Sales Tax Institute Book Club: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

This month, the Sales Tax Institute book club focused on team building. Before a business can be successful, the team must learn how to function productively and smoothly. According to author Patrick Lencioni, there are five dysfunctions that often plague team productivity. We’re providing a guide to the dysfunctions below to reflect on and ensure your team doesn’t make these mistakes. 

Learn how to overcome the five common dysfunctions of a team…  


1. Absence of Trust

Trust is the foundation of a functioning team. Trust means that each team member is willing to open up to one another and feels assured that all the other team members have good intentions. Knowing team members have good intentions allows for vulnerability with regards to individual weaknesses, skill deficiencies, interpersonal shortcomings, mistakes, and requests for help. Lack of trust leads to wasteful time management and interactions between team members because no one is willing to challenge each other or admit their concerns without fear of reprisal. 

What does your team need to overcome? Invulnerability. 

Questions for reflection:

  • Are team members able to admit their weaknesses and mistakes?
  • Are team members comfortable asking for help?
  • Does your team look forward to meetings and other opportunities to work as a group?


2. Fear of Conflict

Productive conflict is essential for company growth. Debates over ideas allow for all points of view to be heard and critiqued and help ensure that the outcome will be thoroughly vetted. Dealing with disagreements at the outset saves time and frustration in the long run. The trick is to make sure that conflicts only touch on concepts and ideas, never devolving into personal attacks. This avoids passive aggression and building tension amongst a team. When true feelings are bottled up due to fear of conflict, frustration may surface as subtle or sarcastic comments that are  pushed aside to avoid confrontation.

What does your team need to overcome? Artificial harmony.

Questions for reflection:

  • Are your team meetings lively, interesting, and engaging or are they rote and predictable?
  • Does your team minimize politics and solve problems quickly?
  • Are critical topics put on the table for discussion?


3. Lack of Commitment

Lack of commitment is often caused by a lack of certainty and consensus. Teams need clarity and buy-in on big decisions so that everyone is on the same page. This makes communication more efficient, consolidates goals, and keeps team members aligned. A team functions best when every member is in on the plans and commits to the plan. Committed teams leave meetings confident that nobody is quietly doubting the agreed upon actions moving forward. Some teams areparalyzed by the need for consensus and an inability to move beyond debate. Most people are willing to commit to the final decision if their ideas are heard, even if their idea isn’t a part of the final decision. 

What does your team need to overcome? Ambiguity. 

Questions for reflection:

  • Is your team aligned around common objectives?
  • Can your team change direction easily and move forward without hesitation?
  • Will your team members commit to decisions even if they don’t agree with them 100%?


4. Avoidance of Accountability

Accountability refers to the willingness of team members to call each other out on    performances and behaviors that might hurt the team. Resentment may build up when team members fail to meet the expectations of the team but they remain unaware and continue to make the same mistake. It can be uncomfortable to confront a peer or a superior, but without constructive criticism, team members won’t grow. The fear of letting down peers can actually motivate team members to improve their performance.

What does your team need to overcome? Low standards.

Questions for reflection:

  • Does your team think critically and identify problems quickly without hesitation to call each other out?
  • Is there respect and are there high standards for all of your team members?
  • Are your team members willing to set aside interpersonal discomfort in order to hold each other accountable?


5. Inattention to Results

Teams that don’t have an overarching goal to measure their progress against, ultimately fail to be successful. Individual (or departmental) recognition and attention can get in the way of team goals. Sometimes, individuals are satisfied by simply being on an elite or executive team. Other times, people focus on enhancing their own career prospects without keeping the team in mind. Here’s the reality: goals drive profit. Achieving meaningful objectives that are agreed on by the entire team leads to the most profit. 

What does your team need to overcome? Status and ego.

Questions for reflection:

  • Does your team consist of individuals who prioritize team goals over individual goals?
  • Does your team enjoy success and suffer failure acutely?
  • Do you know how other departments’ efforts impact the overall health of the company? 


These dysfunctions are common amongst all sorts of teams. Our team is not perfect by any means.  But, we are becoming more aware and want to improve.  The most successful teams are the ones that are self-aware. In order to achieve maximum efficiency, teams need to recognize their shortcomings and make changes to grow.

If you’ve read The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and have other thoughts or insights, we’d love to hear them. Email us here.

Next, the Sales Tax Institute will take on Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen. We’d love to have you join us in our next journey. We encourage you to support your independent local bookstores. Our neighborhood bookstore is Sandmeyer’s Bookstore in historic Printer’s Row Chicago. Join us and support your own favorite local store!

Posted on December 14, 2020