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Book Summary – Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Field Guide for Leaders, Managers and Facilitators

Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team - Book summary

Teamwork can be hard to measure and achieve. Yet, when you get it right, it can deliver seemingly-impossible results, and become a source of sustainable competitive advantage for your company, in today’s rapidly changing world. This book was written by Patrick Lencioni as a follow-up to best-seller The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, to provide a guide for leaders and practitioners to apply the concepts in the original book. In this free Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team summary, you’ll learn the 5 elements that often cripple teams, and how you can convert them into 5 factors of success.

Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team: An Overview

Fundamental Questions

Before you move into team-building, there are 2 fundamental questions to ask yourselves:

  • Are we really a team? A team should be small (3-12 people) and must share common goals. If your group doesn’t fulfill these criteria, you may need to regroup or form a smaller group that does.
  • Are we ready to do what it takes? Building a real team requires members to invest time and energy, and to get uncomfortable.  Are you and your team members ready for that?

Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team

With these prerequisites out of the way, we can now look at the 5 Dysfunctions of a team, and how to convert them into Success Factors.Overcoming the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team summary_The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Trust, conflict, commitment, accountability and results are critical elements of team performance. Using a fable in his earlier book, Lencioni illustrated how the absence of these 5 elements can cripple teams. In this book, he defines each area, outlines how their lack can handicap teams, and how to overcome them. Each ingredient is important not so much in itself, but in laying the foundation upon which the next ingredient is built, to deliver the ultimate goal of results.

Overcoming Dysfunction #1 – Absence of Trust

Trust is the most important ingredient of teamwork. Yet, it is also typically lacking because there’s no universal definition, and most people find it hard to admit their mistakes or shortcomings.

Developing genuine trust requires team members (starting with the leader) to garner courage and become vulnerable first. The process takes time and requires ongoing maintenance, but it can be accelerated. Lencioni elaborates on 2 useful exercises to build trust, including the Personal Histories Exercise and Behavioural Profiling. Learn more on how to build trust from our complete 12-page Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team summary.

Overcoming Dysfunction #2 – Fear of Conflict

Good conflict is about open, constructive and passionate debates about issues that affect organizational success. However, this seldom exists because most teams are trying to maintain artificial harmony by avoiding difficult issues. Others are the opposite, wasting time and energy managing perceived personal attacks, manipulating conversations and trying to win arguments (rather than solve real problems).

Lencioni explains the ideal conflict point, and how to build on trust (as a necessary prerequisite) to allow members to push one another outside their emotional comfort zones. He explains several tools to facilitate constructive conflict, including how to profile conflict, establish rules of engagement, encourage conflict, and resolve conflict. Feel free to learn more about mastering conflict from our full version of the Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team summary.

Overcoming Dysfunction #3 – Lack of Commitment

Team commitment isn’t about consensus, but the willingness to embrace a decision without consensus. Two crucial ingredients – buy-in and clarity – are necessary to build commitment. For example, consider this powerful insight: contrary to common belief, most people are willing to buy in to a decision – even if it is different from their own suggestions – so long as their own ideas have been considered and explained in the context of the final decision. This is an important building block for leaders to build commitment in their teams.

Overcoming Dysfunction #4 – Avoidance of Accountability

Accountability in the context of this book is about team members’ willingness to hold one another responsible for living up to the group’s decisions and performance standards. Strong teams don’t depend on the leader as the main source of accountability; their true motivation to perform comes from peer pressure and the desire not to let down a fellow team member.

The culture of accountability needs to start with the leader, who must uphold behavioural standards (e.g. confronting a staff who is badmouthing a company initiative, or someone who is not handling a task to expectation), and reinforce the habit of constructive feedback.  Do get our complete book summary for more details on how to use (a) the Team Effectiveness Exercise and (b) meetings to deepen accountability and performance.

Overcoming Dysfunction #5 – Inattention to Results

Even when a team has successfully overcome the previous dysfunctions, they still may not achieve results due to the lack of clear measurements, or the natural inclination to put self-interest or self-preservation before others (including the teams). The only way to overcome this is to make win-win, common team goals visible, and to get the entire team to focus on them.

Getting the Most from Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team

If you wish to learn more about each of the 5 team dysfunctions, with specific tips and examples to address them, do check out our full book summary bundle. This includes an infographic, a 12-page text summary, and a 19-minute audio summary.

Overcoming the five dysfunctions of a team summary - book summary bundleThis is a concise and easy-to-read book, focusing on practical tools, exercises, assessments and real-world examples for overcoming the 5 dysfunctions of teams, to deliver great results. For each of the tips covered in our summary, Lencioni provides case studies/examples, and other resources including:

  • Answers to a list of commonly asked questions, e.g. How long it takes to build a team, whether to manage the process inhouse or via an external consultant/ facilitator;
  • A list of potential objections from participants and potential pitfalls to look out for (e.g. leaders who aren’t truly committed to team-building, members who resist or dominate the sessions, handling geographically-dispersed teams etc.); and
  • Details of team building exercises, assessment tools etc. mentioned in the book.

You can buy the book here or visit for more details.

Read The Advantage summary to find out how cohesive leadership teams work as one of the 4 vital components for building organizational health. Or, check out the Leadership Team Coaching summary for specific frameworks and teams to coach leading executive teams!

About the Author of Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Field Guide for Leaders, Managers and Facilitators is written by Patrick Lencioni– an American author and consultant, best known for his works in business and team management. He is the president of The Table Group, a management consulting firm specializing in executive team development and organizational health.

As a consultant and keynote speaker, he has worked with senior executives and executive teams from a wide range of organizations, including Fortune 500s, tech start-ups to universities and non-profits. He also gives talks on leadership, organizational change, teamwork and corporate culture. Previously, Lencioni worked at the management consulting firm Bain & Company, Oracle Corporation, and Sybase, where he was VP of Organization Development. In addition to this book and his best-selling book, Five Dysfunctions of a Team (which explores work team dynamics and solutions to help teams perform), he has written 7 other business books.

Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team Quotes

“Teamwork remains the one sustainable competitive advantage that has been largely untapped.”

“When people come together and set aside individual needs for the good of the whole, they can accomplish what might have looked impossible on paper.”

“Teamwork doesn’t require great intellectual insights or masterful tactics. More than anything else, it comes down to courage and persistence.”

“No quality or characteristic is more important than trust.”

“The key ingredient to building trust is not time. It is courage.”

“Commitment is …the ability to defy a lack of consensus.”

“Results-oriented teams establish their own measurements for success. They don’t allow themselves the wiggle room of subjectivity.”

Click here to download the full summary and infographic

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