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  • Writer's pictureCanal Sonho Grande

The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team: Learn how to build a high-performance team

Have you ever led or been part of a team that constantly argued? This is bad, right? Well, not always.

Not all discussion is bad and we'll explain why in this post, but mainly we'll talk about the 5 challenges that every team must overcome in order to truly work as a team and have a high performance.

The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team presents its messages throughout most of the book through a story. It is a very light, thought-provoking read that we highly recommend. In addition, it is also recommended by Cristina Junqueira, founder of Nubank.

However, in this post we will not summarize the story. We will present the main concepts so that you can apply them to the team you lead.

If you don't lead a team yet, it will be very valuable knowledge to be applied when you have the opportunity, in addition, you will be able to see situations in your day-to-day where these challenges occur and reflect on how you could solve them.

After these observations, let's get started!

The 5 Dysfunctions of Team are:

5 dysfunctions of teams
The 5 Dysfunctions of Teams

The image above presents the challenges in an intentional pyramid shape. It intends to show that overcoming one is the basis for overcoming the other. So, let's start by talking about each one from bottom to top:

Absense of trust

This dysfunction exists when team members are not comfortable demonstrating their weaknesses and mistakes. In the context of a team, trust is nothing more than believing that everyone has good intentions.

If this trust is unanimous, it is natural for people to feel more comfortable admitting a mistake, pointing out a lack of skill, commenting on interpersonal problems or asking for help.

Ensuring that the team trusts its colleagues is essential for the turnover to be low and the resolution of problems that arise to be efficient.

How to increase your team's confidence? As a leader, the first step is to be the first person to show vulnerability, to show by example that you trust people and that they can trust you.

In addition, there are tools that can help speed up this process, such as:

  • Personal stories exercise: It is an exercise in which each team member answers some simple personal questions, such as points related to hobbies, childhood, experiences in other jobs or functions, number of siblings they have, among others. Talking about personal aspects like these generates empathy and, consequently, discourages behavioral prejudgments.

  • Personality and Behavior Profiles: Another non-judgmental approach that can be great for building confidence is to conduct personality and behavior profile tests. There is more than one type of typological classification, such as Myers-Briggs and DISC, so it is important to make sure that the tool used is reliable in applying the methodology. This activity is great for getting to know each other and for increasing empathy.

  • 360º Feedback: It has been widespread in recent years, but with a much greater risk than other approaches to increasing confidence. This activity must be completely disconnected from the performance evaluation so that it can be carried out in a true and constructive way by all participants.

Fear of conflict

After overcoming the challenge of lack of confidence, it is possible to overcome the fear of conflict. If people are willing to present their ideas, it is natural for conflicts to arise, however, it is important to discern those that are related to ideas for improvement from those that are focused on destructive and personal aspects.

The former are very positive and even necessary. Teams that have healthy conflicts tend to reach better and faster conclusions, that is, they are more efficient.

Destructive and personal conflicts are terrible for the team climate and employee satisfaction and, obviously, should be avoided as much as possible.

As we said before, the first step to end the fear of conflict is the awareness of all team members that conflicts are beneficial and essential for a high-performance team.

As with the first dysfunction, there are some best practices and tools to help with the process:

  • Define conflict miners: Define people responsible for raising important topics where conflicts are inevitable and who are willing to coordinate the discussion until a decision is made.

  • Encourage conflict: Throughout the discussions, team members may see conflict as harmful or counterproductive. One solution to this is for the conversation leader to make it clear that the discussion is being productive and important for making the necessary decision.

Lack of commitment

With the guarantee that constructive conflicts are taking place, it is time to focus on the team's commitment to carrying out the activities.

People tend to commit to something especially when there is consensus on the decision made and certainty that what was decided is correct, which is practically impossible to occur in most decisions. Therefore, these are the two main reasons for a team's lack of commitment.

Both can influence less the more people expose their opinions and participate in the discussion.

The simple fact of being heard, even if the idea is not accepted, is enough to:

  • Accept the fact that there is no consensus in the group

  • Bring confidence in making decisions, even when 100% of the data needed to make them with absolute certainty have not been collected.

To increase the level of commitment, the following good practices can be carried out:

  • Mass message: At the end of all meetings, define which messages must be communicated to other areas of the company and which information must be confidential.

  • Define deadlines: For each aligned action, define specific deadlines. A well-defined and clear schedule is essential for everyone on the team to be on the same page and committed.

  • Consideration of a pessimistic scenario: Another way to promote the plan team's confidence and commitment is to prepare for pessimistic scenarios of the decision being made.

Avoidance of accountability

Having the commitment of the team in the decisions taken, it is time to carry out what was aligned.

Not always everyone on the team delivers what was agreed, with the expected quality or exhibits appropriate behavior, making it necessary to call each other's attention.

The discomfort of having to call a colleague's attention is what avoids accountability for aligned deliveries.

Showing respect also helps to increase motivation. One of the most motivating things is the fear of disappointing a colleague who respects you and you respect them too.

To hold people accountable, the following actions can be taken:

  • Define clear objectives and activities: In order for team members to be able to hold each other accountable, it is imperative that what needs to be done is clear to everyone. Ambiguity should be avoided as much as possible.

  • Creating opportunities to take responsibility: Having specific moments that allow colleagues to be held accountable can be of great help, but it is worth noting that if the objectives and activities are not clear, it will not help at all.

  • Reward the team's performance: When the team is recognized and not just one person, the members tend to charge themselves more.

Innatention to results

The last dysfunction is the lack of attention to results. It seems, at first glance, that it is not related to avoidance of accountability, but in fact it is.

When people don't hold themselves accountable, they tend to focus more on their individual results, taking attention away from collective results.

To help the team focus on collective results, two actions can be taken:

  • Publicly present the expected results: When exposing to the whole team what is expected to be achieved, it is natural for everyone to realize the importance of this.

  • Rewarding people based on the achievement of results: Although it should not be the only relevant factor for rewarding an employee, it is fundamental that a good part of the recognition is linked to the achievement of the goal. Thus, it is very unlikely that team members will not pay due attention to collective results.

These are the main principles presented in the book The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team. We hope they help you and your team understand what hurdles you need to overcome and how you can get started.

Source: Lencioni, Patrick. The 5 dysfunctions of teams


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