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The Five Fundamentals of Teamwork; based on the Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

“Leadership is a process by which a person influences others to accomplish an objective and directs the organization in a way that makes it more cohesive and coherent.”

– Source Unknown

Effectively leading an organization, as the quote above states, implies a level of success at both accomplishing objectives and fostering cohesion within the organization. This requires that a leadership team focus on both “tasks” and “relationships” in order to sustain positive results for the organization. I blogged a while back about the need for balance between a team’s task focus (goals, objectives, deliverables, results) and it’s relationship focus (how people relate to one another, the quality of the interactions, level of authenticity and openness, and generally how well people like each other).

There are many useful models, books and assessments available to guide a leadership team’s analysis of their performance as it relates to this duality. The model I am writing about here is one I use frequently in my work with leadership teams: The Five Dysfunctions of Team by Patrick Lencioni.In this engaging fable and well explained management book, Lencioni writes a very readable fictional story of how a newly appointed chief executive sets about improving the performance of the top leadership team in a failing company. Lencioni has a way of developing the characters and unfolding the story so that the reader relates and connects with the scenario. I’ve been amazed by the fact that every team I’ve introduced to this book, from scientists at a biotech firm to managers in an IKEA warehouse, has the same response: “That’s us!” or “I felt like he was describing our team!”

The story begins with the new CEO taking time to get to know the team before leading them through a series of steps and exercises. The steps and exercises will raise team members’ awareness to the patterns of behavior getting in their way and what new behaviors are necessary to create the results they all desire. So, first a focus on “relationship” and then on “task.”

Let’s look briefly at the five components of the model and how it might apply or be useful within your own team. If you know me personally or read my blog regularly, you probably know that I am a proponent of Appreciative Inquiry and the language of positivity. I prefer to look at Lencioni’s 5-part model from the perspective of “fundamentals” to be mastered, and not “dysfunctions” to be overcome. Thus, the language shift:

  1. The first fundamental is Trust. This is not just a reliability-based trust, as in “I trust her to get that done on time,” but also a vulnerability-based trust. This is the kind of trust that allows team members to be real, to be genuinely open with each other about their mistakes and weaknesses, to offer or ask for help unashamedly, and to bring all of who they are to the team (the good, the bad, and the ugly)./li>
  2. With a high level of trust, openness, and “real-ness,” team members are ready to master the next fundamental: passionate debate, robust dialogue, or simply put: ‘conflict’. Trusting teams are capable of fully and honestly debating issues, disagreeing with and challenging one another, hearing all opinions and viewpoints, and putting the important, and oftentimes, difficult issues on the table for discussion.
  3. The ability to openly discuss issues leads to team member Commitment, the third fundamental. When team members are able to fully air their views, to feel that their opinions and knowledge are valued, and to understand the perspectives of other teammates, they are very likely to support and be fully committed to the decisions of the group.
  4. Only when team members are fully bought into the decisions of the group, can there be true Accountability (fundamental #4). How can someone stand up and be counted on issues they were not completely committed to in the first place? In fact, on a team operating at the level described thus far (high level of vulnerability-based trust, willingness and ability to talk through the real issues, unambiguous decisions fully supported by all team members) individuals often possess a strong sense of ownership and identify themselves with the success and achievements of the team. These team members tend to hold themselves more accountable and take great pride in their membership on the team
  5. Accountability creates an environment that leads to the fifth fundamental, Results. Desired results are achieved and team performance is meeting (and maybe exceeding) expectations. In the case of a leadership team, team members’ focus in on organizational results and the collective needs of the team; not on their specific department or even their individual needs (such as ego, career, recognition or reward).

Are you finding this information interesting or resonant? Curious about how your team can master each fundamental? Give me a call, email, or complete the Contact Form below and I will contact you shortly.

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De Yarrison

De is a certified professional Coach, Teambuilder and Facilitator of positive change. She is an adventurer in the world of relationships, blazing new trails of positive expression, resulting in happier leaders, employees, workplaces (and families).
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