Deconstructing the Dysfunctions of a Team


This post was originally published on New Orleans Entrepreneur Week is a festival celebrating entrepreneurship and innovation in New Orleans. See it all happen this year March 19-24, 2017.

Search for the essential elements for a successful business and you might find things like a detailed financial model, clearly defining your customer, or a solid proof of concept. Whether you are starting your own company, working at a growing organization like The Idea Village, or in a major corporation, I’d argue that the number one element you need for a successful organization is a well-functioning team. Notice I did not say a talented team. Organizations need talented employees that can function well amongst each other as a powerful team. Without that, your financial model and sales plan may be great, but ultimately unsuccessful. A collection of talented employees will not be as successful as a team of people that have learned to balance each other’s strengths and weaknesses to achieve their organization’s goals together.

I recently read The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni and it really changed my perspective on what makes a healthy, successful team. And surprisingly, it has nothing to do with whether or not you actually like each other. The beauty of this book was not necessarily that it was unveiling some revolutionary insights around building a great team but rather that in a simple, fable-style it reminds you of what you probably already know.


Source: The Model, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Here are the three takeaways that I gathered from reading the book that I’d like to share with you:


1. Healthy teams and organizations have hard conversations. Think about a relationship with your mom, significant other, or best friend. Even in a heated conversation, you ultimately get through it to a resolution because you are invested in the success of the relationship and therefore interested in resolving a difference. The same mentality should be applied to professional relationships. For your organization to be innovative, push the envelope, and put out the best possible product, your team should feel comfortable challenging and pushing each other through disagreements and honest discussions.

2Definitions are important. Often words like consensus, conflict, or trust are thrown around with assumed meanings, but the way they are defined makes a difference. Consensus does not mean everyone 100% agrees with every decision, but rather that everyone partakes in a discussion and can fully support whatever decision is ultimately made. Conflict simply means a willingness to have conversations and to address concerns directly. And finally, trust is showing vulnerability – being willing to share weaknesses or concerns with your team and knowing they will help support you. By creating shared definitions for your organization you can level the playing field for individual employee interactions.

3. Accountability really only works well when it is at a peer level. Top down accountability can create a culture that more closely resembles a playground. It is critical for team members to hold their peers accountable directly and not just rely on top management to be the problem solver. This ultimately creates an environment of shared accountability and a support system rather than encouraging the boss to play referee.

The bottom line here is not that this book reveals some hidden universal truth, but rather that we need to remember to look at our colleagues and teammates as humans that are imperfect, working together to achieve inspiring goals. It is this strong foundation that allows an organization accomplish their vision. Organizations are made up of people and your team is what ultimately drives whether or not you succeed. It is critical to create a culture that supports the humans in an organization to create a company that is sustainable and will have longevity beyond the founding team.

*Bonus: if you’re like me and like actionable next steps, they even have a complimentary field guide that gives you activities to try out with your team to begin building a culture that encourages you to overcome the five dysfunctions of a team.

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