Book Spotlight: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Today, I will be sharing some thoughts on the book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”. I have been spending some time thinking about how to review or write about the books that have helped me and I believe by just giving a brief background on the information followed by some real life context is best! Kind of how I wrote about the 10/80/10 Principle about a week ago!

The first time that I was introduced to this book was during my first year at Long Beach State. I went through it with the mindset of a player at the time and it allowed me and my teammates to begin to create a culture that eventually transformed into back to back National Championships 6 years later! Well, that is how I like to look at things!

Since beginning my coaching career at the collegiate level, I have found this book to be very useful in my team and player management! By identifying the different dysfunctions in the team I am able to adjust accordingly to prevent them from effecting us in a negative manner. With that being said lets look into the book a little more.

“The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” is a fable of a technology company who is struggling to grow as a team. Their CEO recognizes that her team has great potential, but since they are not working together they are not making a lot of progress. Throughout the book you are introduced to the different Dysfunctions of the team.

Lencioni's 5 Dysfunctions of a Team - Taskworld Blog - Medium

Above you can see the 5 different dysfunctions that are covered in the book. Each one leading into the other eventually resulting in a negative team morale.

  1. Absence of Trust- When players are unable to show their vulnerability to their teammates. These players tend to be the ones who rarely admit to doing wrong or admit fault. They may be reluctant to ask the coach or teammates for help and ultimately see it as themselves versus the world.
  2. Fear of Conflict– When the players lack the trust to communicate among each other or even with the coach this dysfunction shows up. Since their is no trust present the team is reluctant to have conversation about a problems or disagreements. The players never voice their opinion on a situation and an uneasy tension develops that the team avoids.
  3. Lack of Commitment– When a player feels on their own it is tough to commit to team and process. Since the players do not feel safe in their team or have not been able to discuss things that they do not understand they naturally lose their sense of commitment.
  4. Avoidance of Accountability– Once a player has lost their sense of commitment they then find ways to avoid accountability. The excuses begin to fly, they definitely do not hold anyone else accountable on their team, and they continue down the path of being alone among others.
  5. Inattention to Results– Finally we reach the top of the pyramid where single members only care about themselves. Even though they are a part of a team or team sport the most important thing to them is how they perform. They put their own accomplishments ahead of the team. Eventually bringing the rest of the team down with them in their own problems.

What Can You Do?

As a coach the first thing that we can do is acknowledge that these dysfunctions are present in our teams. It is very easy for us to think that we do not have any problems but in reality there is always something that can be addressed. Next, is you be the example! Whether you know it or not your players are looking up to you as more than the guy/girl who blows the whistle, writes the lineup, or makes them run lines. Most of the time we are teaching them so much more than how to play a sport. For myself, there have been two things that work the best for me to acknowledge and manage these five elements of dysfunction.

The first thing that I have find to be effective is something that I picked up from my coach in college. This is an “open door” policy. Every year for the past three seasons I have told my college players that everything I teach or say can be talked about. If they do not understand the “why” in something we are doing I encourage them to engage in conversation with me or the other coaches. I have even encountered times where a player has challenged what I a saying and we eventually come to agreement on something new and it not only benefits the team but me as a coach moving forward. The ”open door” policy goes further than on the court things. I encourage my players to communicate with me about anything. There have been plenty of instances where my players just need someone to talk to (not about sports) and I let them know that if this is ever the case for them then I will be there for them. The trust we build becomes unbreakable eventually leading to success in the other areas that need to be addressed!

The other example of something that I do as a coach is establish roles for each player. It is very easy for a player to not see themselves as a part of the team, or not know what their role is. Some times players fall into roles on their own and do not need to be told what their role is, but often there is someone who needs guidance. I am always clear to the entire team that everyone has a role that is important to the teams success, however sometimes the role they have may not be what they want. This is where you as a coach come in. Explaining to them that their role may not be what they want but that it is needed for the team. Also, that their role can change at any moment and they cannot be complacent with what their role is! The conversation may not be the easiest but by continuing to instill that sense of accountability, drive and commitment will only help the individual and the team as a whole!

Both of these examples above work their way from the bottom of the pyramid to the top. The “open door” policy addresses the trust and conflict factors, while the “establishing roles” example empowers the commitment and accountability factors. Once those four dysfunctions are under control the attention to the teams results only becomes natural!

Sure, this is all easier said than done! Any coach knows that their teams problems cannot be fixed with a “how to” article out of some book or some blog! But what we can all get is some guidance. Some guidance that will allow us to look at the team as a whole and see the problems that need to be addressed. The Five Dysfunctions that may be standing in the way of your team achieving their full POTENTIAL!

-Coach Windy