One fatal flaw for a professional team

May 23, 2019
  • Communication
  • Competencies
  • Leadership and Management
  • Professional Integrity

Teamwork can provoke conflict and expose insecurities. That’s because humans aren’t perfect, and when they get together those imperfections can be amplified.

However, some teams manage to work together well and accomplish their goals, while others are more easily derailed into politics and confusion. The reason? The latter teams likely suffer from a basic lack of trust.

Absence of trust
According to writer and CEO Patrick Lencioni’s immensely popular book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (2002), teams are inherently dysfunctional, so anticipating and addressing common issues is necessary to keep teams on track, positive, and results-oriented.

Although he describes five dysfunctions, absence of trust is the foundational flaw that underpins the other four.

Trust develops when team members:

  • Assume other members’ good intentions, giving one another the benefit of the doubt;

  • Are open about their mistakes and weaknesses without fear of rejection or reprisal;

  • Are willing to be vulnerable, such as asking for help or giving and receiving constructive feedback.

When team members hide mistakes or weakness, fail to recognize other members’ skills/strengths, and hold grudges against one another, these are signs of mistrust. Failure of trust can lead to other dysfunctions, including fear of conflict; ambivalent commitment; avoidance of accountability; and, ultimately, a lack of investment in desired results, to paraphrase from Lencioni. All are interconnected, and an improvement in one area can lead to improvement in others.

Do you look forward to meetings?
Functional, trusting teams do. Dysfunctional teams dread them.

So how do you build trust? According to Lencioni, leaders must be willing to show vulnerability and build an environment that doesn’t punish it. In addition, find ways for team members to get to know one another in ways that help them to see each other as whole people and to appreciate one another’s skills and weaknesses. These activities might include staff retreats, experiential exercises, or personality inventories, as appropriate.

LesLee Clauson Eicher, Assistant Director, AACRAO International, shared insights from The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and strategies for overcoming them at an AACRAO staff “Lunch and Learn” last week. Clauson Eicher will bring the comprehensive session to the AACRAO Technology and Transfer Conference, July 14-16 in Las Vegas. 

For this and other excellent guidance and expertise to support your work, learn more about the conference and register now. 
 Early bird deadline is June 14.