Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni and FACTS Coaching.

In preparation for a workshop I’m delivering I’ve been reading “The five dysfunctions of a team” by Patrick Lencioni. This book has received a lot of interest and seems to be a core text around team work. It struck me that the Zone Of Uncomfortable Debate (ZOUD), speaking your truth and the ‘A’ of FACTS, Accountability, which John and I describe in “Challenging Coaching” feature highly in this team model.

The book is written in two parts, the first being a management fable of a team struggling to work together. The second part of the book describes the dysfunctional model and so elements of what makes for a functional team.

Patrick Lencioni says “genuine teamwork in most organisations remains as elusive as it has ever been” which is interesting given the amount of research and books written about teamwork over many years. He also says that “organisations fail to achieve teamwork because they unknowingly fall prey to five natural but dangerous pitfalls.” These are the dysfunctions:

  • Absence of trust – this comes from the unwillingness to be vulnerable, not being open about mistakes, skill deficiencies and weaknesses. As a result there is no foundation for trust.
  • Fear of conflict – the team does not engage in unfiltered and passionate debate.
  • Lack of commitment – without airing their views in open debate, team members rarely buy in to decisions.
  • Avoidance of accountability – without committing to a clear plan, team members can not be held accountable.
  • Inattention to results – the final outcome is failure to achieve as individual needs or divisional needs are held as more important than collective goals.

The second dysfunction, fear of conflict, links very closely to what we describe in “Challenging Coaching” as the need to speak your truth and to enter the ZOUD. Patrick Lencioni says “All great relationships, the ones that last over time, require productive conflict in order to grow.” As a result, functional teams use conflict productively; in a coaching sense they enter the ZOUD and find the optimal level of tension to produce the best possible solution. There a no grudges, just an energy to move forward. Interestingly Patrick Lencioni says “…those that avoid conflict actually doom themselves to revisiting issues again and again without resolution.”

In “Challenging Coaching” we emphasise the need for high support and high challenge, the need to push and challenge and enter the ZOUD to sustainably address the issue at hand, to deal with the elephant in the room, and achieve permanent change. This clearly is as important for a team as it is for an individual coachee.

The fourth dysfunction is avoidance of accountability; the unwillingness of team members to maintain high standards of performance and to “call” their peers on actions and behaviour counterproductive to the good of the team. Patrick Lencioni says this is a part of the general tendency to avoid difficult conversations “Members of great teams overcome these natural inclinations opting instead to “enter the danger” with one another.” It is as if people are not held accountable for fear of damaging the relationship, but Patrick Lencioni says in great teams relationships are improved by holding each other accountable and having the expectation of high performance. Again we must be willing to enter the ZOUD and speak our truth openly and “call” our coachees or teammates to maintain accountability. In a system thinking sense this accountability is broader than the individual, it is accountability to the team, to the organisation and beyond.

What is clear is that challenge, conflict, tension, ZOUD and accountability are crucial in individual, team and organisational situations. The FACTS of teamwork.

Your thoughts on this are welcome, please comment on this discussion on our Challenging Coaching Linked In group.

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