I always like to start discussions around team building with our clients by drawing their attention to and discussing Patrick Lencioni’s five dysfunctions of a team, namely:

Absence of Trust

Fear of Conflict

Lack of Commitment

Avoidance of Accountability

Inattention to Results

I do this because I think this model provides an excellent basis for building effective teams simply by removing the negative descriptors before the key words. So, for me an effective team achieves the following:

Trust through knowledge and acceptance

Constructive conflict by open communication

Commitment to agreed objectives and goals

Accountability and ownership of outcomes, individually and collectively

Results orientation through focus on desired outcomes

In terms of achieving a truly functional team, as defined above, in which team members are interdependent and supportive of one another; I believe there is little which can be achieved by traditional action learning ‘teambuilding’ events and activities. This is not to say the same have no value, more they tend not to build a team in any sustainable or relatively significant way.

Traditional team building activities ordinarily involve achieving defined tasks, which are not work related, away from the team’s operational environment. This dislocates and disassociates the team from their ordinary working experience and employs them in achieving an outcome which is irrelevant to the team in their operational role. Also, Lencioni’s model is hierarchical insofar as the absence of trust leads to fear of conflict which prevents commitment, and so on. By dislocating, disassociation and irrelevance the foundations of the functional team, that is, trust and constructive conflict are no longer required to achieve commitment to the task in hand. This in turn makes it relatively easy for team members to commit to the (irrelevant) task which can be achieved, more or less, without significant penalty in relation to ownership and accountability. Clearly, skilled delivery and facilitation can enable drawing of parallels and lessons relative to the working environment but the implementation of the same is another matter altogether.

My advice to clients seeking to build an effective team is to do so in their work place and utilising the realities of their environment and day to day work. Doing so smartly can also bring added value in achieving organic development and growth. In advising this I draw attention to the need for leadership and acknowledge the challenges involved in adopting such an approach. There are tools and processes which help in building effective teams in this way but the first requirement is for leadership and in so saying, the following clip by Patrick Lencioni about leadership helps explain why

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