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The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team: What They Are & How To Fix Them

five dysfunctions of a team

Multi-year observation of team development and experience of coaching thousands of people and teams towards better performance inspired Patrick Lencioni to single out 5 dysfunctions of a team. These dysfunctions form a pyramid resembling Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, highlighting the interdependence of addressing each dysfunction to achieve optimal team performance. Recognizing and leveraging individual strengths through a comprehensive assessment like the HIGH5 strengths test can provide valuable insights and strategies for overcoming these dysfunctions, fostering trust, open communication, commitment, accountability, and a collective focus on results.

Each dysfunction has a direct impact on a team’s performance and hampers overall productivity. The good news is that you, as a manager, with leadership and management skills can overcome all these dysfunctions.

The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Lencioni

  1. Lack of Trust
  2. Fear of Conflict
  3. Lack of Commitment
  4. Avoidance of Accountability
  5. Inattention to Results

Let us show you how you can resolve them.

1. Lack of Trust

For Lencioni, the lack of trust stems from the fear of being vulnerable. By protecting a sense of invulnerability, individuals inhibit team development, meaningful conflict resolution, and the ability to achieve optimal outcomes. However, understanding and leveraging each team member’s unique strengths through the HIGH5 strengths assessment can help cultivate an environment of trust and appreciation. When individuals recognize and embrace their own and others’ strengths, they can feel more confident in being open and vulnerable, fostering trust within the team.

Teams that lack trust…

  • Conceal weaknesses and mistakes from each other
  • Don’t ask for help or a piece of advice
  • Hesitate to offer assistance when it’s outside their own area of responsibility
  • Hesitate to offer feedback or compliment one’s skills
  • Hate meetings and avoid spending time together.

Solution for Lack of Trust

You can overcome this dysfunction by helping the team members focus on strengths rather than weaknesses in other members and in themselves too. You can know these strengths from a HIGH5 Strengths Test or a team report detailing on the strengths of everyone on the team.

Knowledge of one’s strengths helps to build confidence and will thus free individuals from the fear of showing their weaknesses. Discussion of individual strengths will also inspire team members to recognize and appreciate the skills of their teammates and offer assistance related to what they are good at.

Overcoming this dysfunction, you will get the team that…

  • Feels comfortable working together towards a common goal
  • Can quickly react to issues that are no longer silenced
  • Can prevent mistakes by giving timely feedback and assistance to each other
  • Motivate each other by appreciating each other’s skills and strengths


Pro Tip From HIGH5

To build trust within your team, start by having each member take the HIGH5 strengths assessment. Encourage open discussions about individual strengths and how they complement each other. Foster an environment where team members feel comfortable acknowledging their weaknesses and seeking support from others’ strengths.

2. Fear of Conflict

Workplace diversity contributes to better results, but it also presupposes that people will have different or even opposing ideas about their work. You won’t be able to benefit from diversity if the opposing ideas are held back for fear of conflict.

Teams that fear conflict…

  • Hesitate to voice opinions and concerns
  • Ignore controversial topics even if they have the potential to determine the team’s success
  • Have more interpersonal conflicts and personal attacks
  • Have backchannel communication and politics

Solution for Fear of Conflict

A good test that will help you determine if you have this type of dysfunction in your team is suggesting an obviously bad idea on a team meeting. If your team accepts the idea without any attempt to discuss or oppose it, you have a problem to resolve.

A constructive approach to resolving the fear of conflict is by leveraging the HIGH5 strengths assessment to identify team members with strengths in areas like critical thinking, strategy, or decision-making. These individuals can be assigned as “devil’s advocates” during meetings, encouraging them to find potential flaws or alternative perspectives in suggestions voiced by others. This practice not only promotes healthy debate but also allows team members to appreciate and leverage each other’s strengths, fostering an environment where diverse viewpoints are valued and embraced.

This will show your team that voicing opposing ideas is good for the project. It will also train your team to find faults with the ideas not people that voice them.

You can also use the HIGH5 Strengths Test to determine how each member approaches conflict and coach the team on how to debate with one another based on the unique strengths of the members.

Overcoming the fear of conflict in your team, you will get a team that…

  • Leverages diversity and exploits the ideas of everyone on the team
  • Quickly solves problems
  • Openly discusses critical topics and concerns
  • Minimizes politics


Pro Tip From HIGH5

During team meetings, intentionally assign the role of “devil’s advocate” to individuals whose HIGH5 strengths align with critical thinking, analysis, or decision-making. Encourage them to respectfully challenge ideas and proposals, promoting constructive debate and leveraging the team’s diverse strengths.

3. Lack of Commitment

If the team members avoid open discussion of controversial topics and don’t clearly understand why this or that decision has been taken, they fail to commit to the adopted course of action or team goals overall.

Teams that lack commitment…

  • Lack confidence and are in fear of failure
  • Discuss the same topics or decisions over and over again
  • Make ambiguity and second-guessing thrive
  • Fail to seize opportunity by spending too much time on making a decision

Solution for Lack of Commitment

One effective strategy to overcome the lack of commitment is to leverage the HIGH5 strengths assessment to identify team members with strengths in areas like communication, decision-making, or strategic thinking. These individuals can be tasked with summarizing key decisions made during meetings, along with the rationale behind them. By leveraging their strengths, they can ensure that all team members clearly understand the decisions and the thought process involved, fostering a sense of ownership and commitment to the agreed-upon course of action.

You can also facilitate the commitment by encouraging the team to discuss possible pitfalls and worst-case scenarios; again, clarity is the basis for commitment. Define clear deadlines not only for the actions but for the decisions themselves.

This way, team members will assume responsibility to arrive at the best possible decision and commit to it, rather than just postpone the solution.

When you overcome this dysfunction, your team will…

  • Clearly understand work directions and priorities
  • Share common goals and objectives
  • Be ready to change
  • Not let the fear of mistakes prevent it from moving forward


Pro Tip From HIGH5

Assign the responsibility of summarizing meeting decisions and rationale to team members whose strengths align with communication, decision-making, or strategic thinking. Leverage their strengths as identified by HIGH5 to ensure clarity and understanding, fostering a sense of commitment among all team members.

4. Avoidance of Accountability

People are used to emphasizing personal responsibility for one’s actions. This is why individuals do not like to interfere with what other team members do or don’t do. Still, this is counterproductive for the team, where the common result depends on members’ ability to hold each other accountable for personal decisions and actions.

Teams that avoid accountability…

  • Make high performers discouraged
  • Miss deadlines
  • Make team leaders overwhelmed as the sole source of discipline
  • Remain mediocre

Solution for Avoidance of Accountability

You may resolve this dysfunction by holding regular progress reviews and rewarding team achievements rather than individuals. Make it clear for individuals who hold high standards of performance as their HIGH5 strength that holding others accountable will be appreciated and rewarded. If the team has successfully overcome the fear of conflict, they will be ready to tackle this dysfunction too.

When your team learns to hold each other accountable, they will…

  • Quickly identify potential problems by questioning each other’s actions and approaches
  • Respect their team and the organization for applying the same standards to everyone
  • Avoid excessive management of performance, fines, and corrective actions
  • Pressure poor performers to improve

5. Inattention to Results

This dysfunction of the team stems from the individuals’ focus on their own achievements or status at the expense of collective results. Such focus can make team members do something that does not promote collective goals just to get individual recognition or enhance their ego.

Teams that are not focused on collective results…

  • Lose achievement-oriented team members
  • Get distracted from collective goals easily
  • Fail to develop
  • Lose market competition

Solution for Inattention to Results in a Team

For your team to keep focus on common results, it is vital to have clear metrics to assess results. If the team already knows how to keep each other accountable, they will push each other toward pursuing common, not individual goals. As in the case with the avoidance of accountability, rewards should be based on team rather than individual results and achievements.

If the urge to get individual recognition or please one’s ego is a part of a team member’s personality, it is not necessary to fight or punish it. Instead, use a strengths-based approach and make sure individuals’ zeal aligns well with the common goals.

Once you make your team keep results in their focus, it will…

  • Minimize individualistic behavior
  • Avoid arising distractions
  • Enjoy development and success

Dysfunctions of a Team FAQ

What are the five team dysfunctions described by Lencioni?

Patrick Lencioni is the famous author of the Five Dysfunctions of a Team book. In this text, he reveals the greatest hindrances to a team’s success.

He reveals these hindrances are: a lack of trust, lack of commitment, little integrity/accountability, and not paying enough attention to results (and thus not adapting your delegation and leadership according to results).

What is the Lencioni model?

After describing the five dysfunctions of a team, Lencioni found a way to tackle these issues, which is now referred to as the Lencioni model. With this model, a team leader focuses on building trust among employees.

He ensures individuals trust not only him but their fellow colleagues. Next, he creates consequences for not being accountable or committed. Finally, he strategizes ways to adapt to results when they are known.

How do you fix the 5 dysfunctions of a team?

Start by building trust. Be open, honest, and sometimes even vulnerable with your employees. Next, outline the consequences for not being committed. For instance, tardiness could result in you having to stay late after work.

After that, reward accountable employees and provide negative consequences for those who are not accountable. Finally, address the results with your team together. Find solutions after the results are known, and adapt your strategies when necessary.

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