The Five Dysfunctions of a Team - Book Notes

by Zelia Leong

By Patrick Lencioni

Published: 2002

 See all 2 images The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Book Notes

Who is Patrick Lencioni?

Patrick Lencioni is founder and president of The Table Group, a firm dedicated to helping leaders improve their organizations' health since 1997. His principles have been embraced by leaders around the world and adopted by organizations of virtually every kind including multinational corporations, entrepreneurial ventures, professional sports teams, the military, nonprofits, schools, and churches.

What This Book Is About:

Kathryn Petersen, Decision Tech's CEO, faces the ultimate leadership crisis: Uniting a team in such disarray that it threatens to bring down the entire company. Will she succeed? Will she be fired? Will the company fail? Lencioni's utterly gripping tale serves as a timeless reminder that leadership requires as much courage as it does insight.

Throughout the story, Lencioni reveals the five dysfunctions which go to the very heart of why teams even the best ones-often struggle. He outlines a powerful model and actionable steps that can be used to overcome these common hurdles and build a cohesive, effective team. Just as with his other books, Lencioni has written a compelling fable with a powerful yet deceptively simple message for all those who strive to be exceptional team leaders.


Teams naturally fall prey to 5 pit falls. Each pitfall or dysfunction is inter-related the other. So any failure in one can cause the team to fail:

  1. Absence of trust–unwillingness to be vulnerable.
  2. Fear of conflict–unable to risk unfiltered discussion.
  3. Lack of commitment–lack of buy-in creates ambiguity throughout the organisation
  4. Avoidance of accountability–ducking the responsibility to call peers on counterproductive behaviour–this results in low standards.
  5. Inattention to results–focusing on personal results rather than the team goal.

People who trust each other and are open with each other are then willing to have conflict with each other about ideas. This improves the idea. Once people air their concerns and ideas they are more likely to commit to the plan. Goals need specific numbers so people can be held accountable to them. There should be a single over-arching goal for the whole team. People need to value the results of the team over their personal achievements–if the team wins, they win.


1) Lack of Trust

  • The first person to be vulnerable must be the leader.
  • Proactively create an environment that doesn’t punish vulnerability.
  • Don’t fake vulnerability.
  • Be willing to openly share ideas–those who sit silently and do not share are not demonstrating trust and should be encouraged to open up.
  • Debate is a sign of good trust.
  • People waste time in not taking risks, asking for or offering help.
  • Sharing some minor personal details about each other can help build trust.
  • Conduct a number of personality tests with team members and discuss each others results and what they mean to build connection.

2) Fear of Conflict

  • Conflict is about open communication, not just tension.
  • Without trust there can be no conflict.
  • All true long term relationships involve conflict.
  • As leader, make sure conflicts are non-personal but based on the ideas in question.
  • It may be passionate but it need not hurt feelings.
  • Everyone must acknowledge that conflict is necessary and useful. Everyone must agree on this
  • Mine for conflict - don’t allow retreat.
  • Leaders must avoid over protecting their teams, by interrupting conflict before time.
  • Make sure you allow conflict or for people to disagree with you.

3) Lack of Commitment

  • If people have not faced the fear of conflict they will not speak up when they actually disagree. Instead they will passively commit, wait for failure and then possess a “I knew it wasn’t a good idea” attitude.
  • As a leader you are not trying to get consensus, rather you’re trying to get people onboard because they have been heard.
  • People need to "weigh in" before they buy in.
  • Small gaps in commitment in executives high up result in large gaps lower down the organisation.
  • Thoroughly discuss issues in your meeting. Don’t be afraid to weigh in and disagree.
  • Create worst case and contingency plans.
  • The leader should summarise the decision and check everyone understands what it is they are committing to.
  • Use clear deadlines.
  • Not committing is worse than making the wrong decision.

4) Avoidance of Accountability

  • You can only have accountability if you know what you are accountable for.
  • Goals you developed through building commitment should be specific and measurable so it’s clear when someone isn’t measuring up and can be held accountable.
  • By not calling a team member on an issue, resentment builds towards the person because they are not up to standard–this results in underlying tensions and lack of improvement from the other party.
  • Overcome this dysfunction by: Publications of goals and standards, Regular progress reviews, and Team based rewards.
  • The leader should not be the only person holding people accountable. It should be mostly the other team members who do this.

5) Inattention to Results

  • Only winning is winning. The score matters.
  • Discourage the tendency to seek out individual results at the expense of overall results. If the team loses everyone loses.
  • The team as a whole needs a goal–one goal they can focus on.
  • Such a goal should be for a 6-12 month period. Define expected results clearly.
  • The group’s goals must be more important than the individual members’ goals–and they have to believe in them.
  • Only behaviours that are in line with the goal should be rewarded.
  • Publicly declare intended result standards and recognise good work.
  • The leader must send a message that the goal and its results are the most important thing.

All these might seem straightforward and obvious, but can be tough to bear in mind and execute. We all think we know better and can do better when put in those situations.

I hope both you and I will benefit from these notes and also refer back to them when building our teams.

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Till the next one, Zelia

Co-founder of RewardNation