Is Your Team Really a Team? A Review of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Ryan Eidson  —  June 11, 2014

Have you ever been involved in a group that called itself a team, but really wasn’t?

One group that I was involved in met on a frequent basis. We lived in the same area, and the founders called the group a team. However, we did not function as a team.

There was a lot of gossip, which clearly demonstrated a lack of trust among the individuals. Not everyone showed up to each meeting (mostly due to frequent travel). And we had no common goals to work toward; all objectives were very ambiguous.

That group was characterized like this:

“Many teams are simply not results focused. They do not live and breathe in order to achieve meaningful objectives, but rather merely to exist or survive. Unfortunately for these groups, no amount of trust, conflict, commitment, or accountability can compensate for a lack of desire to win.” Patrick Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, p. 218

If it’s not a team, then don’t call it a team! Call it what it is! Use the right word to describe the situation.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team book reviewIn the book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, the corporate executive group was not called a team by the employees. They recognized the executives as “the staff” instead of a team.

I first read this excellent book by Patrick Lencioni about eight years ago. I’ve recently re-read it because the dysfunctions are so prevalent in business, non-profit, and day-to-day life today.

Becoming a true team can be an elusive thing. It takes time and much patience.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

The five dysfunctions, stated positively, are:

  1. The members trust each other
  2. They engage in unfiltered conflict around ideas
  3. They commit to decisions and plans of action
  4. They hold one another accountable for delivering against those plans
  5. They focus on the achievement of collective results

All five are inter-related and must be present for a team to be a healthy team.

Insights from This Book

Because so many other people have commented on the five dysfunctions model (and you can get a free PDF explaining them here), I will highlight here the ideas that stuck out as I re-read this book.

It’s hard to let someone go, even if it’s the right thing for the team.

Because of emotional bonds, however weak or strong they are, as well as a fear of change, we often don’t want to kick out non-performing members of the group for the well-being of the group as a whole. This means you need a corporate mindset, not an individualistic one.

No relationship is neutral: You’re either building up or tearing down.

Each word that comes out of our mouths, and every action we take, will either help or hurt other people. There is no middle ground.

Mutual understanding: Listen to one another

It is critical that we understand each others’ personality traits, basic personal histories, and modes of operation (modi operandi). Often, extroverts get too much airtime and introverts are not given an opportunity to speak up or think things through. Sometimes extroverts need to listen to the intuition and insights of the soft-spoken members more often!

“Most reasonable people don’t have to get their way in a discussion. They just need to be heard, and to know that their input was considered and responded to.” The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, p. 96


I really enjoy the author’s style of teaching through story (The Fable) before presenting the non-fiction part (The Model). He includes an assessment as well to see which of the five dysfunctions are most prevalent in your group, and gives great ideas to take your group from a collection of individuals to a genuine team.

(Warning: I rate this book at PG for language. If you’re very sensitive to strong language, I warned you ahead of time.)

Get free resources on The Five Dysfunctions of a Team from the Table Group here.

Check out the book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble



Are you in a group right now that calls itself a “team” but really isn’t? What are some constructive steps you will take to remove the dysfunctions?

Ryan Eidson


I have the unique ability to make complex ideas easy to understand. I am the author of A Couple with Common Cents and live in rural Missouri.