Customer Reviews: Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Field Guide for Leaders, Managers, and Facilitators
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on June 5, 2006
Lencioni begins the discussion concerning overcoming the five dysfunctions of a team by asking two questions that should be asked BEFORE any team building effort:

1. Are we really a team?

2. Are we ready for heavy lifting?

His definition of a team, "a relatively small number of people...that shares common goals as well as the rewards and responsibilities for achieving them" seems logical enough, but what I really liked was his overall attitude. He seemed to suggest that if your group isn't a team, well that's OK too, but regardless, be clear about who and what you are. The heavy lifting reference simply means that building a team, similar to any marriage or other worthwhile relationship, takes a considerable investment in time and emotional energy.

Dysfunction #1 is the absence of trust, so building trust is the key to overcoming this first dysfunction. Lencioni's definition of trust in one where vulnerability is paramount thus beginning to trust starts with showing vulnerability, usually by telling some personal history story that includes some important challenge that was overcome during childhood. The reasoning for this is based on something called the fundamental attribution error. Simply stated, this is the tendency to attribute (falsely) the negative behavior of others to their character while attributing our own negative behavior to the environment. In other words, I do bad things because of the situation I've been placed in, while you do bad things because you are a bad person. This personal story exercise helps individuals to understand each other at a more fundamental level by showing how each person became the individual that they are, at least in some small way. Lencioni's second exercise deals with behavior profiling (he recommends the MBTI for various reasons) in order to "give team members an objective, reliable means for understanding and describing one another" (p. 25). This is designed to facilitate individuals' discussion of strengths/weaknesses, and begin to make it "safe" at least in terms of constructive feedback.

Dysfunction #2 is fear of conflict and overcoming this fear, while admittedly uncomfortable at times, is essential in order to maximize a team's effectiveness. Lencioni argues that inevitability of discomfort is no reason to avoid conflict and goes on to describe a sort of conflict continuum where the ideal conflict point lies directly midway between artificial harmony and mean-spirited personal attacks. In order to engage in productive conflict, he advocates conflict profiling (MBTI and/or Thomas-Kilmann Instrument). This is important in order to understand all team members' comfort levels and viewpoints regarding conflict. Conflict norms among teams must be discussed, negotiated, and made clear and available. Lastly, there are times when an effective leader must "mine" for that productive conflict among respective team members especially if individuals are avoiding necessary, progressive conflict.

Dysfunction #3 is lack commitment and is best overcome by gaining buy-in and achieving clarity. Buy-in is not to be confused with consensus, and in fact, true commitment is about getting buy-in when all the team members don't agree. Clarity allows members to benefit from their commitment by removing assumptions and the accompanying frustrations. Lencioni discusses two techniques to best overcome this third dysfunction called commitment clarification and cascading communication. Commitment clarification deals with leaders asking: What exactly have we decided here today? This ensures that everyone leaves a meeting with the same impressions. Cascading communication demands that team members communicate these same impressions to the rest of the staff within 24 hours, again ensuring that everyone is on the same page.

Dysfunciton #4 is the avoidance of accountability. Lencioni argues that accountability is the willingness of team members to remind each other when they are not living up to whatever standards have been agreed upon by the group. This not only involves the leader, but peer-to-peer accountability is integral as well. Interestingly, most leaders are willing to hold team members accountable for results, but not so much for behavioral issues. When this filters down to the team members, and they become reticent to hold others accountable for their behavior, the result seems to be a lack of respect. Lencioni's team effectiveness exercise seems to be an effective method for beginning to hold others accountable by openly discussing each person's (including the leader) most important quality that contributes to or derails the strength of the team.

Dysfunction #5 is the inattention to results. Lencioni suggests that self-preservation and self-interest make this a difficult handicap to overcome. The key lies in keeping the results where members of the team can see them at all times, i.e. a visible scoreboard of some sort. How should these results be measured? It doesn't really matter, as long as the team has one or two items that they can consistently focus on and rally around. Distractions include egos, career advancement, and departmental priorities. Key points for negating this dysfunction are avoiding the distractions, and staying focused on clear, visible results.

Lencioni also goes into depth regarding many common questions, and obstacles to avoid. Additionally, he includes a host of exercises, schedules, definitions, and references that can be tailored to facilitate the team building process in any organization. I found that this book offers specific, practical guidance toward team building that any novice should be able to understand. Additionally, the tools, assessments and examples provided a clear picture of a roadmap to overcoming the five dysfunctions of a team. In short, an easy read, full of practical ideas and examples that bring the points home.
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on March 13, 2006
This does give exercises that go with the book if you want to use it in training sessions and it leads you through how to use the concepts with your team. I think it would be valuable in an intact team. I used one of the exercises with a staff retreat recently with some success. I think it will take a skilled facilitator to use it, though.
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on December 9, 2007
I'm not a big fan of management books because they tend to get long-winded, technical, and impractical. This book is none of the three.

I did not read the original book "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable" (240 pages), but with this field guide, you don't need to read it. The field guide is 180 pages of easy reading. It's not complicated, very practical, and you don't need to be a CEO to implement the concepts.

I was pleasantly surprised and would recommend this book to anyone who labors in futility on a fumbling team. It's worth your time.
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on April 17, 2005
A couple of years ago Mr. Lencioni published a book on the Five Dysfunctions of a Team. In it he listed the problems that if allowed to continue would destroy a teams effectiveness, and quite possibly destroy the team itself. As a result of questions and comments from readers he has produced this guide to specifically address how to overcome these dysfunctions.

The particular points beind addressed include:

Building Trust

Mastering Conflict

Achieving Commitment

Embracing Accountability

Focusing on Results.

Each of these points is discussed with a view towards increasing the functionality of the team. This is followed by questions and comments from participants in classes and seminars and finally by some exercises in helping to build the team.
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on March 7, 2006
Not only does this book cover mistakes and problems within a team, it explains a way to address the problems. This book goes one more than, "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable".

Don't just tell me about a problem, tell me how to fix it.

Jeff Howard
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on June 11, 2006
Having read Lenconi's first book, a parable titled "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team", I was curious about this follow up title. I believe this book is better than the original title because it provides practical solutions. Lenconi recommends disclosure of a childhood vulnerability that you overcame as a starting point for building trust. Overcoming self interest by keeping common goals visible to the team is also recommended. I highly recommend this book along with Optimal Thinking: How To Be Your Best Self (to teach teams how to consistently maximize situations) and Winning (to teach leaders how to put principles into practice).
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on February 19, 2006
Lencioni again speaks clear, insightful & practical knowledge and concepts. This field guide is a must-have for everyone in a position of leadership and influence. The foundations of successful team building laid out in the "Five Dysfunctions of A Team" are built upon here with real world ideas on how to overcome the problems that undermine progress and harmonious achievement.
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on April 12, 2016

Patrick Lencioni, in his book, Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Field Guide for Leaders, Managers, and Facilitators, gives a detailed easy to follow plan on how to overcome the dysfunctions that many teams face. Lencioni says that teamwork is what is often missing from teams that are successful and then goes on to identify the five dysfunctions that many teams face. The five dysfunctions are the absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and finally inattention to results. These five dysfunctions lay the foundation for his book as he explores each dysfunction and gives practical help on how the dysfunctions can be corrected and the team can achieve a healthy status.
The first dysfunction, absence of trust, is the foundation of a healthy team. Lencioni says, “I’ve come to one inescapable conclusion: no quality or characteristic is more important than trust.” For trust to be achieved within a team than leaders and team members must be vulnerable about their weaknesses, fears, and failures. The author goes on to give case studies of teams that lacked trust in their organization and how these teams achieved trust. Lencioni believes that team members need to reveal personal aspects of their lives so that other team members can better understand each other and put their guards down. As with all the five dysfunctions, the book gives great practices that can help teams accomplish trust.
The second issue that teams must deal with is mastering conflict. It is important to know that mastering conflict can only be accomplished after trust is established. Conflict, as described by Lencioni, as “productive, ideological conflict: passionate, unfiltered debate around issues of importance to the team.” Conflict can be difficult for some but “if team members are never pushing one another outside of their emotional comfort zones during discussions, then it is extremely likely that they’re not making the best decisions for the organization.” If a team is going to overcome this dysfunction than the leader of the team at times needs to mine for conflict.
The third dysfunction is the lack of commitment. To achieve commitment there most be clarity in what the team is trying to accomplish; this does not mean that everyone on the team must agree but rather be committed to the decisions made, even when they do not agree. Team members are committed because they believe in the bigger purpose or mission of the organization rather than every decision that is being made.
Avoidance of accountability is the fourth dysfunction that teams face. In order to overcome this dysfunction team members must embrace accountability, defined as “the willingness of team members to remind one another when they are not living up to the performance standards of the group.” This means that team members are willing to have difficult conversations with other team members that are not pulling their weight for the good of the organization.
Focusing on results is how the final dysfunction is overcome. Teams need to be results-oriented and have a clear measurement of success. When teams understand what success looks like they can avoid distractions, such as ego, career development, and money. Lencioni suggest a visual scoreboard so employees will focus on the right tasks.
The third and fourth sections of the book give practical help to better flesh out how teams can achieve a healthy status. Section three answers common questions that many teams have after reading the book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. The fourth section of the book gives very detailed tools and exercises for a team to use to overcome each dysfunction.

Concrete Response

As Lencioni began to unpack the importance of building trust among team members I was reminded about a time in the life of our staff where there was vulnerability which increased the level of trust. Lencioni said, “when team members reveal aspects of their personal lives to their peers, they learn to get comfortable being open with them about other things. They begin to let down their guard about their strengths, weaknesses, opinions, and ideas.” Over the past year at least once a month we have been “huddling” our staff. During a huddle, we don’t talk about the business of our church, but rather we share about what God is teaching us and how we are personally doing as leaders. These huddles started out very slow, and there was never anything that was shared that was deep or vulnerable. Weeks and even months went by of surface level sharing; we did not have a foundation of trust. It all changed when one of the quieter members of our teams spoke up and started sharing about the difficulties he and his wife were having with one of their children. Fred, the quiet staff member, was struggling with his youngest son being diagnosed with a severe case of autism. Fred, a very smart individual, shared about his inadequacies as a father and how he just felt hopeless, not knowing what to do. As Fred tearfully shared everyone’s heart in the groups went out to him and there was a time of encouragement and prayer for Fred. This transparency moved our group to a deeper level and more people began sharing intimate details of their lives. While Fred’s intentions were not to increase the level of trust within the group that is exactly what he did. Fred unknowingly helped our team move one step closer to being a healthy group.


In reading through Lencioni's book, I thought that he did an excellent job achieving his goal of summarizing the five dysfunctions of a team and then giving practical advice on how leaders can help their teams overcome these dysfunctions. It is obvious that Lencioni has incredible knowledge and experience working with teams and it showed in this book. I not only enjoyed the concepts listed in this book but I also enjoyed the writing style of Lencioni and his attention to detail and practical information.
While I found the book simplistic and easy to follow, I noticed that the book lacked concrete data or studies that help strengthen the author's argument. While I understand the five dysfunctions that Lencioni lists, he doesn't give any empirical evidence to show that these dysfunctions are the main culprits for an unhealthy team. The argument in this book could have been strengthened if the author would have done more research, polls, and studies and not make conclusions only based on his personal experience.
I am also under the assumption that Lencioni's expertise is working with corporate America. In many of the examples and case studies, he shares about CEO's and other high-level executives. While I appreciate his willingness to work with these top executives, I would have appreciated more examples within the non-profit world. I have a small staff team that I lead but a majority of my time is spent working with volunteer teams. It would be helpful to see some practical example of how to overcome the five dysfunctions within a volunteer team.


The first dysfunction, building trust within the team, was the first area where I realized that I needed to take action. In talking about how you can build trust in teams, Lencioni says, “providing team members with common vocabulary for describing their differences and similarities, you make it safe for them to give each other feedback without feeling like they’re making accusatory or unfounded generalizations.” He goes on to recommend completing a profiling test with each team, such as the Myers-Briggs test. About a month ago one of our other team members asked if we could take the Myers-Briggs test as a staff. I didn’t see the need for it, plus I noticed that there would be a substantial cost for all of our team members to take the assessment. After reading through this book, I now realize that this assessment could help our team establish trust and better understand one another. The plan after reading this text is to hire someone who can administer the test to our team and then review the results with everyone; fortunately, we know someone who is trained in this material. I believe that once the team takes the assessment we will better understand each other and it will build trust among our team members. The plan is to have all our staff members complete this assessment by the end of April.
The second action that I need to implement into my life deals directly with the dysfunction of lack of commitment. While I believe that for the most part our staff is on board with the mission and vision of our church, we don’t do a great job at clearly measuring success. One of the ways Lencioni creates clarification is by creating a visual scoreboard that is a regular reminder of what the team is trying to accomplish. In addition to the visual scoreboard, Lencioni also suggests that you spend the last five minutes of a meeting asking the question: “What exactly have we decided here today?” By asking this question, the team is forced to communicate with each other until everyone is one the same page. I plan on using both the visual scoreboard and the commitment clarification exercise with our staff to help everyone be committed to what God has called our church to do. I will attach a large white board on our conference room wall. On the top right-hand corner, we will weekly track our attendance, number of guests, salvations, and baptisms. These numbers will be updated weekly and be a visual reminder of our mission, “to reach people far from God and lead them to become followers of Jesus.” On the same whiteboard after every staff, elders, and volunteer meeting I plan on asking the question, “what exactly have we decided here today?” In addition, to answering this question I would also like to answer the question, “in light of the decisions that were made, what is everyone going to do?” This not only clarifies expectations but also clarifies what everyone is going to do based on the information that was decided in the meeting.
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on February 24, 2006
New and seasoned professionals leading teams will find lots of rich practical advice. Using the five dysfunctions of teams from his previous book, Lencioni provides readers with excellent tools to stay focused and keep their teams performing. The techniques offered in this book, along with its guiding questions will help anyone reflect on the dynamics of their teams and uncover a whole host of new ways to invigorate them. As a professional facilitator I see this book as an indispensable resource.
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on October 11, 2015
Ordered this book as a gift after reading it and making it a permanent part of my library. Essential reading for those who want to learn or refine skills in leading and developing teams. I'll be ordering more as people I meet show an interest in these techniques.
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