The second book for Business Sherpa Group (BSG) Book Club was The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. The book was chosen so we could reflect on the learnings for BSG clients and the BSG ecosystem. We focused on how the book provided a model for behaviour which could be a useful tool within the many teams we are all a part of. For example, in her work within BSG as a Family Business Advisor and Coaching Associate, Cathy Holuk already applies elements from Lencioni’s book; one can imagine the nuances of the issues within a professional team that is also a family!
Basics of the Book
“Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.”
– Patrick Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
Based on the quote above, it’s easy to surmise that the book is about teamwork and how to work on the dysfunctions all teams have (some more than others!).
The book is told as a fable. Kathryn is the new CEO of a tech company in Silicon Valley that is failing despite having the best product and a group of top-notch executives (who aren’t working as a team). Kathryn’s job is to bring the executive team together and turn Decision Tech around from being one of the worst places to work in Silicon Valley. She does this through a series of fictional off-site retreats, where the five dysfunctions model provides the structure for conversations that eventually lead to an executive team working together and a thriving company.
The model starts at the bottom and you work your way up to the top:
Absence of Trust
- A team must feel safe to be vulnerable
- Vulnerability builds trust
- One person can destroy an entire team’s trust
Fear of Conflict
- Fake harmony stifles productive conflict and ideological differences
- No productive conflict means there is no trust
Lack of Commitment
- Lack of commitment and fear of being wrong leads to no decisions or half-decisions
- People don’t stick to decisions they’ve made
Avoidance of Accountability
- We would prefer to be nice than hold others accountable for their behaviour
Inattention to Results
- Desire for individual credit rather than collective success
1. The Model
As with most business books, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is a model that provides a framework for a conversation and should not be considered the be all and end all. It is a fable and should be taken as such. Let’s face it, Kathryn the CEO always seems to say the perfect thing at the perfect time (a little hard to live up to that standard). Often times when reading business or leadership books we can strive to get the exact same results. The BSG team discussed how important it is to remember we’re all human and each situation has its own nuances and particularities. What this book provides is a model and way to discuss each situation.
2. Hiring is Important
On an episode of Patrick Lencioni’s podcast, he argues that it would be less costly to take a trip across the country with a potential new hire than hire them and they not be a fit. This is especially the case with leadership hires. He argues for making the hiring process less traditional (e.g. a trip across the country) so you can assess whether the person will be an effective team member. A simpler way we can do this (than taking a trip) is including behavioural questions in the interview process that assess a candidate’s willingness and ability to behave in ways that are consistent with team expectations. When hiring and onboarding employees and associates here at BSG, we try to make it clear what it means to be part of the team, what are our acceptable behaviours and what collective results we are striving towards.
3. So Many Teams!
A struggle for BSG is that our employees and associates are part of many teams. We are part of the overall BSG team, sub-teams and also a part of our client teams.
As members of the BSG team, the book club participants discussed having collective goals or accountabilities. For example, associates’ accountability could be to add a useful template or tool to their practice-specific tools folder to help build our community of learning and support. For BSG as whole, the group discussed the power of an overarching goal that can be shared by us all. In a client situation, we can draw attention to issues in teamwork and work with the client to address them.
Overall we enjoyed the book, its content and how easily it was to read. If you are interested in the principles discussed in this book and how they could be applied in a realistic way in your team, our General Manager Todd Luckasavitch is happy to chat.
About the Author
Katherine Clarke-Nolan specializes in facilitation, strategic planning, governance and change management services that focus on helping organizations strategically transition and transform, resulting in more engaged and innovative workforces.
You can learn more about Katherine or contact her below.