The Five Dysfunctions of a Team By Patrick Lencioni

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team By Patrick Lencioni

If you thought that making a team that works well is easy, think again. There is a whole science behind this- organizational science. Lencioni is an expert in organizational health and management, and all his instructions are coming from a man with years of experience in this field.

The author of the book, Patrick Lencioni, tells you a story of a team leader who struggles to get her company back in the game. The book is written in novel-like style. Everything is explained in the form of captivating yet useful stories that each talk about the benefits of good team functioning.


According to Lencioni, everything begins with trust. This is the basis of all subsequent team successes. 

Guess what happens when people in the workplace don’t trust each other? You’re right- communication between people deteriorates, fights, quarrels, and misunderstandings get more and more common, etc.

The worst consequences of the lack of trust are burn-out syndrome and unhealthy competitiveness.

1.    Burn-Out syndrome- is the plague of the contemporary world. We’ll show this in Mark’s example- he was an accountant in a big company. He never felt like he was a part of the team- he didn’t trust other people, and his coworkers didn’t trust him. They were a group of individuals, not a team. So Mark was never able to turn towards others for help, and moreover, he was always afraid that others would outdo him. So he began stressing about his work, anxiously trying to comply with all due dates, etc. All this made him to burn-out. The worst thing about the burn-out syndrome is the fact that you feel exhausted and demotivated all the time.

2.    Unhealthy competitiveness– this is the kind of rivalry that is filled with envy, jealousy, and hate. We’ve all seen this- two employees, let’s call them Sam and Mike, compete just about anything. While competition is sometimes good for productivity and motivation, the unhealthy rivalry is rarely good- because it’s so destructive. 

Two Types of Conflict

When Steve Jobs decided to introduce the iPhone, members of his team weren’t as optimistic as he was. iPhone was so innovative and bold, that it kind of scared people. So Steve Jobs was quite literally forced to enter a conflict with these skeptics- and he did this in a good, productive fashion.

For instance, he mentioned some rational, sound arguments in favor of iPhone. Even though he was frustrated and angry at his consultants for doubting him, he didn’t resort to insults and bold attacks. Most importantly, he left personal matters aside- during the debate, he attacked his opponents’ arguments, and not their personalities. This is the most important difference between healthy, constructive conflicts and unhealthy, destructive conflicts. 

There are other interesting examples of these two types of conflicts. Donald Trump almost always involves personal matters in his debates. During the last presidential election campaign, he often clashed with Hillary Clinton- and both didn’t hesitate to completely neglect the important part of the debate- rational arguments. Both Trump and Hillary focused on insulting and degrading each other. So unhealthy conflicts are an essential part of political debates, but they should be left out of office teams and groups. 

Lencioni mentions that, although conflicts are not necessarily a bad thing, they tend to be unpleasant, even if they are productive. So you don’t have to completely embrace and fall in love with conflicts, but you have to accept them and face the fact that they are inevitable. 


Commitment stems from trust and constructive conflicts. 

Commitment means that the whole team is on the same wavelength and that each member of the group knows his or her duties and tasks. Cascading communication is crucial for this. The term “cascading communication” means that information “cascades” from higher to lower positions. In other words, orders coming from high up should be transmitted to lower levels in a consistent, unchanged way. 

Although you didn’t expect this comparison, cascading information is nicely depicted in the movie “Wolf of The Wall Street”. First of all- the main protagonist (or antagonist), Jordan Belfort, is the prototype of a good leader. He’s highly motivated, active, and full of good ideas. Most importantly, he transmitted orders to his employees in an ideal way- not only were his suggestions clear and transparent, but his managers did the same. This is the essence of cascading information.


When people really commit to a goal, they can be held accountable for their actions. This is the next step towards a perfect team. When people know their responsibilities, they can be held accountable for their mistakes, and they will be more ready to accept them. 

Like it or not, you have to sometimes criticize people when they do something bad. However, this kind of criticism should be overly harsh or intense. Instead of bashing someone in front of other people, it’s better to wait for a more private opportunity and inform. 

Let’s say that a boss notices that his worker is becoming less and less productive. Up until now, this worker produced about 100 chairs per month, but recently his productivity decreased to only 50 chairs per month. Instead of coming straight to his workplace and criticizing his worker in front of other people, the boss decided to instead call the worker to his office and in this calmer (and more secretive) setting he expressed his dissatisfaction.

Attention to Team Results

Group goals are always primary goals- at least when we talk business. Extreme individualism will ruin teams that are comprised of the best individuals. On the other hand, a team comprised of average workers will yield above-average results if everyone focuses on collective goals.

It’s safe to say that collectivistic cultures are sometimes more productive and efficient than individualistic cultures. China’s and Japan’s progress is often explained by this- these countries are collectivistic societies. Chinese people, for instance, always put the group’s priorities above their own interests. Family always come first. Most importantly, people from Eastern Asia regard their colleagues as their second family. No wonder these people are some of the most hardworking in the world! 

Needless to say, extreme collectivism is as bad as extreme individualism. So there has to be some kind of balance- but, as we live in Western society, which is rather individualistic in nature, our biggest worry should be to avoid the extreme individualism.

We’ve already mentioned Jordan Belfort and praised him as a good leader. However, he wasn’t perfect. As his company grew, he became more and more selfish and egoistic. He only thought about money, and completely lost touch with his employees. And what happened- his company crumbled under the weight of his vanity and greed. 

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