Lessons from Patrick Lencioni

I had the pleasure this week of working with Pat Lencioni, Author of 5 Dysfunctions of a team amongst other great books.

Many of you will have read his work or probably at least heard of it.

Having spent some time with the great man and listened to his message, a couple of things stood out for me which I thought I would share…some simple principles to make your teams communicate and work better if you will.

At the bottom of Pat’s Dysfunctions pyramid sits Trust. If a team does not have the ability to trust each other, then nothing else really matters, or I guess it’s not even really a team…its just a bunch of individuals who all meet up to discuss something or other but get very little done.

If you are not willing to trust others that you work with, then you are more likely to hold back and say nothing, unsure of what someone else will think or say reacting to your point. At the very least it means that communication will be absent from the group and the outcome is pretty obvious from there. Pat talks about being vulnerable, not in some wishy-washy feely touchy way, but trusting your colleagues not to belittle your idea or ignore you completely.

Second on the list is Fear of Conflict. I’m sure you have all been in a meeting where some members of the team are more outspoken than others. There is usually one person who quietly sits in the corner either because they are afraid to create potential conflict by disagreeing with something or do not want to upset the apple cart. The problem with this is that without constructive debate, issues can never be resolved and the loudest most assertive person will normally win whether they are right or wrong. Debating a decision, whether it be to increase investment in R&D or reduce headcount, can often lead to a solution much faster than no discussion at all. How many times have you come out of a lengthy meeting only to find that the one point that needed to be dealt with is left unanswered because no forward action could be agreed upon? Fear of conflict comes second on the pyramid because without Trust, individuals will be unwilling to make their point or belive in the path that has been chosen.

The third point on the pyramid is Lack of Commitment. If a decision is made, but members of the group don’t actually buy into the action then all the will in the world will not help to get things implemented successfully. Even if someone disagrees with the decision, it is important that they understand why that decision has been made. Remember that in most cases, people do not mind that there solution was not the one taken, they just need the recognition that their opinion matters and that it had been factored into the outcome.

Avoidance of Accountability is next. This item relates to all of the above. It may be to do with unprofessional behaviour, or substandard performance or occur due to a lack of buy in by someone. If you do not agree with a course of action, hence have no buy-in, then if someone acts counter productive towards said agreed goal, are you likely to call them out on it? Would you rather just let it slide as you never believed in the action in the first place and save yourself the potential for conflict? Every person on a team must be willing to stand up and be counted and also acknowledge and communicate anything that goes against the greater good of the organisation.

The 5th and last point on the pyramid is Inattention to Results. Egos and personal goals will for ever be part of organisations while individuals strive to get promotion and success in their own lives, but this must not be at the expense of the collective goal of the team. If each board member in a company just focused on their core departments and ensured that they were performing to targets or within parameters then you would end up with a group of silos fighting for dominance and recognition. If however, a board/team can recognise that the sum of the whole is more important than the sum of its parts then that’s when a company can really accomplish success.

Pat makes no bones about the fact that each of these 5 steps are simplistic and obvious to many, but countless examples have shown how many times things don’t quite fit together. The best football teams in the world do not rely on individual talent. It’s not a case of pass the ball to the most talented player and hope we score more than they do. It’s when a team gels together and works together to create a unit that we see dominance in a sport.

Having just listened to Jeff Hayzlett, ex Chief Marketing Officer at Kodak this is also apparent. They review all of their product lines and income streams and evaluate their performance. If they are not working correctly they close down that product line/department and redistribute resources to areas that are working. Do you think that these decisions come easily? No…of course not, but by being able to have frank discussions and looking at the bigger picture and getting buy in from heads of departments and the execs they have managed to re-organise their business so that to date all of their product lines are in the top 3 products in that given market sector.

If you have not read the book, I can highly recommend that you should get yourself a copy – The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team.


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