Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

Books by Patrick Lencioni

The Advantage by Patrick LencioniThe Advantage BOOK CLUB

The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business by Patrick Lencioni. Jossey-Bass. 240 pages. 2012

Patrick Lencioni is one of my favorite business authors. His books The Advantage and The Five Dysfunctions of a Team are among my favorites. I recently started reading and discussing The Advantage with two colleagues at work. I’m sharing key learnings from the book here.

the-better-pastorThe Better Pastor by Patrick Lencioni. 101 pages. 2016
****

Patrick Lencioni, one of my favorite authors, has spent twenty-five years helping leaders and organizations of every kind to eliminate roadblocks, politics and dysfunction that prevent them doing what they might otherwise achieve. Lencioni has never been shy about his Catholic faith. This, his first book for the clergy, is written in love, gratitude and admiration for pastors. As with most of his books, he uses a leadership fable to illustrate his points, wrapping up the lessons highlighted in the story at the end of the book.

Fr. Daniel Connor is the pastor of Saint Monica Parish.  One of his newer parishioners, Ken Hartman, who works for a management consulting firm, is waiting at the church to speak to him on a Thursday evening. Ken shares three things with Fr. Daniel: 1. there could be better management at the church, 2. he could hold people more accountable, 3. he could pray more.

Fr. Daniel doesn’t see himself as a leader, but a priest. He tells Ken that leadership wasn’t taught at seminary. But Ken tells him leadership is indeed a big part of his job.  Fr. Daniel is determined to make St. Monica’s an outstanding and amazing parish. We see him begin to meet regularly with fellow pastors, which is described as the best decision they had ever made outside of becoming priests. He also meets for breakfast weekly with Ken.

We see Fr. Connor over the next two years begin to grow as a leader, starting with the establishment of a real team to run the parish and the development of a compelling and actionable plan for St. Monica’s. There would be rough times on his way to finding joy in his calling. Those familiar with Lencioni will see some of his best-known principles come out in the story.

Lencioni offers ideas and suggestions for going deeper in transforming your own parish, including visiting the website of Amazing Parish, an organization he co-founded which is committed to helping pastors and their teams improve organizationally and spiritually. Having attended seminary myself, I can confirm that leadership is not emphasized. This book is a gift to pastors.

The Ideal Team PlayerThe Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues by Patrick Lencioni. Jossey-Bass. 240 pages. 2016
****

My favorite “business” book is The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni and a close second is his The Advantage. I put business in quotes because I have found the principles from Five Dysfunctions to be helpful on any team, be it in business, sports, a nonprofit or ministry. This new book picks up where The Five Dysfunctions left off.

Lencioni states that if someone were to ask him to make a list of the most valuable qualities a person should develop in order to thrive in the world of work—and for that matter, life—he would put being a team player at the top. In The Five Dysfunctions he explained that real teamwork requires tangible, specific behaviors: vulnerability-based trust, healthy conflict, active commitment, peer-to-peer accountability, and a focus on results. He indicates that the three underlying virtues that enable them to be ideal team players are that they are humble, hungry, and smart.

He states that when a team member lacks one or more of these three virtues, the process of building a cohesive team is much more difficult than it should be, and in some cases, impossible. He writes that leaders who can identify, hire, and cultivate employees who are humble, hungry, and smart will have a serious advantage over those who cannot.

He states that the purpose of the book is to help the reader understand how the elusive combination of these three simple attributes can accelerate the process of making teamwork a reality in your organization or in your life so you can more effectively achieve the extraordinary benefits that it brings.

As is his usual approach (The Advantage was the exception), Lencioni illustrates his points in a leadership fable and then wraps up his points in a model at the end of the book. In this fable, we meet Jeff Shanley who lives and works in the Silicon Valley. After a few jobs in high-tech marketing, at age thirty-five he cofounded a technology start-up. Two years later, he was fortunate enough to get demoted when the board of directors hired what they called a grown-up CEO. During the next four years, that CEO, Kathryn Petersen, taught Jeff more about leadership, teamwork, and business than he could have learned in a decade of business school. When Kathryn retired, Jeff left the company and spent the next few years working at a small consulting firm in Half Moon Bay, over the hills from the Silicon Valley. As the book opens he is ready for a change. But it turns out to be a change that he didn’t see coming.

Jeff receives a phone call from his Uncle Bob, who owns Valley Builders, a successful building contractor in Napa Valley. Eventually, due to his uncle’s health problems, Jeff will take over the company from his uncle at a critical time for the organization, a time of both challenges and opportunities. Valley Builders has just landed two large projects. The company has never had two major projects like this at the same time, both of which are as big as they’ve ever done. They will need to add a net sixty people in the next two months, with five critical hires that will need to be made first – a project manager, three foremen, and a senior engineer. On top of that, they will need about a half dozen supervisors and about fifty contractors of all kinds.

Jeff and his leadership team at Valley Builders will need to look at their hiring process to assure that they hire true team players, the kind of person who can easily build trust, engage in healthy conflict, make real commitments, hold people accountable, and focus on the team’s results. The life of their company will depend on it.

After the fable, the author covers the ideal team player model, what it means, where it comes from, and how it can be put to practical use. He states that “For organizations seriously committed to making teamwork a cultural reality, I’m convinced that “the right people” are the ones who have those three virtues in common—humility, hunger, and people smarts.” Included in this section is a helpful Manager Assessment. He also discusses peer evaluations versus peer discussion, stating that he believes “the most powerful activity that occurs around any assessment is peer discussion.”

I found his section connecting The Ideal Team Player Model with The Five Dysfunctions of a Team to be particularly helpful. He states that the ideal team player is all about the makeup of individual team members, while the five dysfunctions are about the dynamics of teams getting things done.

He ends the book by stating that over the past twenty years, it has become apparent to him that humility, hunger, and people smarts have relevance outside of the workplace, and that apart from the other two virtues, humility stands alone.

There is some profanity included in the leadership fable portion of the book. I found it of interest that two of the three virtues included here were included in Brad Lomenick’s excellent 2015 book H3 Leadership: Be Humble. Stay Hungry. Always Hustle.

Lencioni points the reader to his website for additional resources about The Ideal Team Player.

A Presentation of: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick LencioniFive Dysfunctions of a Team

One of the most helpful leadership books I’ve read is The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. Here is a summary of some of the main points from that book from a presentation I did recently.

Like it or not, all teams are potentially dysfunctional. This is inevitable because they are made up of fallible, imperfect human beings.

Addressing the Dysfunctions

To begin improving your team and to better understand the level of dysfunction you are facing, ask yourself these simple questions:

  • Do team members openly and readily disclose their opinions?
  • Are team meetings compelling and productive?
  • Does the team come to decisions quickly and avoid getting bogged down by consensus?
  • Do team members confront one another about their shortcomings?
  • Do team members sacrifice their own interests for the good of the team?

Although no team is perfect and even the best teams sometimes struggle with one or more of these issues, the finest organizations constantly work to ensure that their answers are “yes.” If you answered “no” to many of these questions, your team may need some work.

The first step toward reducing politics and confusion within your team is to understand that there are five dysfunctions to contend with, and address each that applies, one by one.

The Five Dysfunctions

 Five Dysfunctions model:http://www.tablegroup.com/books/dysfunctions/the_five_dysfunctions.pdf

 Dysfunction #1: Absence of Trust

This occurs when team members are reluctant to be vulnerable with one another and are unwilling to admit their mistakes, weaknesses or needs for help. Without a certain comfort level among team members, a foundation of trust is impossible.

Members of teams with a lack of trust:

  • Conceal their weaknesses and mistakes from one another
  • Hesitate to ask for help or provide constructive feedback
  • Hesitate to offer help outside their own areas of responsibility
  • Jump to conclusions about the intentions and aptitudes of others without attempting to clarify them
  • Fail to recognize and tap into one another’s skills and experiences
  • Waste time and energy managing their behaviors for effect
  • Hold grudges
  • Dread meetings and find reasons to avoid spending time together

Members of trusting teams:

  • Admit weaknesses and mistakes
  • Ask for help
  • Accept questions and input about their areas of responsibility
  • Give one another the benefit of the doubt before arriving at a negative conclusion
  • Take risks in offering feedback and assistance
  • Appreciate and tap into one another’s skills and experiences
  • Focus time and energy on important issues, not politics
  • Offer and accept apologies without hesitation

Dysfunction #2: Fear of Conflict

Teams that are lacking on trust are incapable of engaging in unfiltered, passionate debate about key issues, causing situations where team conflict can easily turn into veiled discussions and back channel comments. In a work setting where team members do not openly air their opinions, inferior decisions are the result.

In his book The Advantage, in writing about “artificial harmony”, Lencioni writes:  “Nowhere does this tendency toward artificial harmony show itself more than in mission-driven nonprofit organizations, most notably churches. People who work in those organizations tend to have a misguided idea that they cannot be frustrated or disagreeable with one another. What they’re doing is confusing being nice with being kind.”

Teams that fear conflict:

  • Have boring meetings
  • Create environments where back-channel politics and personal attacks thrive
  • Ignore controversial topics that are critical to team success
  • Fail to tap into all the opinions and perspectives of team members
  • Waste time and energy with posturing and interpersonal risk management

Teams that engage in conflict:

  • Have lively, interesting meetings
  • Extract and exploit the ideas of all team members
  • Solve real problems quickly
  • Minimize politics
  • Put critical topics on the table for discussion

Dysfunction #3: Lack of Commitment

Without conflict, it is difficult for team members to commit to decisions, creating an environment where ambiguity prevails. Lack of direction and commitment can make employees, particularly star employees, disgruntled.

A team that fails to commit:

  • Creates ambiguity among the team about direction and priorities
  • Watches windows of opportunity close due to excessive analysis and unnecessary delay
  • Breeds lack of confidence and fear of failure
  • Revisits discussions and decisions again and again
  • Encourages second guessing among team members

A team that commits:

  • Creates clarity around direction and priorities
  • Aligns the entire team around common objectives
  • Develops an ability to learn from mistakes
  • Takes advantage of opportunities before competitors do
  • Moves forward without hesitation
  • Changes direction without hesitation or guilt

Dysfunction #4: Avoidance of Accountability

When teams don’t commit to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and driven individuals hesitate to call their peers on actions and behaviors that may seem counterproductive to the overall good of the team.

A team that avoids accountability:

  • Creates resentment among team members who have different standards of performance
  • Encourages mediocrity
  • Misses deadlines and key deliverables
  • Places and undue burden on the team leader as the sole source of discipline

A team that holds one another accountable:

  • Ensures that poor performers feel pressure to improve
  • Identifies potential problems quickly by questioning one another’s approaches without hesitation
  • Establishes respect among team members who are held to the same high standards
  • Avoids excessive bureaucracy around performance management and corrective action

Dysfunction #5: Inattention to Results

Team members naturally tend to put their own needs (ego, career development, recognition, etc.) ahead of the collective goals of the team when individuals aren’t held accountable. If a team has lost sight of the need for achievement, the business ultimately suffers.

A team that is not focused on results:

  • Stagnates/fails to grow
  • Rarely defeats competitors
  • Loses achievement-oriented employees
  • Encourages team members to focus on their own careers and individual goals
  • Is easily distracted

A team that focuses on collective results:

  • Retains achievement-oriented employees
  • Minimizes individualistic behavior
  • Enjoys success and suffers failure acutely
  • Benefits from individuals who subjugate their own goals/interests for the good of the team
  • Avoids distractions

Key points about a Cohesive Team (from The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni)

  • Members of the team trust one another and can be genuinely vulnerable with each other.
  • Team members regularly engage in productive, unfiltered conflict around important issues.
  • The team leaves meetings with clear-cut, active and specific agreements around decisions.
  • Team members hold one another accountable to commitments and behaviors.

 

Q & A with Patrick Lencioni

Q: What advice do you have for someone struggling with a dysfunctional team?

A: If you’re the leader of a team, go back and start by ensuring team members trust one another and are comfortable engaging in open conflict around issues. There is no substitute for trust. It begins with the willingness of team members to open themselves up to one another and admit their weaknesses and mistakes. In addition, any individual, whether an executive or a line employee, can impact a team in either a positive or negative way. Without holding one another accountable, even the best-intentioned team members can create dysfunctions within a team.

 

If you’re not the leader of the team, find a way to get your leader committed to addressing the five dysfunctions. Or be prepared to take risks calling people on unproductive behaviors. If neither of these options are possibilities, think about finding another team. There are a few short videos on this site (under “Teamwork”), that would be helpful to reinforce the message:  http://www.tablegroup.com/pat/?tab=media

 

Getting NakedGetting Naked: A Business Fable about Shedding the Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty by Patrick Lencioni. Jossey-Bass. 2010. 220 pages.
***

Patrick Lencioni consults to CEOs and their executive teams, including the company I work for. His bestselling books, which include The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, are written as “leadership fables”, where he takes what he has learned from consulting with different organizations and puts it together in a fictional account to illustrate his points. He then wraps up each book with a brief teaching on the main concepts made in the fable.

Lencioni states that the principles in this book apply most directly and comprehensively to businesses like management consulting, financial advising, public relations, technical services, and internal corporate support services. However, they can be applied to a variety of other service businesses involving ongoing relationships with clients. He states that when we can demonstrate vulnerability to the people we live and work with, we build stronger relationships, affirm our trust in them, and inspire them to become more vulnerable themselves.

In his “Introduction”, he writes that for those who provide service to clients, vulnerability, or what he calls “naked service”, is particularly powerful. Those who get comfortable being vulnerable are rewarded with levels of client loyalty and intimacy that other service providers can only dream about. He indicates that what makes naked service worthwhile is that it puts naked service providers in a position to more effectively help clients, which, of course, is what providing service is all about.

 

Leadership Fable

The leadership fable tells about Kendrick and Black, a prestigious, international full-service management consulting firm headquartered in San Francisco. Lighthouse is a much smaller firm than K&B, and focused much of their work in the Bay Area. K&B didn’t compete “head to head” often for clients, but when they did, K&B lost every time.

Circumstances were such with Lighthouse that they needed to be sold, and K&B decides to purchase them. The lead character, named Jack Bauer (no, not that Jack Bauer), a senior consultant at K&B and the head of sales for the strategy practice of the firm, is assigned to work with Lighthouse for five or six months to determine what parts to integrate into K&B’s strategy division and what to do with the rest.

Although not excited about the assignment, Jack is interested to find out Lighthouse’s “secret”. How does this small firm consistently beat them in direct competition? He’s shocked in what he finds – they charge more than K&B, don’t really prepare before meetings with prospective clients, and aren’t into selling as much as they are about helping their clients solve their problems. Lighthouse doesn’t really need to “sell”, because most, if not all, of their business comes from referrals from current clients that are pleased with their work.

In fact, sometimes they even turn down work because the client may not be the “right” client for Lighthouse, a concept that is foreign to Jack and K&B. When Jack goes back to his management to explain that K&B has much to learn from Lighthouse he is nearly laughed out of the room and comes close to being fired.

The Model (with extensive direct quotations from the book)

Although the fable is about a management consulting firm, the naked approach applies to anyone who provides ongoing, relationship-based advice, counsel, or expertise to a customer, inside or outside of a company. Lencioni states that even better yet, it applies to anyone whose success is tied to building loyal and sticky relationships with the people they serve.

At its core, naked service boils down to the ability of a service provider to be vulnerable – to embrace uncommon levels of humility, selflessness, and transparency for the good of a client.

Three Fears

1. Fear of Losing the Business.

Lencioni states that what clients want more than anything is to know that naked service providers are more interested in helping them than they are in maintaining their revenue source.

2. Fear of Being Embarrassed.

This fear is rooted in pride, and is ultimately about avoiding the appearance of ignorance, wanting to be seen instead as smart or competent. Naked service providers are so concerned about helping a client that they are willing to ask questions and make suggestions even if those questions and suggestions could turn out to be laughably wrong. Clients come to trust naked service providers because they know that they will not hold back their ideas, hide their mistakes, or edit themselves to save face.

3. Fear of Feeling Inferior.

While this fear also has its roots in ego, there is an important difference between this and the preceding fear. Fear of feeling inferior is not about our intellectual pride, but rather about preserving our sense of importance and social standing relative to a client. Naked service providers not only overcome their need to feel important in the eyes of their clients, but also purposefully put themselves in a lower position. They do whatever a client needs to do to help them improve,

even if that calls for the service provider to be overlooked or temporarily looked down on. Ironically, clients come to trust and respect service providers who do this and ultimately come to think more highly of them. That’s because there is nothing more attractive and admirable than people who willingly and cheerfully

set their egos aside and make the needs of others more important than their own.

 

Principles of Naked Service

1. Always Consult Instead of Sell. (Corresponds to Fear of Losing the Business).

Naked service providers transform every sales situation into an opportunity to demonstrate the value of what they do. They avoid, as much as possible, telling clients what they would do if they were to be hired; instead they just start serving them as though they were already a client.

2. Give Away the Business (Corresponds to Fear of Losing the Business).

This principle has two applications. On the one hand, it is related to the “always consult instead of sell” principle because it is about giving a prospective client advice and service before they agree to become a paying client. The other part of giving away the business is more financial. It entails always erring on the side of the client when it comes to fees. Because a naked service provider is interested in a long-term relationship with a client, it is in your best interest to show them that you are more focused on helping them than you are in maximizing

your short-term revenue.

3. Tell the Kind Truth (Corresponds with Fear of Losing the Business)

Naked service providers will confront a client with a difficult message, even when the client might not like hearing it. As a result, they put the relationship with the client at risk, knowing that it is more important to serve the client’s needs than it is to protect the service provider’s own business. But they do this in a way

that recognizes the dignity and humanity of the client.

4. Enter the Danger (Corresponds with Fear of Losing the Business).

Naked service providers don’t shy away from uncomfortable situations; they step right into the middle of them. When it comes to consulting and service, entering the danger has to do with having the courage to fearlessly deal with an issue that everyone else is afraid to address.

5. Ask Dumb Questions (Corresponds with Fear of Being Embarrassed).

Naked service providers are the ones who ask the questions that others in the room are afraid to ask out of fear that they would embarrass themselves. They realize that if they ask five questions and three of them could be considered “dumb,” the potential benefit that comes from the other two makes it worthwhile.

6. Make Dumb Suggestions (Corresponds with Fear of Being Embarrassed).

Naked service providers go beyond merely asking questions that others shy away from; they make suggestions that they aren’t sure of, knowing that they are putting themselves in a position to be even more embarrassed.

7. Celebrate Your Mistakes (Corresponds with Fear of Being Embarrassed).

Naked service providers don’t enjoy being wrong; they just realize it is an inevitability. And rather than attempting to hide or downplay their errors, they readily call them out and take responsibility for them. Though this may seem counterintuitive, it actually increases the client’s level of trust and loyalty.

8. Take a Bullet for the Client (Corresponds with Fear of Feeling Inferior).

Taking a bullet does not mean enabling a client to do the wrong thing by blindly absorbing blame for them. It is about finding those moments when we can humble ourselves and sacrificially take some of the burden off of a client in a difficult situation, and then – and this is critical – confront them with the kind truth. Without that confrontation, taking a bullet would indeed be enablement.

Naked service providers “throw themselves on grenades” for their clients, knowing that the grenades encountered in a business setting are usually not lethal, and that the act of doing so builds extraordinary trust and loyalty.

9. Make Everything about the Client (Corresponds with Fear of Feeling Inferior).

Naked service providers throw their full attention into the world of the client. They do not try to shift attention to themselves and their level of experience or knowledge; rather they make it clear that their focus is on understanding, honoring, and supporting the business of the client. As a result, naked service providers often downplay their own accomplishments, allowing clients to discover them for themselves.

10. Honor the Client’s Work (Corresponds with Fear of Feeling Inferior).

Naked service providers honor the client by taking an active interest in their business and by appreciating the importance of that business to the client and the client’s customers.

11. Do the Dirty Work (Corresponds to Fear of Feeling Inferior).

Naked service providers are willing to take on whatever a client needs them to do within the context of their services.

12. Admit Your Weaknesses and Limitations

This principle is perhaps the most general and all-encompassing. It is one thing to be honest about a single mistake, and quite another to admit a general weakness. But the fact is, we all have weaknesses, and if we try to cover them up we’ll probably put ourselves in a situation of having to do more and more of what we

aren’t good at. We’ll also wear ourselves out by trying to be something we’re not, which not only is exhausting but also prevents us from doing our best in the areas in which we can thrive.

Lencioni is a Roman Catholic, and there are nods to his faith throughout the book. There is also some PG rated language included in the book. Additional resources related to this book can be found at:

http://www.tablegroup.com/books/gettingnaked/.

 

 

lencioniThe Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business by Patrick Lencioni. Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated. 240 pages. 2012. Audiobook read by Patrick Lencioni.
****
Business consultant and author of eight bestselling business fables, Patrick Lencioni’s latest book gathers his most important insights from them into a single volume. His contention is that the most important, and untapped competitive advantage, is organizational health.
He writes that a healthy organization (and that organization may be a business, government, non-profit or a church), is one that has eliminated politics and confusion from its environment. Without politics and confusion, the healthy organization will inevitably become smarter and tap into every bit of intelligence and talent that it has.
So why haven’t more companies embraced the benefits of organizational health? First, Lencioni states, it’s hard. It requires real work and discipline over a period of time and it must be maintained. Second, it’s not sophisticated, meaning it’s hard to get a group of executives excited about it when they are looking for a quick fix. Third, it’s hard to measure in a precise and accurate manner. And the biggest reason is that it requires courage. Leaders must be willing to confront themselves, their peers and the dysfunction within their organization with an uncommon level of honesty and persistence. They must be prepared to walk straight into uncomfortable situations and address issues that prevent them from realizing the potential that eludes them.
Lencioni states that there are four simple, but difficult steps or disciplines to organizational health. They are:

1. Build a Cohesive Leadership Team. The first step is all about getting the leaders of the organization to behave in a functional cohesive way. In this section, Lencioni covers information from his classic book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Those five team behaviors are:
a. Trust
b. Conflict
c. Commitment
d. Accountability
e. Results

He writes that cohesive teams build trust, eliminate politics, and increase efficiency by:
• Knowing one another’s unique strengths and weaknesses
• Openly engaging in constructive ideological conflict
• Holding one another accountable for behaviors and actions
• Committing to group decisions.

2. Create Clarity. The second step for building a healthy organization is ensuring that the members of the leadership team are intellectually aligned around six simple but critical questions. Those questions are:
a. Why do we exist?
b. How do we behave?
c. What do we do?
d. How will we succeed?
e. What is most important, right now?
f. Who must do what?

3. Over-Communicate Clarity. Only after these first two steps are in process (behavioral and intellectual alignment), can an organization undertake the third step: over-communicating the answers to the above six questions. Here, Lencioni covers the following points:
• Repetition. Don’t be afraid to repeat the same message again and again.
• Simplicity. The more complicated the message, the more potential for confusion and inconsistency.
• Multiple mediums – People react to information in many ways. As a result, leaders should use a variety of mediums.
• Cascading messages. Leaders should communicate key messages to direct reports. The cycle repeats itself until the message is heard by the entire organization.

4. Reinforce Clarity. Finally, in addition to over-communicating, leaders must ensure that the answers to the six critical questions are reinforced repeatedly using simple human systems. Organizations sustain their health by ensuring consistency in:
• Hiring
• Managing performance
• Rewards and recognition
• Employee dismissal

Visually, the model looks like this:
org health model

In addition to the four disciplines, Lencioni states that it is essential that a healthy organization get better at meetings. The section entitled “The Centrality of Great Meetings” provides an explanation of how to sustain the rigor of the four disciplines, and thus the health of the organization. Some of this material comes from his book Death by Meeting. He writes that “Bad meetings are the birthplace of unhealthy organizations and good meetings are the origin of cohesion, clarity and communication. He also states “Your meetings are a barometer of everything else”
.
This book will help leaders of an organization that either needs to “get in shape” or “get in better shape” to gain or increase its competitive advantage. Lencioni provides not just concepts, but real life examples which are particularly helpful.

For more information about the Advantage model, go to: http://www.tablegroup.com/oh/

Five Dysfunctions-001The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni. Jossey-Bass. 2002. 229 pages.
****

Patrick Lencioni is one of my favorite business authors and this is one of the most helpful books that I continually go back to time and again. It is helpful in any setting in which you work with a team – business, church, non-profit, sports, etc.

In this book Lencioni follows his usual practice of using a fictional account (fable) to make his points in an interesting manner, and then summarizing those points in the final portion (last 33 pages) of the book.

In the fable, Kathryn Peterson is a newly appointed CEO of Decision Tech, a technology company which has much potential. In fact, Kathryn will tell her staff multiple times:

“We have a more experienced and talented executive team than any of our competitors. We have more cash than they do. Thanks to Martin and his team, we have better core technology. And we have a more powerful board of directors. Yet in spite of all that, we are behind two of our competitors in terms of both revenue and customer growth.”

The problem with Decision Tech is that their executive staff is not displaying teamwork. In a series of off-site meetings, Kathryn leads the staff through the five dysfunctions of a team. She, as well as Lencioni in the final portion of the book, recommend ways for overcoming the dysfunctions.

This is an excellent book on team dynamics and teamwork. Being written as a fable allows the reader to get a vivid picture of how a team interacts and what it feels like to be part of a successful team. This is a quick read, the author’s model is simple and the book is full of practical advice which leaders can use in building good teams. I’ve included detailed notes about what Lencioni teaches in the book below:

Like it or not, all teams are potentially dysfunctional. This is inevitable because they are made up of fallible, imperfect human beings.

Addressing the Dysfunctions

To begin improving your team and to better understand the level of dysfunction you are facing, ask yourself these simple questions:

• Do team members openly and readily disclose their opinions?
• Are team meetings compelling and productive?
• Does the team come to decisions quickly and avoid getting bogged down by consensus?
• Do team members confront one another about their shortcomings?
• Do team members sacrifice their own interests for the good of the team?

Although no team is perfect and even the best teams sometimes struggle with one or more of these issues, the finest organizations constantly work to ensure that their answers are “yes.” If you answered “no” to many of these questions, your team may need some work.

The first step toward reducing politics and confusion within your team is to understand that there are five dysfunctions to contend with, and address each that applies, one by one.

The Five Dysfunctions

Five Dysfunctions model: http://www.tablegroup.com/books/dysfunctions/the_five_dysfunctions.pdf

Dysfunction #1: Absence of Trust
This occurs when team members are reluctant to be vulnerable with one another and are unwilling to admit their mistakes, weaknesses or needs for help. Without a certain comfort level among team members, a foundation of trust is impossible.

Members of teams with a lack of trust:
• Conceal their weaknesses and mistakes from one another
• Hesitate to ask for help or provide constructive feedback
• Hesitate to offer help outside their own areas of responsibility
• Jump to conclusions about the intentions and aptitudes of others without attempting to clarify them
• Fail to recognize and tap into one another’s skills and experiences
• Waste time and energy managing their behaviors for effect
• Hold grudges
• Dread meetings and find reasons to avoid spending time together

Members of trusting teams:
• Admit weaknesses and mistakes
• Ask for help
• Accept questions and input about their areas of responsibility
• Give one another the benefit of the doubt before arriving at a negative conclusion
• Take risks in offering feedback and assistance
• Appreciate and tap into one another’s skills and experiences
• Focus time and energy on important issues, not politics
• Offer and accept apologies without hesitation

Dysfunction #2: Fear of Conflict
Teams that are lacking on trust are incapable of engaging in unfiltered, passionate debate about key issues, causing situations where team conflict can easily turn into veiled discussions and back channel comments. In a work setting where team members do not openly air their opinions, inferior decisions are the result.

In his book The Advantage, in writing about “artificial harmony”, Lencioni writes:

“Nowhere does this tendency toward artificial harmony show itself more than in mission-driven nonprofit organizations, most notably churches. People who work in those organizations tend to have a misguided idea that they cannot be frustrated or disagreeable with one another. What they’re doing is confusing being nice with being kind.”

Teams that fear conflict:
• Have boring meetings
• Create environments where back-channel politics and personal attacks thrive
• Ignore controversial topics that are critical to team success
• Fail to tap into all the opinions and perspectives of team members
• Waste time and energy with posturing and interpersonal risk management

Teams that engage in conflict:
• Have lively, interesting meetings
• Extract and exploit the ideas of all team members
• Solve real problems quickly
• Minimize politics
• Put critical topics on the table for discussion

Dysfunction #3: Lack of Commitment
Without conflict, it is difficult for team members to commit to decisions, creating an environment where ambiguity prevails. Lack of direction and commitment can make employees, particularly star employees, disgruntled.

A team that fails to commit:
• Creates ambiguity among the team about direction and priorities
• Watches windows of opportunity close due to excessive analysis and unnecessary delay
• Breeds lack of confidence and fear of failure
• Revisits discussions and decisions again and again
• Encourages second guessing among team members

A team that commits:
• Creates clarity around direction and priorities
• Aligns the entire team around common objectives
• Develops an ability to learn from mistakes
• Takes advantage of opportunities before competitors do
• Moves forward without hesitation
• Changes direction without hesitation or guilt

Dysfunction #4: Avoidance of Accountability
When teams don’t commit to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and driven individuals hesitate to call their peers on actions and behaviors that may seem counterproductive to the overall good of the team.

A team that avoids accountability:
• Creates resentment among team members who have different standards of performance
• Encourages mediocrity
• Misses deadlines and key deliverables
• Places and undue burden on the team leader as the sole source of discipline

A team that holds one another accountable:
• Ensures that poor performers feel pressure to improve
• Identifies potential problems quickly by questioning one another’s approaches without hesitation
• Establishes respect among team members who are held to the same high standards
• Avoids excessive bureaucracy around performance management and corrective action

Dysfunction #5: Inattention to Results
Team members naturally tend to put their own needs (ego, career development, recognition, etc.) ahead of the collective goals of the team when individuals aren’t held accountable. If a team has lost sight of the need for achievement, the business ultimately suffers.

A team that is not focused on results:
• Stagnates/fails to grow
• Rarely defeats competitors
• Loses achievement-oriented employees
• Encourages team members to focus on their own careers and individual goals
• Is easily distracted

A team that focuses on collective results:
• Retains achievement-oriented employees
• Minimizes individualistic behavior
• Enjoys success and suffers failure acutely
• Benefits from individuals who subjugate their own goals/interests for the good of the team
• Avoids distractions

Key points about a Cohesive Team (from The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni)
• Members of the team trust one another and can be genuinely vulnerable with each other.
• Team members regularly engage in productive, unfiltered conflict around important issues.
• The team leaves meetings with clear-cut, active and specific agreements around decisions.
• Team members hold one another accountable to commitments and behaviors.

Q & A with Patrick Lencioni
Q: What advice do you have for someone struggling with a dysfunctional team?

A: If you’re the leader of a team, go back and start by ensuring team members trust one another and are comfortable engaging in open conflict around issues. There is no substitute for trust. It begins with the willingness of team members to open themselves up to one another and admit their weaknesses and mistakes. In addition, any individual, whether an executive or a line employee, can impact a team in either a positive or negative way. Without holding one another accountable, even the best-intentioned team members can create dysfunctions within a team.

If you’re not the leader of the team, find a way to get your leader committed to addressing the five dysfunctions. Or be prepared to take risks calling people on unproductive behaviors. If neither of these options are possibilities, think about finding another team.

There are a few short videos on this site (under “Teamwork”), that would be helpful to reinforce the message:
http://www.tablegroup.com/pat/?tab=media

Three Signs of a Miserable JobThe Three Signs of a Miserable Job: A Fable for Managers (and their employees) by Patrick Lencioni. Jossey-Bass. 2007. 259 pages.
****

This was the first book by Patrick Lencioni that I read, and he has since become one of my favorite business authors. It was his sixth “fable”, following a familiar pattern in which he spends about 80% of the book teaching concepts through an entertaining fable or story, and the final 20% reviewing the principles in more detail through case studies and a “Taking Action” section.

In this book, he takes on a topic that most everyone can relate to – work. Through the story of a CEO turned part owner of a rundown pizza joint, he reveals the three elements that make work miserable. They are:
• Irrelevance. Everyone needs to know that their job matters to someone. Anyone. Without seeing a connection between the work and the satisfaction of another person or group of people, an employee simple will not find lasting fulfillment. Even the most cynical employees need to know that their work matters to someone, even if it’s just the boss.
• Immeasurability. Employees need to be able to gauge their progress and level of contribution for themselves. They cannot be fulfilled in their work if their success depends on the opinions or whims of another person, no matter how benevolent that person may be. Without tangible means of assessing success or failure, motivation eventually deteriorates as people see themselves as unable to control their own fate.
• Anonymity. People cannot be fulfilled in their work if they are not known. All human beings need to be understood and appreciated for their unique qualities by someone in a position of authority. People who see themselves as invisible, generic or anonymous cannot love their jobs, no matter what they are doing.

Lencioni also gives managers and their employees tips on how to make any job more fulfilling, as he makes a point that most people, no matter what job they are in, are miserable in it.

I found the fable to be interesting and entertaining, and the tips on how to do something about miserable jobs of value. I have since shared this information with staff and team members.

The very end of the book will be of interest to Christians in leadership positions. It is entitled “The Ministry of Management”. In that brief section, Lencioni writes:

“By helping people find fulfillment in their work, and helping them succeed in whatever they’re doing, a manager can have a profound impact on the emotional, financial, physical and spiritual health of workers and their families. They can also create an environment where employees do the same for their peers, giving them a sort of ministry of their own. All of which is nothing short of a gift from God.”

Downloadable tools and other advice about implementing the suggestions in this book are available at http://www.tablegroup.com/employeeengagement/?tab=book

One thought on “Books by Patrick Lencioni

  1. Pingback: 10 BOOKS LEADERS SHOULD READ | Coram Deo ~

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s