Home Library Challenge: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

This week’s home library challenge comes from the library of the Peace Corps office. This challenge is spreading throughout the nation. When I first began reading this book, I needed to spend part of my days in various meetings throughout Kyiv. The day started with a 6 am wake-up call from another person’s phone. (No, I was not sleeping with someone. Sickos.) I was on the train (coupe style). Shortly after that we got to the train station and I wondered into the Peace Corps office where I spent some time with a new Peace Corps volunteers. My attention turned to a wall of books which is in the Peace Corps lounge. Each shelf is devoted to a curtain topic. OD was on the top self. I moved some boxes out of the way and pulled over a chair. Standing on the chair I sifted through the small collection of books which have accumulated over the years. Initially, I took about 20. But, for the sake of logistics I had to boil that list down to about 8. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team did not make the cut. However, I had about 45 minutes before my first meeting and decided to take the book to a nearby coffee shop.

A couple hours in and I was about half way through (no, didn’t miss my meeting). Unlike the last book, this one goes along the line of more practical lessons learned (no goldfish and shark). It follows a new CEO as she breaks apart the dysfunctional nature of her new executive team. At the halfway point, the biggest thing that I learned from her was the fact that she took two to three weeks before taking action. This allowed her to compile information about the team and what they must do in order to achieve the greatest profit in their market. The big question for her was; how is it that the company with the most experience workforce, capital, and best product was not the leader in the field?

Teamwork was a the core of the problem. After about a month of her being at the company she took the executive force on a retreat in order to work on team building. The first element, building trust, she explained that this element is at the core of all teams. It is the base of the trust pyramid. In this pyramid she explains that there are five dysfunctions of a team.

  1. Inattention to Results
  2. Avoidance of Accountability
  3. Lack of Commitment
  4. Fear of Conflict
  5. Absence of Trust

In order to help her team build trust, the CEO started her team off by answering some very simple questions about their childhood. There was a gem in each person’s response which made the connection between team members ever closer. A small step to build trust within the team. The next step was the Myers-Briggs test. After each member found their personality type it was time for the group to learn what each type meant and how to work with each type. This continued for several hours. After which, each group member was honest about their strengths and weaknesses. It was important for her that each team member was open about this point and she also encouraged feedback. All of these exercises were aimed at making her team open to vulnerability. This was a tactic to make them more open to constructive criticism when in the workplace and primarily in office meetings.

She skipped to the top of the pyramid on the second day of the retreat. This portion was about results (or, ego). She explained that all teams find their greatness in their ability to win. Even great athletes who have great egos become even better when they focus more on the group or a shared ego based on a group goal than individual numbers.  She gave the example of her husband who was a very successful basketball coach. He never had the best players, but they always worked together towards a common goal which made them the best group. Much like many different groups who are talented, but focused on their own goals… This CEO’s team was not focused on one common goal. They did not have one ego.

I began to throw myself into this book when I noticed that there was one of the members of the team which was a very negative team player. This person was obviously a genius and good at what she did; however, she was not willing to help those around her in order to get the over goal. She was more focused on her ego. I reflected on my actions in recent meetings and workload. It was clear that at times my behavior mimicked this ladies, and there are times that I have seen this behavior in many other people. This will help me become more proactive with my team and offer support in other areas in order to fit our team’s goal, and not just mine. I am not perfect and I have never worked with a perfect team. This book reminded me that even the best teams have conflict.

Many times leaders stop people in meetings because there is a conflict between two parties. However, Patrick Lencioni explained that a group must embrace healthy conflict and challenge from other members of the group. What cannot be tolerated is toxic behavior and blatant disregard for the teams overall goal. After this book I sat back and thought about the teams that I have been on over the last year. (Our team at the Center of Community Growth, SPA Grant Committee, Project Advisory Council, Project Management Trainings and my closest group of friends) In all cases, I have been selfish at times, but my lack of commitment is what I need to work on. I am doing so much right now, sometimes I forget to focus on the objective at hand. Sometimes it feels like I start a new project while already focusing on the next. This obviously a behavior which can be corrected and I will do my best to do so.

I will also work on instilling the lessons I learned in this book with all teams I am on in the future. If you want to assess your team, here is a test provided by the author. Answer the following questions and PM me to see your team’s results:

Instructions: Use the scale below to indicate how each statement apologies to your team. It is important to evaluate the statements honestly and without over-thinking your answer.

1 = Usually

2 = Sometimes

3 = Rarely


  1. ______ Team members are passionate and unguarded in their discussions of issues.
  2. ______ Team members call out one another’s deficiencies or unproductive behaviors.
  3. ______ Team members know what their peers are working on and how they contribute to the collective good if the team.
  4. ______ Team members quickly and genuinely apologize to one another when they say or do something inappropriate or possibly damaging to the team.
  5. ______ Team members willingly make sacrifices (such as budget, turf, head count) in their departments or areas of expertise for the good of the team.
  6. ______ Team members openly admit their weaknesses and mistakes.
  7. ______ Team meetings are compelling and not boring.
  8. ______ Team members leave meetings confident that their peers are completely committed to the decisions that were agreed on, even if there was in initial disagreements.
  9. ______ Morale is significantly affected by the failure to achieve team goals.
  10. ______ During team meetings, the most important- and difficult0 issues are put on the table to be resolved.
  11. ______ Team members are deeply concerned about the prospect of letting down their peers.
  12. ______ Team members know about one another personal lives and are comfortable discussing them.
  13. ______ Team members end discussions with clear and specific resolutions and calls to action.
  14. ______ Team members challenge one another about their plans and approaches.
  15. ______ Team members are slow to seek credit for their own contributions, but quick to point out this of others.

Lencioni, Patrick, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (2002)




*This is the blog of Richard J. Roman and is not affiliated with the Peace Corps, or its affiliates.



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