The 5 Dysfunctions of Team Collaboration

There is no question that working within a group has its difficulties, and in many cases people might opt to accomplish tasks on their own in order to avoid any inconvenience. However, collaboration is essential for creative success, and being a part of a team is fundamentally inescapable as life is all about learning to work within various groups. Whether you’re on vacation with your family, getting together with friends, competing on a sports team or attending a board meeting at work, we tend to see a pattern in the conflicts of human behavior that arise regardless of the environment.

In his book titled “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” Patrick Lencioni crafts fictional characters that depict what he believes to be the most prominent struggles faced when people are brought together in a professional work environment. Below, I will outline each, and explain how you might avoid these five dysfunctions in your own life.


1) Absence of trust. If the members of your team do not trust each other then they will fail to be completely honest with one another.

Trust lies at the foundation of all successful teams. The absence of trust within a team creates a shielded environment where members will most likely hesitate to provide constructive feedback, hide mistakes and fail to offer new ideas in fear that people will evaluate them personally rather than for their contributions—thus limiting the full potential of others’ skills within the team.

It is extremely important to spend time with your team and get to know one another. That way you’ll be able to appreciate and tap into each other’s skills and experiences without having to feel hesitant.


2) Fear of conflict. Without trust your team will not have the healthy debates that are necessary to make thorough decisions.

When a team fears the possibility of conflict, it creates a sort of artificial harmony among its members. The fear of conflict is a product of the ripple effect caused by the lack of trust within a team. If a group fears conflict they will never reach their full potential, because healthy debate leads to better solutions. They will waste time by tiptoeing around controversial issues and create a passive-aggressive environment where real conflicts are addressed behind one other’s back.

A team that does not fear conflict will be unguarded in their discussion of issues, minimize internal politics, and actively consider and engage in ideas from all members.


3) Lack of commitment. If your team has not aligned behind a decision, then the individual members who did not agree will ultimately be less committed to that decision.

Has your team ever come to a unanimous decision simply because everyone wanted the meeting to be over? Or because you really just didn’t care for the topic being discussed? It might seem like it’s saving you some time, but it can also be causing ambiguity around decisions and priorities which will only hurt you in the long run. It will most likely cause your team to have to revisit discussions and decisions again and again, and encourage second guessing among group members.

If a team focuses on being genuinely aligned behind a common goal, you’ll be confident that everyone is completely committed to the decisions that were agreed on, even if there was initial disagreement. You’ll be able to make decisions with little hesitation, and end discussions with clear and specific resolutions


4) Avoidance of accountability. If your team is not committed to the course of action, then they are less likely to feel accountable (or hold other people accountable).

This issue will most likely create tension among team members who have different standards of performance because the team will lack a clarity of roles and responsibilities. When a team is unable to hold each other accountable, it also places a burden on the team leader to be the single source of discipline.

Instead work on tactfully pointing out one another’s mistakes and unproductive behavior. It will help to identify potential problems quickly, and challenge your team-mates to produce work that is the best of their ability. Overall this will establish a high level of respect among teammates who all share the same high standards.


5) Inattention to results. Without accountability, your team is less likely to care about the group results (and instead focus on achieving their own goals).

This is when status and ego begin to get in the way of teamwork. The group will eventually stagnate and fail to grow, because the whole is fundamentally greater than its constituent parts.

On the other hand, if your team pays close attention to collective results they will be slow to seek credit for their own achievement, but quick to identify as a successful group.

The functionality of your team heavily relies on a solid foundation of trust. Without trust, a ripple effect of problems will soon take over and taint the limitless potential of a talented group of individuals.

To learn more about how to effectively collaborate with your team, download PGi’s free eBook “Teamwork Makes the Dream Work.”


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