It’s no secret that great teamwork is crucial to the success of any organization. Also not a secret—it doesn’t always come easy. We humans are complicated creatures. We all have different personalities, ideas, thoughts, strengths, and weaknesses. When you put all those differences together in a workplace environment, things can get a little bumpy at times. Add to that an environment in which the majority of your team is working remotely with collaborations happening in awkward environments with various interruptions and technical difficulties, and you’ve got some challenges on your hands.
So, when my friend who works in healthcare handed me a copy of a book about teamwork that helped her, I decided to give it a shot. Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable—despite its title—presents these ideas in a surprisingly positive manner that will keep you engaged and informed.
The book takes you through a fictional account of a newly-hired CEO who is brought on by its board to grow a somewhat-struggling high-tech corporation into a leader in its category. Her strategy: Turn a group of seasoned, passionate, intelligent executives into a well-oiled machine of leaders that can’t help but be successful.
It does a quick, but thorough job of laying out the 5 five dysfunctions through a series of real-relatable situations and addresses them with common-sense solutions. The dysfunctions, in case you’re wondering, are absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results.
The book got some negative reviews on Amazon because it failed to offer any hard proof that the techniques it offers actually work. I can understand why the lack of footnotes and bibliographies could leave a bad taste for those who fully rely on studies and statistical proof that a concept works. But to those people, I would argue “this stuff just makes sense”.
It not only makes sense in the context of work teams within an individual organization—it also makes sense for any team who is working toward a common goal. As a marketing agency, we team up with each other and our vendors on a regular basis with the goal of creating a successful campaign for our client. Who, if we’re lucky, also considers us part of their team. After all, if they don’t trust us or can’t count on us, we have failed them. And if we’re not paying attention to results, we’re not long for that relationship. That is, after all, why they hired us.
The dysfunction—and the fix for it—that I found most interesting is fear of conflict. Nobody really likes conflict (well, most of us don’t), so confronting it head-on doesn’t come easy. Which is exactly why we need to do it. The process may be difficult, but the end result is well worthwhile. One example used in the book is when team members have different ideas for reaching a common goal. Instead of the team succumbing to the person who talks the most (or the loudest), or to the person at the top, everyone gets a chance to sell their idea and debate the ideas of others until the best solution is reached. All with no hard feelings or hurt egos, because frankly, neither has a place in an environment where everyone is working toward the same agreed-upon goal.