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5 Step to Bulletproof Your Team from Dysfunction

Have you ever been on a team that was so dysfunctional that your stomach was in knots just thinking about this group?

Perhaps your experience was like this:

Ideas were dismissed without discussion or debate
• Team members were reluctant to express their ideas for fear of retribution
• The “after” meeting had more significant discussion than the actual meeting
• The vocal members of the team dominate the discussion
• The team leader cannot make an important decision after group discussion

Have you ever been part of such a team?

Unfortunately, at one time or another, most of have been part of such a team.  It’s not fun.  It’s not enjoyable.  It makes work a drudgery.  Decisions take longer to make.  Office politics often rule the day as those with ‘power’ push their decisions forward, even though they may not be the best decision for the team.  Being part of such a team just makes life miserable.


It sounds obvious, right?  Intellectually, teamwork makes sense.  The San Antonio Spurs of the National Basketball Association in the early 2000s, won four championships.  However, there were teams that were more talented that jumped higher and ran faster than the Spurs.  So how did they win those championships?  Teamwork.  To see them pass the ball on offense and how they helped each other on defense, it was teamwork that made them great.

“Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it’s so powerful and so rare.”

Patrick Lencioni

Patrick Lencioni, New York Times bestselling author, said this about teamwork:

“Not finance.  Not strategy.  Not technology.  It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it’s so powerful and so rare.”

Mr. Lencioni goes on to share a comment made by a founder of a billion dollar annual revenue company, “If you could get all the people rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time,”[1]

So why is great teamwork so rare?  Is teamwork doomed?  In our current environment with the virus and working remotely, is effective teamwork even possible?

The good news is that building a strong team is both possible and simple.  But as Mr. Lencioni has said, “It is painfully difficult.”


Building an effective team is possible but not easy.  As we learned from a young age, anything worthwhile is not easy…but that’s why it’s worth it.

In his book, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” Lencioni explains why teams struggle and offers five simple steps to build an effective team.


The kind of trust I’m referring to is ‘vulnerability-based trust’ and not ‘predictive trust.’  If you say that you trust Joe in Accounting because he always turns his reports in on time and without errors, that’s predictive trust.  Vulnerability based trust is feeling ‘safe’ enough that you can be open and honest with other members of the team without fear of retribution.


When vulnerability-based trust exists on a team, they are then able to engage in conflict around ideas.  I’m not talking about conflict or arguing for the sake of arguing.  Trusting teams are able to debate, discuss, and argue about ideas without making the discussion personal.  They are comfortable engaging in this kind of conflict because it leads to better decisions.


When team members are able to offer opinions and debate ideas, they are more likely to commit to decisions.  People don’t have to have their idea chosen, but they do need to be heard.  Once they are heard and a final decision is made and their idea wasn’t selected, they are more likely to commit to the decision.


When a team has committed to a decision, it’s much easier to hold each other accountable.  This is often the most difficult step.  Holding a peer accountable is difficult for most people.  It’s easier for the team leader to hold a subordinate accountable because of his or her position.  However, you can argue that peer to peer accountability is much more powerful.


Finally, once a team has built trust, conflict, commitment and accountability, they are able to focus on the ultimate outcome, results.  Teams are designed to deliver results, whatever they may be.  A team that follows these five steps is much more likely to achieve their desired results.

So, there you have it.  Five steps to building a stronger team.  As mentioned earlier, the steps are remarkably simple.  The execution, not so much.  But we can always hope for the best, right?

What do you think about the 5 steps to bulletproof your team from dysfunction?

What has been the most challenging part of being on a dysfunctional team?

Which of the 5 steps would be the most difficult and why?

Mark is the founder of Lōkahi Leadership Solutions. He helps leaders and teams achieve more in less time. Mark is also an online adjunct instructor and teaches classes in Organizational Leadership.  Lōkahi is a Hawaiian word that means unity, accord and harmony. 

[1] Patrick Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Josey Bass & Wiley Books, vii.