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The Five Dysfunctions of A Team by Patrick Lencioni Free Book Review Summary Audiobook Animated Book Summary PDF Epub on StoryShots


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is a fable-based story of Kathryn Petersen, the new CEO of DecisionTech. She joins a company that has a more experienced and talented executive team than any of its competitors, more cash, better technology and a more powerful Board of Directors, but are behind its competitors in terms of both revenue and customer growth.

After spending time meeting with the Board, Executive Team, the staff and attending meetings and observing the dynamics she holds a 2-day off-site meeting with the Executive Team. She announces the reason for the poor company performance is because the team is dysfunctional and that there are 5 reasons for this.

About the Author

Patrick Lencioni is an American writer of books on business management, particularly in relation to team management. He is best known as the author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, a popular business fable that explores work team dynamics and offers solutions to help teams perform better.

He is the founder and president of The Table Group, a management consulting firm specializing in executive team development and organizational health. As a consultant and keynote speaker, he has worked with thousands of senior executives and their teams in organizations ranging from Fortune 500 companies to high-tech startups to universities and nonprofits. Lencioni is the author of 11 best-selling books, including The Advantage and The Ideal Team Player.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Summary

Summary of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Teams are required to deliver results; when teams are not cohesively working together, they lose. Take a look at professional sports teams. When you examine the winners and losers at that level, it all comes down to winners having a strong team dynamic and losers don’t. If you want to drive results in your business, then you need winning teams.

This summary of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team will help you if you work as part of a team or lead one. Dysfunctional teams are seen everywhere. Building a good solid team is not complicated, but it is hard work. Bad teams consist of big egos, politics, and bureaucracy. Every leader or manager that cares about results has to blast through all those bad behaviors to create a winning team.

While the Five Dysfunctions of a Team is an interesting story, the popularity of the book is due to the simple and accessible model of teamwork that it introduces. Represented as a Pyramid, Lencioni’s main character, Kathryn, uses the model to help her own team. However, this model can also be used to help real teams to understand how to work more cohesively.

In this model, teams that excel in 5 main areas are more likely to be high-functioning, cohesive teams:

Absence of Trust

This is the biggest barrier to team success. Some violent gangs require that new members kill to establish trust and loyalty. People in groups required to perform have to trust each other. Trust the foundation of an organization to have true success.

Trust among a team means all the members can show their weaknesses and be vulnerable without fear that they will be judged or ridiculed. Without this trust, it’s hard for team members to be open to new ideas and makes it challenging to present their own ideas. Teams without trust are just groups of people who feel the need to be right and to play it safe.

“Remember teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.”

Trust building exercise

Take turns openly acknowledging a weakness that could hurt the team and a strength that will help the team succeed. Go first, and show your team it’s ok to be vulnerable. You might say, “My technical skills aren’t strong, but I believe that my ability to find new customers and sell products will help this team succeed.” 

When you and your teammates are transparent about your faults, you take down the veil of perfection and allow open and honest feedback to find its way into team discussions. 

Fear of Conflict

A good debate will always produce results when people trust each other and have a common goal they’re trying to obtain. There’s nothing worse than having a team that simply consists of people who tell you what you want to hear. Conflict is the lifeblood of innovation and progress.

Constructive conflict is very productive when you’re debating company behaviors, processes, services, and products. Conflict becomes criticism when people attack each other personally.

Trust leads to the ability to use conflict productively. Without this foundation of trust, conflict becomes just another hurdle instead of a healthy way to interact and create. As long as a team fears conflict, it will be difficult to break new ground, gain overall consensus for decisions, and lead to people avoiding any conflict.

“I don’t think anyone ever gets completely used to conflict. If it’s not a little uncomfortable, then it’s not real. The key is to keep doing it anyway.”

Encourage Health Conflict

Leaders must encourage debate and teach people that conflict can be a positive thing. Once a team begins to see that conflict is not something to fear, they will become a healthier, more productive team. Because they have support from their leader and other team members to go beyond their comfort zone, creative conflict will be accepted as a normal part of the team’s process.

Encourage healthy conflict in meetings by creating a ‘Team Engagement Charter’ that promotes candid, passionate debate. Then have your teammates sign it and bring it to every meeting. Sample ‘Team Engagement Charter’: “We will address conflict-laden issues and sort out disagreements with passionate debate. When discussing team issues, we will not withhold commentary …” 

Lack of Commitment

Watch any political race and you’ll see lack of commitment because no candidate wants to alienate voters. In business lack of commitment equates to bankruptcy.

Committing to a strategy, product concept, or new business line is critical. Healthy teams on debate have conflict, but once a resolution is decided on, then all team members commit to it even if they were on the other side of the decision.

When teams use productive conflict, it makes it easier for them to commit and buy-in to decisions.  Without debate, there is no commitment. People just won’t buy into something if they feel that their opinions and thoughts weren’t discussed. A lack of commitment will make it impossible to achieve a consensus among a team, leading to disinterest, resentment, and stagnation.

“Commitment is a function of two things: clarity and buy-in.”

Leaders can help develop this commitment by encouraging each team member to contribute to every discussion. The leader must promote this open exchange over and over again until it becomes accepted.  Once the atmosphere is one of the individuals agreeing to disagree, real progress is not far behind. By reviewing team decisions after every meeting and defining roles and deadlines, the leader can keep the focus on on-going commitment.

Earn Commitment

Get team members to buy-in to your decisions by allowing them to participate and feel heard during team planning sessions. 

“I’ve come to understand that most people don’t really need to have their ideas adopted (a.k.a. “get their way”) in order to buy in to a decision. They just want to have their ideas heard, understood, considered, and explained within the context of the ultimate decision.” – Patrick Lencioni 

Learn to disagree and commit by saying, “I’m not saying you’re wrong, but since we don’t have all the information, are you willing to gamble with me on this? Can we disagree and commit so we can move fast and get feedback?” 

Avoidance of Accountability

Large companies can mass this one for a while, simply because of size. I have friends that worked at large companies and they mentioned how they could get away with doing nothing for six months and nobody would know. They did not do this but saw people moving paper from one side of the desk to the other, avoiding accountability and getting paid.

This behavior kills small businesses one reason why entrepreneurs are so nervous and hiring new people. Healthy teams assign accountability and hold their members accountable and help them when things slip.

Without team commitment, team members will always avoid accountability. Team members who commit to an idea or decision do it because they feel that their input matters and they expect to be held accountable. If their input seems unimportant, they feel that they aren’t responsible for results. This lack of accountability in the individual will always weaken the accountability of the team.

“People aren’t going to hold each other accountable if they haven’t clearly bought into the same plan.”

Foster Peer-to-Peer Accountability

Show your teammates it’s ok to hold every team member (even those of higher status) accountable, by allowing every team member to host weekly status meetings. During a weekly status meeting, the host goes around the room and asks every team member, “Did you do what you said you were going to do last week? And if not, why not?” When everyone sees a junior team member question a senior team member, a new standard of team accountability is set. 

Inattention to Results

It happens when companies have a list of 50 things they are focusing on and none of them seem to get done. Teams that don’t focus on what matters lose. In the Olympics, you get a medal for first, second, and third place. In business, you either win the deal or you lose it. First place equals profit, while second place equals bankruptcy. This is the harsh reality and is why teams have to focus on results and define no more than five short term pillars to focus on.

Team members who don’t feel accountable will always put their interests ahead of the team’s. Until the desired results are agreed upon by the whole team, nothing worthy will ever happen. With accountability in place, the focus on team results happens naturally and creates a tighter bond among team members. The leader makes sure the desired results are clear and that final results are shared and rewarded in a team setting.

Focus on Team Results

Keep the team focused on team results (instead of individual results) by connecting personal rewards to team results. For example, team members only receive an extra day off at the end of the month if the team hits its monthly target. Team rewards remind team members that if the team doesn’t win, no one wins. 

“On strong teams, no one is happy until everyone is succeeding because that’s the only way to achieve the collective results of the group.” – Patrick Lencioni 


The five dysfunctions of a team is a must-read for leaders that want to grow their businesses. The concepts in it are simple. The dysfunctions outlined by Patrick are the number one reason why entrepreneurs resistant to hiring additional people.

If you’re a team leader, you want to limit the size of your team. Teams larger than eight people get cluttered in the communication and bureaucracy run rampant. Try to keep your team small if possible.

Why does a team become dysfunctional? Team members care more about their results than the team’s results. 

Why do team members lose sight of the team’s results? Team members don’t hold one another accountable to the team’s results. 

Why aren’t team members willing to hold one another accountable?  Team members aren’t committed to the team plan, so they don’t care if a teammate doesn’t do his/her part. 

Why aren’t team members committed to the plan? Team members haven’t involved in the development of the team plan because they are afraid of challenging the leader’s decisions and experiencing interpersonal conflict. 

Why are team members afraid of conflict? Team members don’t trust that the leader (or anyone on the team) will accept an opposing point of view without taking it personally and starting an ugly, political battle. 

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Summary
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Summary

Adapted from Productivity Game and Joe Mozel Youtube Channels, Wikipedia, and You Exec book summary

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