the manager and the organisation’s culture are more significant factors in how this plays out. Why? Because the manager is the single most important creator of a person’s experience in the workplace. And culture is the water we swim in, whether we are conscious of it or not.

The impact of a lack of psychological safety is a reduced level or a complete absence of candour. And candour is more important than conflict when working in complex and uncertain environments.

Conflict is often driven by the emotion of certainty (yes, emotion). It produces robust advocacy (the desire to be understood) rather than contributing to the sharing of perspectives and a culture of inquiry (seeking to understand), with the latter two being crucial for working with complexity and for innovation.

If team members feel safe, they will speak with candour, which in turn creates engagement. Commitment leads to team members feeling responsible – i.e. acting like leaders. Why? Leaders are people who take responsibility for their world.

When you take responsibility in the workplace, you are constantly considering these 2 questions:

What is my intention?

What is my impact?

Context matters. Conflict may work in clear, simple contexts. It can even have a place in complicated contexts. In complexity, there is no good or best practice to argue for. Hence, in this domain curiosity is king.

What do you think about this re-imagining of Lencioni’s classic model?

What do you like?

What’s missing?

For leadership coaching and developement, get in touch

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