I always enjoy reading Patrick Lencioni’s books because they are business books written as fables. If you are tired of wading through books on leadership that emphasize the author’s new way of thinking about an old subject read Lencioni.

In the Five Dysfunctions of a Team he discusses the five areas that keep teams from functioning at a high level.

I created his graphic model as a poster, which I put up in the monthly meetings of my CEO learning groups. However, after a few years I became tired of looking at it as a negative, what causes teams to be dysfunctional, and redid the poster as a positive…what does a high performing team look like.

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The first requirement of a high performing team, and its base on which to build, is TRUST. If the team members do not trust one another there cannot be anything else. There must be a willingness to be transparent with one another, be willing to be admit their mistakes and weaknesses. For example, my intention in leading my CEO learning groups is to create an environment where safe and confidential conversations can take place so we connect as human beings, not just CEOs. If you know someone as a human being you feel safe to share with them anything that is on your mind and not feel judged. As a result, my members frequently share something they choose not to share with their spouse.

Good, creative discussions lead to new ideas. In any group of people there will be disagreement. High performing teams embrace CONFLICT. They agree that it is okay to disagree. This leads to passionate debates around the company’s current direction or a current policy or procedure. The important thing to remember as a facilitator of such a discussion is to not let it get personal. Stay focused on the issue and keep personalities out of it.

In order to have COMMITMENT coming out of a meeting where a decision has been made everyone must be on board. Even if someone doesn’t agree with the decision they must support it publicly. Nothing derails a decision more quickly than someone on the leadership team being negative with their own team, the one they manage. It will split the company into factions instead of everyone working toward the same goal.

Invariably a new decision is made in a leadership team meeting and a person or persons has taken responsibility to see that it is implemented. Holding that person or persons ACCOUNTABLE for living up to their commitment is part of a high performing team. If they are not going to meet their commitment they should be transparent (TRUST) with the rest of the team. The team can support them by asking where they need the team’s assistance and a new plan can be developed, all without judgment.

All of the characteristics prior to this should lead to RESULTS and, hopefully, the results originally expected. In order for this to happen everyone must be focused on the same priorities and not on a personal agenda that will highlight themselves or their own team.

Let me suggest an interesting exercise. Share this triangle at your next “team” meeting, whether it is your management team or your entire staff. Have them rate on a scale of 1-10 how they feel the team is doing in each category. Tally the results to get an average for each characteristic. Then discuss. You will find out a lot about your team, especially around the characteristic of TRUST (complete transparency) and CONFLICT (a willingness to disagree).

Consider Reading This

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni. A fable that reveals why teams often struggle to be high performing.