head shot of Zlatian Iliev


5 Team Dysfunctions

November 21, 2022

During the annual company offsite I had to spend a combined 40h of traveling. So I used that time to catch up on some books I had on my reading list. One of those books was “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni. This book was packed with insights and was one of the most interesting reads for 2022. As I am documenting my journey I wanted to share some initial learnings and the things I am planning to try out and incorporate with my team.

The book is super easy to read so I would highly recommend it. It is only 230 pages or 3h 45min if you like audiobooks as I do. It tells a story of a newly hired CEO who was tasked to turn a company around. The company had a great product, lots of cash, and a solid C-suite. The problem - a dysfunctional team. As the title suggests Patrick Lencioni lists 5 common dysfunctions and suggests some ways to deal with them.

First I will share a quick summary of the book and will wrap this article up with what I am planning to adopt/test out with my teams.

1. Absence of trust

The way trust is defined in a team context is the confidence in teammates' intention to be good and the ability of team members to be vulnerable and make mistakes. Building trust comes from shared experiences over time. These need to include multiple instances of credibility and an in-depth understanding of the unique qualities of individuals.


  1. A personal history exercise(30-60 min) that is considered low-risk. Spend some time for team members to get to know each other better by answering personal questions like:
  • How many siblings do you have?
  • What is your hometown?
  • What challenges did you have during your childhood?
  • What is your favorite hobby?
  • What was your first job?
  • What was your worst job?
  1. A team effectiveness exercise(60-90min) that is considered medium risk. The goal is to identify the single most important contribution each team member makes to the team and one area they need to improve in or eliminate for the good of the group. This needs to be done with each person starting with the team leader.

  2. Learn more about the team members’ behavioral preferences and personality types. This should take a minimum of 4 h and is considered medium risk. The recommended method is using the MBTI test. It was also highly recommended to have a licensed consultant in order to avoid misuse or the results.

  3. 360 degree feedback. This should take 60-90 min and is considered high-risk. The goal is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of members. The leader needs to demonstrate genuine vulnerability first and create an environment that doesn’t punish vulnerability. The key is to disconnect this from any compensation and formal performance evaluations.

2. Fear of conflict

Conflict is necessary in order to grow and be part of a high-functioning team. Not every type of conflict is created equal. Avoid interpersonal politics, destructive fighting, and mean-spirited attacks between members.

Encourage productive ideological conflict by discussing and debating concepts and ideas. Both of these conflict types have passion, emotion, and frustration, and that sometimes makes them difficult to differentiate. The purpose of conflict is to produce the best solution in the shortest possible time.

As a leader, you need to acknowledge that conflict is productive and necessary. Your team needs to fish out and want conflicts. When conflict happens, call it out and reinforce that it is a good and healthy thing.

3. - Lack of commitment

This one is a gem - aim to achieve clarity and buy-in even if team members vote against the decision. Achieving consensus is a trap. Make sure everyone's opinion is heard and taken into consideration. But when there is a lack of a consensus on the solution/approach the leader should be empowered to make a decision and get buy-in/commitment from their team.

Great teams can unite behind a decision even if it’s not the right one. They do not require every detail to move forward. If the initial decision is wrong it can be corrected. The best teams have the ability to act without perfect information. That allows them to move quickly, make mistakes, learn and iterate.

4. - Avoidance of accountability

In a team context, accountability should be everyone's job. Each team member should call out their peers for performance and behavior that might hurt the team. Holding each other accountable and having high expectations of one another is a true sign of caring and trust. Peer accountability is very powerful.


  • Publish goals and standards publicly. What the team needs to achieve, who needs to deliver what, and how people need to behave to achieve the goal.
  • Hold regular progress reviews
  • Reward team achievement instead of individual performance
  • The leader should encourage the team to be the first and primary method of accountability. Create a culture of shared responsibility. As a last resort the leader should step in when necessary to hold people accountable.

5. - Inattention to results

When team members are more focused on their own agendas and goals rather than the goals of the team, it can lead to a lack of progress and a lack of success. Outcome-based performance is key here. Avoid team and individual status.


  • Reward behaviors that help achieve results
  • Commit publicly to achieve X results; Do not fall into the trap of “trying your best”
  • Rewards should be linked to results and not doing your best
  • The leader should set the tone and value results over anything else

What I will be testing out and putting into practice

  1. When it comes to creating trust I am planning to try out the first two suggestions. See how the team likes them and go from there.
  2. This has been something I have been practicing for quite a while now. I believe my job is to question decisions and push back in a healthy productive way. I am going to continue doing that and fostering healthy conflict even more within my teams.
  3. Another great one I have been doing already. Recently, the team I am overseeing had a disagreement or should I call it conflict. The team was not in consensus when it came to the solution we were discussing. I had to make the call in order to move things forward. I made sure that I got buy-in from the person that had a different opinion. I will continue to do this more and strengthen the muscle of making decisions with imperfect information.
  4. I really like the idea of having the team members holding each other accountable. I have been trying to foster this behavior for some time now but I will definitely try out the suggestions.
  5. I have always advocated that creating impact is what ultimately matters for any role. This is something that I am actively working on not just for my team but also helping adopt this way of operating for the entire company I work for.

I am excited to try these things out and see what I will learn.

Hopefully, at least someone can find value in reading this article.

Keep a growth mindset and take care!

Back to all Blogs