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Understanding your team

As a leader, learning to manage different employees' personalities and styles that are different from your own, can be challenging. Sometimes personalities can be so different that conflict arises and trust is dismantled and it’s difficult to pull everyone together to a shared vision where everyone feels valued.

You might be pulling out your hair right now, in the midst of yet another conflict, or finding it hard getting buy-in to vital decisions. Don’t despair, there are some real tools to get you back on track. First, you need to understand some key dysfunctions of teams and how you can address them.

Understanding your team

According to Patrick Lencioni’s book ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team’ teamwork is the key to organisational success.

"Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare." (Patrick Lencioni )

Lencioni outlines five team dysfunctions which if addressed will support effective teams and ultimately high performance by capitalising on our ability as leaders to master building trust, manage conflict, achieve commitment, establish accountability, and drive results. These are cornerstones to a high performing team.

So, here’s a taste of Lencioni’s five-team dysfunctions.


If team members don’t trust one another, fear becomes a driver of communication, and they become hesitant about being honest and open with each other, and unwilling to take responsibility for fear of making mistakes. So, when you are part of a great team, each member trusts everyone on an emotional level, being comfortable to show vulnerability and share any mistakes or weaknesses they have. Team members who trust each other are open with one another because they are confident that each member has the best interests of the business at heart.

Engage in unfiltered conflict

Teams that trust one another are able to challenge each other constructively, get everything out on the table that needs to be said, and have that passionate debate around issues and decisions that are key to the team's success. Team members of a high performing team will challenge, question, and disagree all with the intent of finding the best decision for the team. Lencioni emphasises that when confrontations and conflicts are effectively managed, they provide an opportunity for new ideas and the elimination of not-so-good ideas. Healthy confrontations and conflicts are honest, open, and goal-directed and as such serve to improve the performance of the team or organisation.


When teams get everything out on the table and engage in unfiltered conflict, they achieve buy-in around the direction that the team or organisation is headed in. It is okay for team members to disagree however they must have alignment and a united front, this is achieved through accountability. Teams work most effectively when everyone clearly understands, endorses, and commits to the goals of the team. Commitment enables real teamwork, with focused effort and attention, rather than individual interests. Clarity ensures everyone completely understands the decisions and agreements of the group.


Accountability can be achieved when the team members demonstrate a commitment to agreed standards of performance and decisions. Teams will share the accountability voluntarily and ensure other team members stick to those decisions and standards. The benefit of commitment is it will free leaders to not solely hold accountability, and team members can rely on each other to monitor each other's performance. It is difficult to hold individuals accountable for their part of a decision or agreement if they have not contributed to decision making or have buy-in or lack clarity.


When teams establish trust, engage in constructive conflict resolution, commit to the direction of the organisation, and share the accountability, they are more likely to focus on results that benefit the team and the organisation, above their own agendas. Leaders ensure that the team focuses on results by developing and implementing mechanisms that encourage them to do so, such as, clear objectives, transparent results, and linking recognition to the achievement of results.

So, there’s a quick overview of Lencioni's ‘Five Dysfunctions of a Team’. The most successful teams I've worked with in my consultancy have been willing to start at the foundational pillar of trust and work their way up to exceptional results and ultimately high performance. When this trust is absent it is very difficult to be truly high-performing, instead, you are individuals operating with your own agenda and measures of success. We all know what can be achieved when we work together!

How do you build trust with your team?

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