Malfunctions of a team – Part 1 | Featured Columnists


Is your work team dysfunctional? Are you ready to find out?

In 2002, consultant Patrick Lencioni published “The Five Malfunctions of a Team”, and since then he has been a key resource for managers. I have featured Lencioni in a few leadership conferences over the years, and his work is brilliant.

Why teams are not meeting expectations

One of the first points raised by Lencioni is one that surprises most executives. Let’s see how you react to it. He says: “You can’t have a winning team if you just build it around great people. “

It’s football season now, so let’s use that as an example. Can a highly motivated team of good players, using a solid game plan and executing that plan with precision, beat a team of elite players, but whose game plan and execution are not as good, nor their motivation?

If you said “Yes”, you are correct. Every week in the National Football League there are upheavals where one less talented team wins over another that was supposed to easily defeat them. Live2Lead speaker John Maxwell wrote a book several years ago, “Talent is never enough”. Hard work, dedication, having a plan, being consistent – everything is a factor of success.

Malfunction # 1 – Lack of Trust

Lencioni’s says that without trust, teamwork is almost impossible. Without trust, how can employees open up to each other about their weaknesses and mistakes? Without confidence, how can failure be a stepping stone to success, instead of a platform for blame?

Without trust, morale will be low and staff turnover will be high. This is not an opinion … it is a guarantee.

Trust unites workers

People who trust each other want to work together, are more productive, more supportive and stay employed longer.

Lencioni says that trust is the glue of the organization. This gives workers confidence that those around them have good intentions and that they have no reason to fear someone will catch them off guard.

Is the “trust glue” easy to make?

Frankly, this is not the case. Especially in the current working climate. It is more difficult for us to trust others than before. We have to see how others handle situations and with us.

Plus, while trust takes time to build, bad deeds can lose it in a flash.

So how do you begin to sow the seeds of confidence? It has to start with the top leadership. When leaders are the first to step in and demonstrate their willingness to be open and admit mistakes, others will feel more comfortable doing the same. The workers will see you in a positive light and they will have a renewed interest in following you.

It’s not a quick fix

Too many managers are looking for instant solutions to problems like this. Building this new glue is always a person-to-person process, and trust has to be earned with constant effort over weeks, months, and years.

The glue is between individuals and, by extension, teams and the organization. These are people who invest faith in one another.

So how long will it take?

I can answer this question with another question: how far enough is trust?

The reality is that when you stop planting those seeds, you pull the plug on confidence, and it slowly drains. Planting seeds is a matter of corporate culture. It is a building block of leadership. You never want to stop.

You cannot harvest until you put seeds in the ground. Not one seed, but several. Then you feed them daily. Over time you see the growth.

Try that

Here is a Lencioni exercise that might work for you.

1. Ask all team members to identify the most important contribution each of their peers makes to the team. One option to this is, how does each peer add value to the team?

The goal is for each individual to understand that their good work is noticed and appreciated by their colleagues.

2. Next, each team member identifies the one thing they would like to improve for the good of the team.

Start a good discussion and encourage everyone to participate.

Next Tuesday we will discuss another team dysfunction, fear of conflict.

Make sure you spend some time this week scattering the seeds. Someone will be glad you did.

Jerry Roberts provides daily business and workplace commentary at 7:20 a.m. on The Ray Gibson Show on The Point, 93.3 FM. He can be contacted at, or email [email protected].

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