Building Strong Teams: A Tool for Identifying and Addressing Five Common Areas of Dysfunction

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ECF Vital Teams consultant Rosa Lindahl believes a leadership team’s capacity to move into the future depends on its ability to function effectively. She notes that congregations, like most other communities, have fractures, divisions, old hurts and new, often worked around but not through. As a result, there often is an unarticulated but very real anxiety about the possibility of conflict amongst the team members and about their capacity to make and execute faithful decisions with health and wholeness. What can we, as congregational leaders, do to discuss more openly and honestly the ways in which our relationships with each other could be strengthened and built up?

The Five Areas of Dysfunction

Rosa recommends congregations consider The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick M. Lencioni. The book considers five self-defeating behavior patterns that a team must overcome to be healthy. They are behavior clusters that ‘nest’ one in the other and reinforce each other behaviors.

They are:

  1. An absence of trust, particularly as it relates to being open and transparent about mistakes and weaknesses.
  2. A fear of conflict, that makes it next to impossible for a team to vigorously debate ideas and hold different perspectives and points of view in creative tension.
  3. A lack of commitment that comes from little or no buy in and ownership so even when a group makes a decision, team members are at best, minimally committed to do whatever it takes to execute the decision.
  4. Avoidance of accountability is the next ‘extension’ of the self-defeating patterns because everyone involved is hesitant to call other team members on issues and concerns when individuals are aware that they themselves are not giving their all.
  5. Inattention to results is the fifth component and is the result of a concern on the part of the individuals in a team to protect themselves and their individual needs at the expense of the goals of a team.

The book includes a self-assessment tool teams can use and valuable activities and exercises that can help develop new patterns of behavior and relationship that ensure stronger performance and results.

The Diagnostic Tool

Congregational leadership teams are invited to rate their effectiveness as a team using the Team Assessment Questionnaire (below), a diagnostic tool for evaluating your team’s susceptibility to the five dysfunctions. Invite each member of your team to complete the diagnostic and then share the results, discussing discrepancies in the responses, and identifying any clear implications for the team.

Click on the Scoring Sheet below for instructions for tabulating your results and interpreting the possible conclusions.

Click here for another version of this diagnostic tool that includes additional descriptions of the behaviors of dysfunctional teams.

Note: The Team Assessment Tool and Scoring Instructions were created by Patrick M. Lencioni and published in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick M. Lencioni, April 2002, Jossey-Bass. This material is reproduced with permission of John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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