Teamwork Makes the Dream Work…Unless the Team is Dysfunctional

This week, I had the great pleasure of facilitating in-person training with a group of junior managers who are working diligently to improve team and unit dynamics among their direct reports. They quickly identified the teams they lead that are functional vs. dysfunctional, and we had some deep discussion about why some teams work and some don’t. 

Patrick Lencioni is a subject matter expert on organizational health and team dynamics, and his model of the “5 Dysfunctions of a Team” is embedded in most training about how and why teams work or don’t. The foundation for the model is Trust, followed by Healthy Conflict, Commitment, Accountability, and Results. 

Source: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni


Trust must come first, and trust isn’t always easy to establish. Effective team leaders build trust through psychological safety, which in turn creates an environment where healthy conflict can sprout. 

Our instinct when we hear Conflict is to physically cringe (unless you’re someone who is wired for it), but Healthy Conflict is simply the open sharing and ideas – allowing space for innovation and continuous improvement through challenging and questioning. Without it, a team will never achieve cohesion and commitment. 

Another way to think about Commitment in teams is buy-in – are all team members bought-in to the shared purpose and goals? Without buy-in, the team will lack internal accountability. 

When team members are not comfortable holding each other accountable to shared purpose and goals, any results achieved maybe by happenstance, not by clear and cohesive teamwork. Results improve exponentially when all members of the team hold themselves and each other accountable. 

If teams have Trust, Conflict, Commitment, and Accountability, but struggle to value collective team success over individual achievement, they will ultimately reach some level of dysfunction. A team of people who are focused on their own independent successes are really just a group. There’s a difference!


So, take a minute to evaluate a team you’re a part of. How many of the critical pillars of functional teams do you have? Is your team stuck in one of the dysfunctions? What insights can you take from Lencioni’s model back to your organization? 


Jillian Miles Massey

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