Overcoming The Five Dysfunctions of a Team | Notes

Patrick Lencioni. Overcoming The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Field Guide for Leaders, Managers, and Facilitators. 2005.


…a team is a relatively small number of people (anywhere from three to twelve) that shares common goals as well as the rewards and responsibilities for achieving them. Team members readily set aside their individual or personal needs for the greater good of the group. (9)


…when team members reveal aspects of their personal lives to their peers, they learn to get comfortable being open with them about other things. (20)

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 attribute their own negative behaviors to their environment (an external attribution). (21)


That’s not to say that some teams that lack trust don’t argue. It’s just that their arguments are often destructive because they are laced with politics, pride, and competition, rather than humble pursuit of truth. | When people who don’t trust one another engage in passionate debate, they are trying to win the argument. They aren’t usually listening to the other person’s ideas and then reconsidering their point of view; they’re figuring out how to manipulate the conversation to get what they want. (37)

…if team members are not making one another uncomfortable at times, if they’re 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. (38)


Teams that commit to decisions and standards do so because they know how to embrace two separate but related concepts: buy-in and clarity. Buy-in is the achievement of honest emotional support. Clarity is the removal of assumptions and ambiguity from a situation. (51)

What exactly have we decided here today? (54)

It is amazing to me how a group of intelligent, highly educated adults, all of whom speak the same language, can sit in a room for two hours of discussion, and then leave the room under the false impression that everyone is on the same page. Such is the nature of nuanced communication, I suppose. (54)

Even the most passive executives will call out their concerns about a decision if they know they’ll be expected to go out and communicate it publicly. (55)


I define accountability as the willingness of team members to remind one another when they are not living up to the performance standards of the group (61)

It is direct, peer-to-peer accountability, and it is based on the notion that peer pressure and the distaste for letting down a colleague will motivate a team player more than any fear of authoritative punishment or rebuke. (61)

…most leaders I know have a far easier time holding people accountable for their results than they do for behavioral issues. This is a problem because behavioral problems almost always precede results. (62)

Of course, 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. Still, human beings often choose a path of slow, uncomfortable decline rather than risk a dramatic drop in morale caused by an ugly incident. (64)

…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 our team?

What is the single most important behavioral characteristic or quality demonstrated by this person that can sometimes derail the team? (65)


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. (69)

Far too many teams assess their success using subjective and unreliable means like politics (“Is the CEO happy with us this month?), feelings (“I feel like we’re doing pretty well right now”), or outside opinion (“Did you see what that analyst wrote about us in his industry report?”) — but none of this really matters. | Results-oriented teams establish their own measurements for success. (71)

On strong teams, no one is happy until everyone is succeeding. (75)

…many leaders who choose the teams they lead over the ones they belong to are doing so because they like being leaders more than they like being followers. (77)


According to Harvard’s Chris Argyris, those two types of communication are advocacy and inquiry. Basically, advocacy is the statement of ideas and opinions; inquiry is the asking of questions for clarity and understanding. When a group gets too large, people realize they are not going to get the floor back any time soon, so they resort almost exclusively to advocacy. (85)


Week 1: Preliminary Work for the Initial Off-Site

  • Five Dysfunctions Team Assessment
  • Behavioral Profile

Week 2: Initial Off-site

  • Overview (1/2 hour) and Assessment of the Five Dysfunctions (1 hour)
  • Building Trust (2-4 hours)
    • Personal Histories Exercise (15 min.)
    • Behavioral Profile Exercise (2-4 hours)
    • Trust Review
  • Mastering Conflict (one or two hours)
    • Conflict Profiling (30-60 min.)
    • Conflict Norming (30 min.)
    • Conflict Resolution Obstacles (30-60 min.)
  • Achieving Commitment
    • Clarification of Team and Organizational Principles
  • Embracing Accountability (1-2 hours)
    • Team Effectiveness Exercise
  • Focusing on Results (1 hour)
    • Establishment of a Team Scoreboard
  • Off-Site Wrap-Up and Follow-Up
    • Commitment Clarification
    • Cascading Communication
    • Initial Off-Site Follow-Up
  • (Immediately after the off-site ends, it is critical to distribute important notes to team members as a confirmation of the commitments they made, and for their ongoing reference and use during the months to follow.)

Week 3: First Review Session

  • Take a few minutes to review their behavioral and team profiles and tie up any loose ends that were left.

Weeks 4-12: Ongoing Reference and Discussion

Week 13: Quarterly Off-Site Review

  • Review assessments and profiles
  • Assess progress made by individuals and the team as a whole.
  • Discussion of the level of productive conflict.
  • Second pass at the Team Effectiveness Exercise.
  • Progress on the team’s goals.

Weeks 14-25: Ongoing Reference and Discussion

Week 26: Final Off-Site Review

  • Assess progress made over the course of the past six months.
  • Reevaluation of the team using the same team assessment that was completed during Week 1
  • New areas for improvement should be identified and action plans for the future should be put in place.

Week 27 and Beyond

  • Like a marriage, a team is never completely finished developing itself. And so the team should be constantly addressing areas of deficiency, and it should be periodically stepping back to assess progress.


Review of the Short-Form Team Assessment

  1. Share individual responses.
  2. Average the team’s responses to determine overall score for each dysfunction.
  3. Ask the group for insight. Why did they score the way they did.
  4. Record response on flip charts for reference.
  5. Clarify any misunderstandings or confusion.

Personal Histories Exercise

  1. Three questions
    • Where they grew up
    • How many siblings they have and where they fall in the sibling order (oldest, youngest, or whatever)
    • What was the most difficult or important challenge of their childhood
  2. What did you learn about the other that you didn’t know before?

Behavior Profiling

  1. Complete MBTI.
  2. Present overview of model allowing for questions and clarifications.
  3. Present MBTI scores and help identify their own true type by reviewing multiple sources of data (such as indicator results, qualitative assessments, and other reading material.)
  4. Each team member to read their profile, and description.
  5. List all types on a white board. Discuss areas of consistency, and identify “team type.” Discuss ramifications.
  6. Identify potential team weaknesses or blind spots. Acknowledge strengths too.
  7. Read more comprehensive description of their own type. Choose one or two areas they would like to improve about themselves
  8. Within a week of this exercise, have team members go back to the teams they lead and discuss MBTI.

Conflict Profiling

  1. Review behavioral profile from trust exercise, highlighting implications specific to conflict.
  2. Have team members share implications along with other influences in their lives, including family and life experiences as well as cultural backgrounds.
  3. Discuss similarities and differences, as well as potential implications.

Conflict Norming

  1. Have team members write down individual preferences related to acceptable and unacceptable behaviors around discussion and debate. Areas might include use of language, tone of voice, emotional content, expectations of involvement and participation, avoidance of distractions, or timeliness of response.
  2. Each team member review their preferences with the rest of the team, while someone captures key areas of similarity and difference.
  3. Discuss collective preferences, paying special attention to areas of difference. Arrive at a common understanding of acceptable and unacceptable.
  4. Formally record and distribute behavioral expectations around conflict.

Conflict Resolution Model


Once a given obstacle is identified, a team can then either address it or, more likely, acknowledge its existence and agree not to let it color the nature of the conversation.

Conflict Resolution Exercise

  1. Choose an issue that the team has wrestled with recently–one that was (or continues to be) particularly difficult to resolve. The more difficult and complicated the issue, the better.
  2. Have each member review prior discussions of the issue and analyze them according to the Conflict Resolution Model, looking for as many as possible of the different obstacles that were present during discussions.
  3. Compare each team member’s answers, discussing the impact that various obstacles had on the decision-making process.
  4. Discuss how to address these obstacles in the future (or immediately if the example issue remains unresolved) to improve the way the team engages in conflict and makes decisions.

Depth-Frequency Conflict Model

[X-axis = Frequency, Y-axis = Depth]

Rare and Shallow Conflict – Lower Left
Rare but Substantive Conflict – Upper Left
Frequent but Shallow Conflict – Lower Right
Frequent and Substantive Conflict – Upper Right

  1. Recreate the model on blank sheet, writing their name at top.
  2. Pass the sheet to the person on their left who then places an “X” on the chart in the location that best indicates their perception of how the person listed at the top engages in conflict and passes the sheet along to the next member, and so on around the room.
  3. Have team members review their own charts and indicate to the team their style according to the aggregate input of their team members
  4. Plot all team members’ results on a model drawn large enough to fill a flip chart.
  5. Discuss collective implications with special attention to areas of clear similarity and difference.

Thomas Kilmann Model

  1. http://www.cpp.com or http://www.kilmanndiagnostics.com/overview-thomas-kilmann-conflict-mode-instrument-tki
  2. X-axis = Cooperativeness, Y-axis Assertiveness.
    1. Lower Left: Avoiding
    2. Upper Left: Competing
    3. Lower Right: Accommodating
    4. Upper Right: Collaborating
    5. Middle: Compromising

Commitment Clarification

  1. “What have we agreed upon today?”
  2. Team members provide individual responses.
  3. If there is no consensus, the leader then provokes further discussion to eliminate any discrepancies and clarify commitments and agreements.
  4. Record all commitments on the board and has all team members record them as well

Achieving Commitment

  1. Decide which of the commitments and agreements should be communicated to the rest of the organization.
  2. Within 24 – 48 hours, communicate commitments and agreements to the rest of the teams.
  3. Note that it is critical for cascading communication to occur either in person or [digitally live] so that employees can ask questions for clarification, and so that they get a clear sense of their manager’s level of commitment.

Clarification of Team Principles

Have the team discuss and come to resolution around the following issues — and any others that the team deems important.

  • The structure and schedule for meetings.
  • Acceptable behavior during meetings (for example, laptop use).
  • The preferred methods for communication (for example, e-mail, voice mail, and so on) and the norms around how to use them.
  • The timeliness of responding to one another using those methods.
  • The use of common resources, human and otherwise.
  • The availability of team members during nonwork hours
  • The level of freedom in which team members can engage one another’s staffs.
  • The extent to which being on time is a priority.

Clarification of Organizational Principles

Have the team discuss and come to resolution around some or all of the following, depending on the nature of the team and its place in the organization.

  • Core purpose
  • Core values
  • Business definition
  • Strategy
  • Goals
  • Roles and responsibilities

Establishment of Thematic Goal

What is the single most important goal that we must achieve during this period if we are to consider ourselves successful during that time? The goal should be quantitative, but rather a general achievement. Examples of common thematic goals include the following:

  • Improve customer satisfaction
  • Get expenses under control
  • Increase market awareness
  • Launch a new product
  • Strengthen the team
  • Rebuild the infrastructure
  • Grow market share

The Challenge of Deprioritization. …the point of having a thematic goal is to ensure that the entire team places extra emphasis on a single area of priority, so that when push comes to shove, everyone understands what matters most. This helps team members avoid pulling in different directions, which leads to paralysis, frustration, and a collective silo-mentality. (137)

The Specialist’s Dilemma. The key to overcoming this is getting everyone to understand that they must wear two different hats when they are together as a team. One of those hats, and the most important one, is that of “generic team member.” (137)

Determining the Length of Period.

Team Effectiveness Exercise

  1. Have all team members answer the following questions about each member of the team other than themselves:
    • What is that person’s single most important behavioral quality that contributes to the strength of this team?
    • What is that person’s single most important behavioral quality that detracts from the strength of the team?
    • (Note: Team members should write down their answers so that they can commit to and remember their responses, and are not tempted to change them based on what others have said.)
  2. Beginning with comments about the leader of the team, have all team members read their positive responses, one by one, until everyone has finished.
  3. Ask the leader to respond to what people have said. (“Any surprises? Any questions for clarification?”)
  4. Continuing to focus on the leader, have all team members read their negative responses, one by one, until everyone has finished.
  5. Continue with this sequence for every team member of the team.
  6. When all team members have received input from their peers, have them each summarize aloud for the team the one or two key take-aways that they will work on individually. Have them e-mail those take-aways to the leader.
  7. At the next team off-site, have the members each report on the progress they’ve made in regard to each of their areas for improvement. Solicit input from team members about their observations.

Establishment of Team Scoreboard

  • Have the team discuss and agree upon the handful of supporting objectives that must be accomplished if the thematic goal is to be achieved.
  • In addition to these supporting objectives, a team’s scoreboard should include a few standard operational objectives such as revenue, expenses, employee turnover, or whatever essential metric is key to the business on an ongoing basis.

Initial Off-Site Follow-Up

  1. Team facilitator or team leader should consolidate the notes from the meeting and distribute them to the team. (This should include things like the team’s personality profiles, comments from the assessment discussion, a team conflict profile, any goals and decisions that were made, and so on.)
  2. Individual team member should summarize their personality profiles into three bullet points or less — things that it would be helpful for the team to keep in mind.
  3. Team members need to summarize the feedback from the Team Effectiveness Exercise.
  4. Team members should send their summaries to the facilitator for consolidation and distribution to the team.


MBTI and Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument: www.cpp.com

Social Style Model: www.tracomcorp.com

DiSC: www.inscapepublishing.com

Insights: www.insights.com

RightPath Profiles: www.rightpath.com

TRI–Tmperament Research Institute: www.tri-network.com

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