The Five Dysfunctions Of a Team - Patrick Lencioni
This book has been around a while now: first published in 2002. So a very fitting choice for The Forton Group to review in this, our 15th year of being in business. It's described as a “Leadership Fable” and, I have to be honest, that put me off. Other books in this same genre have come over as being just too cheesy for me. However, it was recommended by someone I trusted, so I persevered. I quickly found myself absorbed into the story. The characters were plausible and the scenario terribly familiar!
It’s about a person taking on a new role as CEO of a Silicon Valley start-up, and having to deal with a dysfunctional exec team, including her displaced predecessor. It’s a tough journey she goes on with an ultimately successful ending (sorry to spoil the plot!) with many struggles along the way. There’s some interesting twists and surprises as to who succeeds and what changes are made to people and their roles.
I made many links with my own experience of managing teams and saw in the story parallels with a number of clients we’ve worked with. I remember once as a management team trying to get colleagues to agree to the annual pay round for their teams. One person in particular refused to accept that his team were anything but the best and would not budge on his comparatively overinflated bid. He thought it was his job to defend his team, but, as the book points out so lucidly, he could only truly be loyal to one team – and that should be the one with his peers.
The book works well as a guide to how to create better teams. The 5 dysfunctions Lencioni identified are clearly described, with the practical example of the fictitious company serving as a good vehicle to show how to address each one, and, importantly, in what order.
It all starts with trust – or an absence of! The solution proposed is to reduce the need to feel invulnerable. This chimes well with a response I gave recently at a talk, to the question of what was one thing that would improve leadership. I suggested surgically removing the ego from all our leaders. Within a team, getting to know each other means knowing our strengths, but also where we might need support. The best teams complement each other’s skills
The other factors are a fear of conflict, a lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability and an inattention to results. It all seems so obvious and yet we all know of teams that are failing precisely because they miss these obvious factors.
At the end of the story, the book contains some great ideas that can help you as a team improve, or as a team coach, help your clients
The Table Group, the company that Patrick Lencioni founded, are very generous with their resources on their web site and you’ll find useful back up materials there. We were very grateful to Mike Snelling for giving us how time to be interviewed about the book. You can hear this in our back catalogue of author interviews