As association leaders endeavor to build high-performing teams within their associations, it may be helpful to explore works published by an expert on the subject: Patrick Lencioni. Lencioni is well known for his work, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. In it, he identifies the following behaviors of high-performing teams:
- They trust one another.
- They engage in unfiltered conflict around ideas.
- They commit to decisions and plans of action.
- They hold one another accountable.
- They focus on achieving collective results.
Simple, right? Not so much. Lencioni describes these behaviors as links in a chain. If one link is broken, teamwork deteriorates. He asserts it's easier to appreciate the weighty significance of these behaviors when they're absent. So what happens when these behaviors aren't present?
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team:
- Absence of Trust: People who don't know one another are unwilling to be vulnerable to each other or the group. It's only natural. But the inability to open up about blind spots, mistakes, and weaknesses makes it impossible to establish trust among team members and across the group.
- Fear of Conflict: According to Lencioni, teams that lack trust are not capable of engaging in robust debate and exchange of ideas because they aren't prepared to deal with conflict or disagreement that may arise. Veiled discussions and guarded comments occur in place of passionate debate and idea sessions.
- Lack of Commitment: Members of teams who haven't been able to lean into those robust exchanges of ideas and open debates described above lack buy-in. They may feign agreement or 'go along to get along' but ultimately aren't invested in the team or the outcomes the team is trying to create.
- Avoidance of Accountability: It only makes sense that the cumulative effects of the absence of trust, fear of conflict, and lack of commitment crystallize in this dysfunction. Without commitment and a solid framework, even the most focused team members will hesitate to call out the counterproductive or toxic behaviors of fellow team members.
- Inattention to Results: Failure to hold one another accountable allows the fifth dysfunction to spread like wildfire. When members put their individual needs (ego, career, need for power, etc.) over other the collective goals of the team, people stop caring.
Lencioni has some excellent tools to strengthen teams, including several team assessments and a field guide with suggested team activities. I'll close with this famous quote from Lencioni:
Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and rare.
Want to become more team literate? Check out Amanda Blanck's keynote at MSAE's Annual Conference on Tuesday, August 2, 2022.