Leadership book presentation

Attached the book. Please read and prepare the below.


You should include the following information:

  • The title and a brief introduction of your selected leadership book (similar to an abstract)
  • Background information on the author(s)
  • A description of the major theme of the book
  • An explanation as to your interest in selecting this particular book for your leadership book review
    • Describe the main theories and principles (at least five) presented in the book
    • How each of the theories and principals presented in the book directly relate to being a leader
    • Show how the theories and principals presented in the book relate to specific leadership standards
    • Explain how each of the theories and principles presented in the book directly relate to your development as a leader
    • Closing comments to summarize the theories and principals presented in the book
    • Your critique of the book as it relates to developing leaders
    • How could the information you gained through reviewing this book on leadership enhance your knowledge base and development as a leader
    • Why or why would you recommend this book to your fellow class members

Organization of the Presentation:

  • Concise in presentation
  • Sections are clearly identified
  • Include an agenda slide
  • 10-12 slides
  • Approximately 15 minutes in length
  • No grammar, spelling, punctuation, or typing errors
  • Bring a hardcopy (printed copy)  and an electronic (on a jump drive) with you to residency
  • Speaker’s notes and citations on all slides


The Five Dysfunctions

of aTeam A L E A D E R S H I P FA B L E

Patrick Lencioni

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File Attachment

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Also by Patrick Lencioni

Leadership Fables

The Five Temptations of a CEO

The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive

Death by Meeting

Silos, Politics, and Turf Wars

Field Guide

Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team

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The Five Dysfunctions

of aTeam A L E A D E R S H I P FA B L E

Patrick Lencioni

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Copyright © 2002 by Patrick Lencioni.

Published by Jossey-Bass A Wiley Imprint 989 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94103-1741 www.josseybass.com

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning, or otherwise, except as permitted under Section 107 or 108 of the 1976 United States Copyright Act, without either the prior written permission of the publisher, or authorization through payment of the appropriate per-copy fee to the Copyright Clearance Center, Inc., 222 Rosewood Drive, Danvers, MA 01923, 978-750-8400, fax 978-646-8600, or on the Web at www.copyright.com. Requests to the publisher for permission should be addressed to the Permissions Department, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030, 201-748-6011, fax 201-748-6008, or online at http://www.wiley.com/go/permissions.

Limit of Liability/Disclaimer of Warranty: While the publisher and author have used their best efforts in preparing this book, they make no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents of this book and specifically disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. No warranty may be created or extended by sales representatives or written sales materials. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation. You should consult with a professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher nor author shall be liable for any loss of profit or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

Readers should be aware that Internet Web sites offered as citations and/or sources for further information may have changed or disappeared between the time this was written and when it is read.

Jossey-Bass books and products are available through most bookstores. To contact Jossey-Bass directly call our Customer Care Department within the U.S. at 800-956-7739, outside the U.S. at 317-572-3986, or fax 317-572-4002.

Jossey-Bass also publishes its books in a variety of electronic formats. Some content that appears in print may not be available in electronic books.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Lencioni, Patrick, 1965–

The five dysfunctions of a team : a leadership fable / Patrick Lencioni. p. cm.

ISBN 0-7879-6075-6 1. Teams in the workplace. I. Title.

HD66 .L456 2002 658.4’036—dc21 2001008099

Printed in the United States of America FIRST EDITION

HB Printing 20 19 18 17 16

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Introduction vii

The Fable 1 Luck 3

Part One: Underachievement 5

Part Two: Lighting the Fire 27

Part Three: Heavy Lifting 115

Part Four: Traction 171

The Model 185 An Overview of the Model 187

Team Assessment 191

Understanding and Overcoming

the Five Dysfunctions 195

A Note About Time: Kathryn’s Methods 221

A Special Tribute to Teamwork 223

Acknowledgments 225

About the Author 229


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To Dad, for teaching me the value of work. And to Mom, for encouraging me to write.

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Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork

that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both be-

cause it is so powerful and so rare.

A friend of mine, the founder of a company that grew

to a billion dollars in annual revenue, best expressed the

power of teamwork when he once told me, “If you could

get all the people in an organization rowing in the same di-

rection, you could dominate any industry, in any market,

against any competition, at any time.”

Whenever I repeat that adage to a group of leaders, they

immediately nod their heads, but in a desperate sort of way.

They seem to grasp the truth of it while simultaneously sur-

rendering to the impossibility of actually making it happen.

And that is where the rarity of teamwork comes into

play. For all the attention that it has received over the years

from scholars, coaches, teachers, and the media, teamwork

is as elusive as it has ever been within most organizations.

The fact remains that teams, because they are made up of

imperfect human beings, are inherently dysfunctional.


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But that is not to say that teamwork is doomed. Far

from it. In fact, building a strong team is both possible and

remarkably simple. But it is painfully difficult.

That’s right. Like so many other aspects of life, team-

work comes down to mastering a set of behaviors that are

at once theoretically uncomplicated, but extremely difficult

to put into practice day after day. Success comes only for

those groups that overcome the all-too-human behavioral

tendencies that corrupt teams and breed dysfunctional pol-

itics within them.

As it turns out, these principles apply to more than just

teamwork. In fact, I stumbled upon them somewhat by ac-

cident in my pursuit of a theory about leadership.

A few years ago I wrote my first book, The Five Temp-

tations of a CEO, about the behavioral pitfalls that plague

leaders. In the course of working with my clients, I began

to notice that some of them were “misusing” my theories in

an effort to assess and improve the performance of their

leadership teams—and with success!

And so it became apparent to me that the five tempta-

tions applied not only to individual leaders but, with a few

modifications, to groups as well. And not just within cor-

porations. Clergy, coaches, teachers, and others found that

these principles applied in their worlds as much as they did

in the executive suite of a multinational company. And that

is how this book came to be.

Like my other books, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

begins with a story written in the context of a realistic but

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fictional organization. I have found that this allows read-

ers to learn more effectively by losing themselves in a story

and by being able to relate to the characters. It also helps

them understand how these principles can be applied in a

nontheoretical, real-world environment, where the pace of

work and the volume of daily distractions make even the

simplest of tasks seem arduous.

In order to help you apply the material in your own or-

ganization, a brief section following the story outlines the

five dysfunctions in detail. That section also includes a team

assessment and suggested tools for overcoming the issues

that might be plaguing your team.

Finally, although this book is based on my work with

CEOs and their executive teams, its theories are applica-

ble for anyone interested in teamwork, whether you lead a

small department within a company or are simply a mem-

ber of a team that could use some improvement. Whatever

the case may be, I sincerely hope it helps your team over-

come its particular dysfunctions so that it can achieve more

than individuals could ever imagine doing alone. That, after

all, is the real power of teamwork.

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The Fable

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Only one person thought Kathryn was the right choice to be-come CEO of DecisionTech, Inc. Luckily for her, that per-son was the Chairman of the board. And so, less than a month after the previous chief ex-

ecutive had been removed, Kathryn Petersen took the reins

of a company that just two years earlier had been one of

the most talked-about, well-funded, and promising start-up

companies in the recent history of the Silicon Valley. She

could not have known just how far from grace the com-

pany had fallen in such a short period of time, and what

the next few months had in store for her.


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Under- achievement

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DecisionTech was located in Half Moon Bay, a foggy, coastalfarming town just over the hills from the San Francisco Bay.It was not technically part of the Silicon Valley, but the Val- ley is not so much a geographical entity as a cultural one.

And DecisionTech certainly fit within that world.

It had the most experienced—and expensive—executive

team imaginable, a seemingly indestructible business plan,

and more top-tier investors than any young company could

hope for. Even the most cautious venture firms were lining

up to invest, and talented engineers were submitting their

resumés before the company had leased an office.

But that was almost two years earlier, which is a life-

time for a technology start-up. After its first few euphoric

months of existence, the company began experiencing a

series of ongoing disappointments. Critical deadlines

started to slip. A few key employees below the executive

level unexpectedly left the company. Morale deteriorated


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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

gradually. All of this in spite of the considerable advantages

that DecisionTech had amassed for itself.

On the two-year anniversary of the firm’s founding, the

board unanimously agreed to “ask” Jeff Shanley, the com-

pany’s thirty-seven-year-old CEO and cofounder, to step

down. He was offered the job of heading business devel-

opment, and to the surprise of his colleagues, he accepted

the demotion, not wanting to walk away from a potentially

huge payout should the company eventually go public.

And even in the difficult economic climate of the Valley,

the company had every reason to go public.

None of DecisionTech’s 150 employees were shocked

by Jeff’s removal. While most of them seemed to like him

well enough personally, they couldn’t deny that under his

leadership the atmosphere within the company had become

increasingly troubling. Backstabbing among the executives

had become an art. There was no sense of unity or cama-

raderie on the team, which translated into a muted level of

commitment. Everything seemed to take too long to get

done, and even then it never felt right.

Some boards might have been more patient with a

stumbling executive team. DecisionTech’s was not. There

was just too much at stake—and too high a profile—to

watch the company waste away because of politics. Deci-

sionTech had already developed a reputation within the

Valley for being one of the most political and unpleasant

places to work, and the board couldn’t tolerate that kind

06Lencioni/Backstory 2/10/02 3:31 PM Page 8



of press, especially when the future had looked so promis-

ing just a couple of years earlier.

Someone had to be accountable for the mess, and Jeff

was the man at the top. Everyone seemed relieved when

the board announced the decision to remove him.

Until three weeks later, when Kathryn was hired.

06Lencioni/Backstory 2/10/02 3:31 PM Page 9


The executives couldn’t agree on which of Kathryn’s fea-

tures presented the biggest problem. There were so many.

First, she was old. Ancient, at least by Silicon Valley stan-

dards. Kathryn was fifty-seven.

More important, she had no real high-tech experience

other than serving as a board member of Trinity Systems,

a large technology company in San Francisco. Most of her

career had been spent in operational roles with decidedly

low-tech companies, the most notable of which was an au-

tomobile manufacturer.

But more than her age or experience, Kathryn just didn’t

seem to fit the DecisionTech culture.

She had started her career in the military, then married

a teacher and basketball coach at a local high school. After

raising three boys, she taught seventh grade for a few years

until she discovered her affinity for business.

At the age of thirty-seven, Kathryn enrolled in a three-

year business school night program, which she completed

a semester early at Cal State Hayward, which was not ex-


07Lencioni/Kathryn 2/10/02 3:31 PM Page 10



actly Harvard or Stanford. She then spent the next fifteen

years in and around manufacturing, until her retirement at

the age of fifty-four.

The fact that Kathryn was a woman was never an issue

for the executive team; two of them were women them-

selves. With much of their collective experience coming

from the somewhat progressive world of high tech, most

had worked for women at some time during their careers.

But even if her gender had been a problem for anyone on

the team, it would have been dwarfed by her glaring cul-

tural mismatch.

There was just no mistaking the fact that, on paper,

Kathryn was an old school, blue-collarish executive. That

presented a stark contrast to the DecisionTech executives

and middle managers, most of whom had little experience

working outside of the Valley. Some of them even liked to

brag that they hadn’t worn a suit—outside of a wedding—

since graduating from college.

It was no surprise that after first reading her resumé,

board members questioned the Chairman’s sanity when

he suggested they hire Kathryn. But he eventually wore

them down.

For one, the board believed their Chairman when he

flat out assured them that Kathryn would succeed. Second,

he had been known to have extremely good instincts about

people, notwithstanding the problem with Jeff. He certainly

wouldn’t make two mistakes in a row, they reasoned.

But perhaps most important of all (though no one would

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

admit it), DecisionTech was in a desperate situation. The

Chairman insisted that there weren’t too many capable ex-

ecutives willing to take on such a messy job given the cur-

rent state of affairs at the scarred company. “We should

consider ourselves lucky to have such a capable leader as

Kathryn available,” he successfully argued.

Whether or not that was true, the Chairman was deter-

mined to hire someone he knew and could trust. When

he called Kathryn to tell her about the job, he certainly could

not have known that he would be regretting the decision

just a few weeks later.

07Lencioni/Kathryn 2/10/02 3:31 PM Page 12


No one was more surprised about the offer than Kathryn. Al-though she had known the Chairman for many years on apersonal level (Kathryn had actually first met him when her husband coached his oldest son in high school), she could

not have imagined that he thought so highly of her as an


Most of their relationship had been social, centering

around family, school, and local athletics. Kathryn assumed

that the Chairman had little idea about her life outside her

role as a mother and coach’s wife.

In fact, the Chairman had followed Kathryn’s career

with interest over the years, amazed at how successful she

had become with such relatively modest training. In less

than five years, she had become chief operating officer of

the Bay Area’s only automobile manufacturing plant, a U.S.-

Japanese joint venture. She held that job for the better part

of a decade and made the plant one of the most success-

ful cooperative enterprises in the country. And while the


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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Chairman knew little about the car industry, he knew one

thing about Kathryn that convinced him she was perfect to

fix the problems at DecisionTech.

She had an amazing gift for building teams.

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If the executives at DecisionTech had any doubts aboutKathryn when her hiring was first announced—and theydid—they were even more concerned after their new lead- er’s first two weeks on the job.

It wasn’t that Kathryn did anything controversial or mis-

placed. It was that she did almost nothing at all.

Aside from a brief reception on her first day and sub-

sequent interviews with each of her direct reports, Kathryn

spent almost all of her time walking the halls, chatting with

staff members, and silently observing as many meetings as

she could find time to attend. And perhaps most contro-

versial of all, she actually asked Jeff Shanley to continue

leading the weekly executive staff meetings, where she just

listened and took notes.

The only real action that Kathryn took during those first

weeks was to announce a series of two-day executive re-

treats in the Napa Valley to be held over the course of the

next few months. As though she needed to give them any


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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

more ammunition, none of her reports could believe she

had the gall to take them out of the office for so many days

when there was so much real work to be done.

And to make matters worse, when someone suggested

a specific topic for discussion during the first retreat, Kathryn

refused. She had her own agenda already set.

Even the Chairman was surprised, and a bit unnerved,

about the reports of Kathryn’s early performance. He came

to the conclusion that if she didn’t work out, he should

probably leave along with her. That was beginning to feel

like the most probable outcome.

09Lencioni/Grumblings 2/10/02 3:32 PM Page 16


After her first two weeks observing the problems at Deci-sionTech, Kathryn had more than a few moments when shewondered if she should have taken the job. But she knew that there was little chance that she would have turned it

down. Retirement had made her antsy, and nothing excited

her more than a challenge.

While there was no doubt that DecisionTech would be

a challenge, something seemed different about this one.

Though she had never really feared failure, Kathryn could

not deny that the prospect of letting the Chairman down

spooked her a little. To tarnish her reputation so late in her

career, and among friends and family, was enough to worry

even the most secure of people. And Kathryn was certainly

secure with herself.

After surviving a stint in the military, raising her boys,

watching countless buzzer-beating basketball games, and

standing up to union bosses, Kathryn decided she was not

about to be intimidated by a bunch of harmless yuppies


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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

whose greatest hardships in life so far had been fighting

off the first signs of a receding hairline or an expanding

waistline. She believed that as long as the board would give

her enough time and leeway, she would be able to turn De-

cisionTech around.

And Kathryn’s lack of in-depth software experience did

not concern her. In fact, she felt certain that it provided her

with an advantage. Most of her staff seemed almost para-

lyzed by their own knowledge of technology, as though

they themselves would have to do the programming and

product design to make the company fly.

Kathryn knew that Jack Welch didn’t have to be an ex-

pert on toaster manufacturing to make General Electric a

success and that Herb Kelleher didn’t have to spend a life-

time flying airplanes to build Southwest Airlines. Despite

what her limited technical background might have indi-

cated, Kathryn felt that her understanding of enterprise soft-

ware and technology was more than sufficient for her to

lead DecisionTech out of the mess it was in.

What she could not have known when she accepted

the job, however, was just how dysfunctional her execu-

tive team was, and how they would challenge her in ways

that no one before had ever done.

10Lencioni/Observatons 2/10/02 3:33 PM Page 18


Employees referred to the DecisionTech executives as TheStaff. No one referred to them as a team, which Kathryn de-cided was no accident. In spite of their undeniable intelligence and impres-

sive educational backgrounds, The Staff’s behavior dur-

ing meetings was worse than anything she had seen in the

automotive world. Though open hostility was never really

apparent and no one ever seemed to argue, an underlying

tension was undeniable. As a result, decisions never seemed

to get made; discussions were slow and uninteresting, with

few real exchanges; and everyone seemed to be desperately

waiting for each meeting to end.

And yet, as bad as the team was, they all seemed like

well-intentioned and reasonable people when considered

individually. With just a few exceptions.


Essentially a generalist who loved networking within the

Valley, Jeff Shanley had raised a considerable amount of the


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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

company’s initial money and attracted many of the current

executives. No one could deny his prowess when it came

to venture capital or recruiting. But management was an-

other story.

Jeff ran staff meetings as though he were a student body

president reading from a textbook on protocol. He always

published an agenda before each meeting, and then dis-

tributed detailed minutes afterward. And unlike most other

high-tech companies, his meetings usually began on time

and always concluded exactly when they were scheduled

to end. The fact that nothing ever seemed to get done dur-

ing those meetings didn’t appear to bother him.

In spite of his demotion, Jeff maintained his seat on

the board of directors. Kathryn initially suspected that he

might resent her for taking his job, but she soon came to

the conclusion that Jeff was relieved to be, well, relieved

of his management responsibilities. Kathryn had little con-

cern about his presence on the board, or on her manage-

ment team. She suspected that his heart was in the right



Marketing would be a critical function at DecisionTech, and

the board had been ecstatic to get someone as sought after

as Michele Bebe. Mikey, as she liked to be called, was well

known throughout the Valley as a brand-building genius.

Which made it all the more astonishing that she lacked a

few key social graces.

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The Staff

During meetings, she talked more than the others, oc-

casionally coming up with a brilliant idea, but more often

complaining about how the other companies she had

worked for did everything better than DecisionTech. It was

almost as though she were a spectator or, better yet, a vic-

tim of circumstance, at her new company. Though she nev-

er argued outright with any of her peers, she was known

to roll her eyes in apparent disgust when one of them dis-

agreed with anything she had to say about marketing.

Kathryn decided that Mikey was unaware of how she came

across to others. No one would purposefully act that way,

she reasoned.

So in spite of her talent and accomplishments, it was no

surprise to Kathryn that Mikey was the least popular among

the rest of the staff. With the possible exception of Martin.


A founder of the company, Martin Gilmore was the closest

thing that DecisionTech had to an inventor. He had de-

signed the original specs for the company’s flagship prod-

uct, and although others had done much of the actual

product development, the executives often said that Mar-

tin was the keeper of the crown jewels. That analogy was

due at least in part to the fact that Martin was British.

Martin considered himself to know as much about tech-

nology as anyone else in the Valley, which was probably

true. With advanced degrees from Berkeley and Cam-

bridge, and a track record of success as a chief architect at

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

two other technology companies, he was seen as Decision-

Tech’s key competitive advantage, at least when it came to

human capital.

Unlike Mikey, Martin didn’t disrupt staff meetings. In

fact, he rarely participated. It wasn’t that he refused to at-

tend those meetings (even Jeff wouldn’t allow such a bla-

tant act of revolt); it was just that he always had his laptop

open, and he seemed to be constantly checking e-mail or

doing something similarly engrossing. Only when some-

one made a factually incorrect statement could Martin be

counted on to offer a comment, and usually a sarcastic one

at that.

At first, this was tolerable, maybe even amusing, to Mar-

tin’s peers, who seemed in awe of his intellect. But it began

to wear on the staff over time. And with the company’s re-

cent struggles, it had become an increasingly grating source

of frustration for many of them.


In order to avoid confusing him with Jeff Shanley, everyone

called the head of sales JR. His real name was Jeff Rawlins,

but he seemed to enjoy the new moniker. JR was an ex-

perienced salesperson and a little older than the others—

mid-forties. He was usually tan, never rude, and always

agreed to do whatever the staff asked of him.

Unfortunately, JR rarely followed through. In those cases

when he came clean and acknowledged having made a

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The Staff

commitment that went unfulfilled, he apologized profusely

to whomever he had let down.

In spite of what the staff called JR’s flakiness, he was

able to maintain a measure of respect from his peers be-

cause of his track record. Before coming to DecisionTech,

he had never missed a quarterly revenue number in his en-

tire career in sales.


Though DecisionTech had relatively few customers, the

board felt strongly that the company would need to invest

early in customer service in order to prepare for growth.

Carlos Amador had worked with Mikey at two previous

companies, and she introduced him to the firm. Which was

ironic because the two of them couldn’t have been more


Carlos spoke very little, but whenever he did, he had

something important and constructive to say. He listened

intently during meetings, worked long hours with no

complaint, and downplayed his prior accomplishments

whenever someone asked about them. If there was a low-

maintenance member of the staff, and a trustworthy one,

it was Carlos.

Kathryn was thankful not to have to worry about at least

one of her new direct reports, although she was somewhat

troubled that his specific role had not yet fully developed.

The fact that he willingly took on responsibility for product

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

quality and any other unattractive duties that fell through

the gaps allowed her to focus on more pressing concerns.


The role of the chief financial officer had been a critical

one at DecisionTech and would continue to be as long as

the company intended to go public. Jan Mersino knew

what she was getting into when she joined the company,

and she had played a key role supporting Jeff as he raised

impressive amounts of money from venture capitalists and

other investors.

Jan was a stickler for detail, took pride in her knowl-

edge of the industry, and treated the company’s money

as though it were her own. While the board had given Jeff

and the staff virtual free rein when it came to expenditures,

they did so only because they knew that Jan would not let

things get out of control.


The final member of the executive staff was the most im-

pressive on paper. Nick Farrell had been vice president

of field operations for a large computer manufacturer in the

Midwest, and had moved his family to California to take

the DecisionTech job. Unfortunately for him, he had the

most ill-defined role of anyone on the team.

Nick was officially the chief operating officer of the

company, but that was only because he had demanded

the COO title as a condition of accepting the job. Jeff

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The Staff

and the board gave it to him because they believed he

would earn it within the year anyway if he performed ac-

cording to his billing. More importantly, they had become

addicted to hiring star executives, and losing Nick would

have hurt their winning percentage.

Of all the members of the executive staff, Nick had been

most directly impacted by the company’s sputtering start.

Given Jeff’s limitations as a manager, Nick had been hired

to spearhead DecisionTech’s growth, which included build-

ing an operational infrastructure, opening new offices

around the world, and leading the firm’s acquisition and in-

tegration efforts. Most of his responsibilities were currently

on hold, giving Nick little meaningful day-to-day work.

As frustrated as he was, Nick didn’t complain openly. To

the contrary, he worked hard to build relationships, though

sometimes shallow ones, with each of his colleagues, whom

he had quietly deemed to be inferior to him. And though he

certainly never said so to any of his peers, Nick felt he was

the only executive in the company qualified to be CEO. But

that would become obvious soon enough.

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Lighting the Fire

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12Lencioni/Part 2 2/10/02 3:33 PM Page 28


It looked like just another of the many standard e-mail mes-sages that Kathryn was receiving on a regular basis now thatshe had been on the job for awhile. The subject header— “Customer Opportunity Next Week”—seemed innocuous

enough, even positive, especially considering that it came

from her acerbic chief engineer, Martin. And the note itself

was short. The most damaging ones usually are.

That it was not addressed to anyone in particular, but

was sent to the entire executive staff, only belied its in-

cendiary potential:

Just received a call from ASA Manufacturing. They’re

interested in reviewing our product to consider a purchase

next quarter. JR and I will be going down to meet with

them next week. Could be a big opportunity. We’ll be

back early Tuesday.

The fact that Martin avoided any mention of the sched-

uling conflict with the executive retreat only made the


13Lencioni/First Test 2/10/02 3:34 PM Page 29


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

situation worse for Kathryn. He had not asked permission

to miss the first day and a half of the off-site retreat, either

because he didn’t feel the need to do so or because he

wanted to avoid having to deal with the issue altogether.

Kathryn decided it didn’t matter which was true.

She resisted the temptation to avoid a confrontation

with Martin by firing off an e-mail reply. Kathryn decided

that this would be her first moment of truth as a CEO, and

moments of truth, she knew, are best handled face-to-face.

Kathryn found Martin sitting in his corner office read-

ing e-mail. His back was turned toward the open door, but

she didn’t bother knocking.

“Excuse me, Martin.” Kathryn waited for Martin to turn

around, which he took his time doing. “I just saw your

e-mail about ASA.”

He nodded, and she went on. “That’s great news. But

we’ll have to push the appointment back a few days be-

cause of the off-site.”

Martin was silent for an awkward moment, then re-

sponded without emotion but with his thickest English ac-

cent. “I don’t think you understand. This is a potential sales

opportunity. You don’t just reschedule . . .”

Kathryn interrupted and responded matter-of-factly. “No,

I do understand. But I think they’ll still be there next week.”

Not used to being countered directly, Martin became

just slightly agitated. “If your concern is about this Napa off-

site thing, then I think we may have our priorities confused.

We need to be out there selling.”

13Lencioni/First Test 2/10/02 3:34 PM Page 30


First Test

Kathryn took a breath and smiled to conceal her frus-

trations. “First of all, I only have one priority at this point:

we need to get our act together as a team, or we’re not

going to be selling anything.”

Martin said nothing.

After an awkward five seconds, Kathryn finished the

conversation. “So, I’ll be seeing you in Napa next week.”

She turned to leave, then turned back to face Martin again.

“Oh, and if you need any help rescheduling the ASA meet-

ing, let me know. I know Bob Tennyson, the CEO down

there. He sits on the Trinity board with me, and he owes

me a favor.”

With that, she left the room. Though Martin decided

not to push any further for the moment, he was not through


13Lencioni/First Test 2/10/02 3:34 PM Page 31


Jeff stopped by Kathryn’s office the next morning and askedher to lunch. She had planned to run an errand during thattime, but happily shifted her schedule to accommodate one of her direct reports. The oldest Mexican restaurant in Half

Moon Bay was as good a spot as any for a difficult con-

versation, he thought, because mostly locals ate there.

Before Jeff could broach the topic he wanted to dis-

cuss, Kathryn took care of some business of her own. “Jeff,

I want to thank you for leading the executive staff meet-

ings these past two weeks. It’s allowed me to sit back and


He nodded politely to accept her minor but heartfelt


She continued. “After next week’s off-site, I’ll take over.

But I want you to know that you shouldn’t hold back dur-

ing the meetings. You should participate as fully as any

other staff member.”


14Lencioni/End Run 2/10/02 3:34 PM Page 32


End Run

Jeff nodded, “Fine. I don’t think that will be a prob-

lem.” He paused, then worked up the courage to raise the

issue that had provoked the lunch invitation. Straightening

his silverware nervously, he began. “Now that you men-

tion the off-site, I’d like to ask you a question.”

“Go ahead.” Kathryn was almost amused by Jeff’s dis-

comfort. And because she had anticipated a question about

her run-in with Martin, she was calm and confident.

“Well, yesterday, on the way out of the office, I talked

to Martin in the parking lot.” He waited, hoping Kathryn

would jump in and move the conversation forward from

there. She didn’t, so Jeff continued. “Well, he said something

to me about the ASA meeting and the off-site scheduling


Again Jeff paused, hoping for his new boss to merci-

fully interrupt. This time she did, but only to prompt him

to continue. “Yes?”

Jeff swallowed. “Well, he believes, and frankly I think

I agree with him, that a customer meeting is more impor-

tant than an internal one. And so, if he and JR missed the

first day or so of the off-site, I think we would be okay.”

Kathryn chose her words carefully. “Jeff, I understand

your opinion, and I’m fine with your disagreeing with me,

especially when you tell me face-to-face.”

Jeff was noticeably relieved, for the moment.

“However, I was hired to make this organization work,

and right now it doesn’t.”

14Lencioni/End Run 2/10/02 3:34 PM Page 33


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Jeff looked like he was trying to decide whether to

be humbled or angry, so Kathryn clarified. “I’m not trying

to criticize what you’ve done so far, because it seems to me

that no one cares more about the company than you do.”

His ego now assuaged, Kathryn drove the point home.

“But from a team standpoint, we are completely broken.

And one sales meeting is not going to have a meaningful

impact on our future, at least not until we straighten out

the leadership problems around here.”

Not knowing Kathryn very well, Jeff decided that any

further debate would be fruitless and possibly career-

limiting. He nodded as if to say, Okay, I guess it’s your call.

The two of them then engaged in small talk and ate one of

the fastest lunches in Half Moon Bay history before head-

ing back to the office.

14Lencioni/End Run 2/10/02 3:34 PM Page 34


The conversation with Jeff had not fazed Kathryn. She hadcertainly expected some backlash about the Martin inci-dent from her inherited staff. But she didn’t expect it to come from the Chairman.

When he reached her at home that evening, she ini-

tially assumed he was calling to give her support.

“I just got off the phone with Jeff,” he announced in a

friendly tone.

“So, I guess you heard about my head-butt with Martin.”

Kathryn’s humorous and confident attitude pushed the

Chairman into a more serious mood. “Yes, and I’m a little


Kathryn was caught off guard. “You are?”

“Look, Kathryn, you know I don’t want to tell you how

to go about doing this, but maybe you should try to build

a few bridges over there before you start setting any on fire.”

Kathryn let a few moments pass before replying. As

surprised as she was by the Chairman’s concerns, she was


15Lencioni/Drawing 2/10/02 3:35 PM Page 35


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

remarkably calm and shifted into CEO mode immediately.

“Okay, what I’m about to say is not meant in any way to

be defensive or rude.”

“I know that, Kathryn.”

“Good, because I’m not going to mince my words—not

with you.”

“And I appreciate that.”

“You may not after you hear what I have to say.”

He forced a laugh. “Okay, I’m sitting down.”

“First, don’t think that I’m just randomly setting fires to

get my kicks. I’ve been watching these people carefully for

the past two weeks, and everything I’m doing, and every-

thing I’m about to do, is purposeful and intentional. I didn’t

tweak Martin because I felt like it in the moment.”

“I know, it’s just that . . .”

Kathryn interrupted politely. “Hear me out. This is im-


“Okay, go ahead.”

“Now, if you knew how to do what I am trying to do,

you wouldn’t need me. Am I right?”

“You’re right.”

“You see, I honestly appreciate your concern for the

company, and for me, and I know you mean well on both

counts. But based on this call, I’d have to say that your good

intentions are hurting the company more than helping it.”

“I’m sorry, but I’m not understanding you.”

Kathryn went on. “Well, over the past eighteen months,

you’ve been fairly active with Jeff and the rest of the team,

15Lencioni/Drawing 2/10/02 3:35 PM Page 36


Drawing the Line

more so than most board chairmen, and you’ve watched

this team spiral further and further into dysfunction and

chaos. And now you’ve asked me to help you pull them

out of it. Isn’t that what you want?”

“Absolutely. That’s exactly what I want.”

“Then I have a single question for you: Are you pre-

pared for the consequences of letting me do this right? Now

don’t answer right away.” She caught him just as the words

were coming out of his mouth. “Think about it for a second.”

She let the question sit there before continuing. “This is

not going to be easy. Or pretty. Not for the company. Not

for the executives. Not for me. And not for you.”

The Chairman remained silent, resisting the temptation

to assure her that he was prepared to do whatever she


Kathryn interpreted his silence as permission to continue

her pointed lecture. “You’ve probably heard my husband say

that a fractured team is just like a broken arm or leg; fixing

it is always painful, and sometimes you have to rebreak it to

make it heal correctly. And the rebreak hurts a lot more than

the initial break, because you have to do it on purpose.”

After another long pause, the Chairman spoke. “Okay,

Kathryn, I hear you. Do whatever you have to do. I won’t

get in the way.”

Kathryn could tell that he meant it.

Then he asked, “But I do have one final question: How

much of this team are you going to have to rebreak?”

“I should know by the end of the month.”

15Lencioni/Drawing 2/10/02 3:35 PM Page 37


Kathryn chose the Napa Valley for the off-site because it wasclose enough to the office to avoid expensive and time-consuming travel, but just far enough to feel out of town. And regardless of how many times people have been there,

it always seems to make them slow down a pace or two.

The hotel where the meeting would take place was a

small inn located in the town of Yountville. Kathryn liked

it because it was reasonably priced during the off-season

and had just one large and comfortable conference room.

It was on the second floor, had its own balcony, and over-

looked acres of vineyards.

The meeting was to start at 9:00 A.M., which meant that

most of the team would have to leave their homes fairly

early in the morning to arrive on time. By 8:45, everyone

had arrived, checked their luggage at the front desk, and

was seated at the conference table. Everyone but Martin,

that is.


16Lencioni/Napa 2/10/02 3:35 PM Page 38



Though no one said anything about him, the way they

were checking their watches suggested they were all won-

dering whether he would be on time. Even Kathryn seemed

a bit nervous.

She didn’t want the first activity of the meeting to be

a reprimand of someone for being late. Then, for a split

second, she felt a flash of panic, wondering what she would

do if he just didn’t show up at all. She couldn’t very well

fire him for not coming to a meeting, could she? Did she

have that kind of political capital with the board? How

valuable is this guy, anyway?

When Martin came through the door at 8:59, Kathryn

breathed an inaudible sigh of relief and chastised herself

for worrying so much. She took comfort in knowing that

she was finally about to begin what she had been waiting

to do for almost a month. And as concerned as she was

about the attitudes of the people sitting around the table,

Kathryn could not deny that moments like this were a big

part of why she loved being a leader.

16Lencioni/Napa 2/10/02 3:35 PM Page 39


Martin took the only remaining chair at the end of the con-ference table opposite Kathryn. As soon as he sat down, heremoved his laptop computer from its case and put it on the table in front of him, leaving it closed for the moment.

Determined not to be distracted, Kathryn smiled at her

staff and addressed them calmly and gracefully.

“Good morning, everyone. I’d like to start the day by

saying a few words. And this won’t be the last time I say

them.” No one knew just how serious Kathryn was about

that remark.

“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.

Can anyone here tell me why that is?”



17Lencioni/Speech 2/10/02 3:36 PM Page 40


The Speech

Kathryn continued, still as warmly as when she started.

“After interviewing with every member of our board and

spending time with each of you, and then talking to most

of our employees, it is very clear to me what our prob-

lem is.” She paused before completing the thought. “We

are not functioning as a team. In fact, we are quite dysfunc-


A few of the staff members shot glances toward Jeff

to see how he would react. He seemed fine, but Kathryn

picked up on the tension.

“I’m not saying this to call out Jeff, or anyone else, in

particular. It’s just a fact. One that we are going to begin ad-

dressing over these next two days. And, yes, I know how

ridiculous and unbelievable it feels for you to be out of the

office for so many days this month. But by the end of it all,

everyone who is still here will understand why this is so


That last comment got everyone’s attention. “That’s right.

I want to say right up front that DecisionTech is going to ex-

perience some changes during the next few months, and it

is very possible that some of us here won’t find the new

company to be the kind of place where we want to be. That

isn’t a threat or a dramatic device, and I don’t have anyone

in particular in mind. It’s just a realistic probability, and it’s

nothing to be in denial about. All of us are eminently em-

ployable, and it wouldn’t be the end of the world for any-

one to leave if that is the right thing for the company—and

the team.”

17Lencioni/Speech 2/10/02 3:36 PM Page 41


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Kathryn stood and went to the white board, careful not

to come across as arrogant or condescending. “Let me as-

sure those of you who might be wondering about all of this

that everything we are going to be doing is about one thing

only: making this company succeed. That’s all. We’re not

going to be catching each other falling out of trees.”

A few of her staff members chuckled.

“And we certainly won’t be holding hands, singing

songs, or getting naked.”

Even Martin managed a smile while the others laughed

out loud.

“I want to assure you that there is only one reason that

we are here at this off-site, and at the company: to achieve

results. This, in my opinion, is the only true measure of a

team, and it will be the focus of everything we do today

and as long as I’m here. It is my expectation that next year

and the year after that, we will be able to look back on rev-

enue growth, profitability, customer retention, and satisfac-

tion, and if the market is right for it, maybe even an IPO.

But I can promise you that none of that will happen if we

do not address the issues that are preventing us from act-

ing like a team.”

Kathryn paused to let everyone digest the simplicity of

her message, and then continued. “So how do we go about

this? Over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that there

are five reasons why teams are dysfunctional.”

She then drew a triangle on the white board and divided

it with four horizontal lines, creating five separate sections.

17Lencioni/Speech 2/10/02 3:36 PM Page 42


The Speech

Kathryn then turned back to the group. “Over the course

of the next two days, we are going to be filling in this model

and dealing with each issue one at a time. And you’ll notice

immediately that none of this is rocket science. In fact, it will

seem remarkably simple on paper. The trick is putting it into


“Right now I’d like to start with the first dysfunction: ab-

sence of trust.” She turned and wrote the phrase at the bot-

tom of the triangle.

The staff members read the words silently, and most of

them frowned as if to say, Is that all you’ve got?

Kathryn was used to this and continued. “Trust is the

foundation of real teamwork. And so the first dysfunction

is a failure on the part of team members to understand and

17Lencioni/Speech 2/10/02 3:36 PM Page 43


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

open up to one another. And if that sounds touchy-feely,

let me explain, because there is nothing soft about it. It is

an absolutely critical part of building a team. In fact, it’s

probably the most critical.”

Some of the people in the room were clearly in need of

an explanation.

“Great teams do not hold back with one another,” she

said. “They are unafraid to air their dirty laundry. They ad-

mit their mistakes, their weaknesses, and their concerns

without fear of reprisal.”

Most of the staff seemed to be accepting the point, but

without a lot of enthusiasm.

Kathryn pushed on. “The fact is, if we don’t trust one

another—and it seems to me that we don’t—then we can-

not be the kind of team that ultimately achieves results.

And so that is where we’re going to focus first.”

17Lencioni/Speech 2/10/02 3:36 PM Page 44


The room was silent, until Jan raised her hand.

Kathryn smiled. “I may have been a school teacher once,

but you don’t have to raise your hand to talk. Feel free to

jump in any time.”

Jan nodded and asked her question. “I’m not trying to

be negative or contradictory here, but I’m just wondering

why you don’t think we trust each other. Is it possible that

you just don’t know us very well yet?”

Kathryn paused to consider the question, wanting to

give a thoughtful answer. “Well, my assessment is based on

quite a bit of data, Jan. Specific comments from the board,

employees, even many of you.”

Jan seemed content with the answer, but Kathryn de-

cided to continue. “But I’d have to say that more than any-

thing I’ve been told by others, I see a trust problem here in

the lack of debate that exists during staff meetings and other

interactions among this team. But I don’t want to get ahead

of myself, because that’s a separate part of the model en-



18Lencioni/Pushing 2/10/02 3:36 PM Page 45


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Nick was not about to let it go. “But that doesn’t always

mean there is an absence of trust, does it?” The question

was more of a statement than anything else. Everyone in

the room, including Martin and Mikey, seemed eager for

Kathryn’s response.

“No, not necessarily, I guess.”

Nick was momentarily pleased that his comment was

deemed to be correct.

Until Kathryn clarified. “Theoretically, if everyone is

completely on the same page and working in lockstep to-

ward the same goals with no sense of confusion, then I

suppose a lack of debate might be a good sign.”

More than one of the staff members began to smile

sheepishly at the description that certainly did not apply to

them. Nick’s satisfaction disappeared.

Kathryn continued to direct her explanation toward

him. “But I’d have to say that every effective team I’ve ever

observed had a substantial level of debate. Even the most

trusting teams mixed it up a lot.” Now she directed a ques-

tion to the rest of the room. “Why do you suppose there is

so little passionate discussion or debate among this group?”

At first no one answered, and Kathryn let them sit in

the uncomfortable silence. Then Mikey mumbled some-

thing under her breath.

“I’m sorry, Mikey. I didn’t hear you.” Kathryn did her

best to conceal her distaste for sarcastic remarks, which she

had developed teaching seventh graders.

18Lencioni/Pushing 2/10/02 3:36 PM Page 46


Pushing Back

Mikey clarified, louder now. “There isn’t enough time.

I think we’re all too busy to have lengthy debates about

minor issues. We’re drowning in work as it is.”

Kathryn sensed that the others might not agree with

Mikey, but she wondered if anyone dared challenge her.

She was about to do so herself, when Jeff offered tenta-

tively, “I’m not sure I’m with you on that one, Mikey. I don’t

think we lack the time to argue. I think we’re just not com-

fortable challenging each other. And I’m not sure why.”

Mikey responded quickly, if not sharply. “Maybe be-

cause our meetings are always too structured and boring.”

The mother in Kathryn wanted to step in and protect

Jeff, partly to reward him for having stood up to Mikey. But

she decided to let things go.

After a pause, Carlos chimed in gently, but without di-

recting his comments at Mikey, as though the entire group

had made the remark. “Now wait a minute, everyone. I

agree that meetings have been pretty dull and that the

agenda is usually a little too full. But I think we all could

have challenged each other more. We certainly don’t all

agree on everything.”

Nick spoke up. “I don’t think we agree on anything.”

They all laughed—except Martin, who had opened his

laptop and turned it on.

Kathryn joined the livening conversation. “So you

don’t agree on most things, and yet you don’t seem will-

ing to admit that you have concerns. Now, I’m no Ph.D.

18Lencioni/Pushing 2/10/02 3:36 PM Page 47


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

in psychology, but that’s a trust issue if I’ve ever heard

one.” A few of the heads in the room actually nodded in

agreement with Kathryn, something she appreciated like

a starving person given a few morsels of bread.

And then the typing sound began. Martin, now com-

pletely checked out of the conversation, was banging away

at his keyboard like, well, like a computer programmer.

Distracted by the sound, everyone in the room glanced at

Martin for a nanosecond. And that was enough to kill what-

ever momentum the conversation had generated.

Kathryn had both relished this moment and dreaded it

from the first staff meeting she had observed. And as much

as she wanted to avoid another run-in with Martin, espe-

cially so early in the day, she would not let the opportu-

nity pass her by.

18Lencioni/Pushing 2/10/02 3:36 PM Page 48


The tension in the room began to mount as Kathryn watchedMartin type away at the other end of the table. No onereally thought she would say anything. But they didn’t know Kathryn very well.

“Excuse me, Martin.”

Martin finished typing and then looked up to acknowl-

edge his boss.

“Are you working on something?” Kathryn’s question

was sincere, without even a hint of sarcasm.

The room froze, waiting anxiously for the answer to

the question they had been wanting to ask for the past two


Martin seemed as though he wasn’t going to respond at

all, then said, “I’m taking notes, actually,” and continued


Kathryn remained calm and continued to speak in a

measured tone. “I think this is a good time to talk about


19Lencioni/Danger 2/10/02 3:37 PM Page 49


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

ground rules for the off-site and for our meetings going


Martin looked up from his computer, and Kathryn con-

tinued, directing her comments to the entire group. “I don’t

have a lot of rules when it comes to meetings. But there are

a few that I’m a stickler about.”

Everyone waited for her to begin.

“Basically, I want you all to do two things: be present

and participate. That means everyone needs to be fully en-

gaged in whatever we’re talking about.”

Even Martin knew when to pull back a little. He asked

a question, but in a slightly conciliatory tone that the group

was not accustomed to hearing from their chief scientist.

“What about when the conversation is not relevant to every-

one? Sometimes it seems that we talk about issues that

would best be handled off-line. One-on-one.”

“That’s a good point.” Kathryn was reeling Martin in

now. “If there is ever a time when that happens, when we

think that we’re wasting the group’s time by dealing with

issues that should be dealt with outside the meeting, then

everyone here should feel free to speak up.”

Martin seemed pleased that she had agreed with him.

Kathryn went on. “But for everything else, I want every-

one fully engaged. And while I understand that some peo-

ple prefer to use a computer rather than a notebook, like

you, Martin, I’ve found that it’s just too distracting. It’s easy

to imagine the person sitting there checking e-mail or

working on something else.”

19Lencioni/Danger 2/10/02 3:37 PM Page 50


Entering the Danger

Mikey decided to come to Martin’s aid, something he

didn’t want or need. “Kathryn, with all due respect, you

haven’t worked within the high-tech culture, and this is

pretty common in software companies. I mean, maybe not

in the automotive world, but . . .”

Kathryn interrupted politely. “Actually, this is very com-

mon in the automotive world. I had the same issue there.

It’s more of a behavioral issue than a technological one.”

Jeff nodded and smiled as if to say, Good answer. And

with that, Martin closed his laptop and put it in his com-

puter case. More than one of the staff members looked at

Kathryn as if she had just talked a bank robber into hand-

ing over his gun.

If only the rest of the day would be so easy.

19Lencioni/Danger 2/10/02 3:37 PM Page 51


Kathryn knew that she was about to begin a deceptively crit-ical part of the session, one that would give her clues asto how things might unfold during the months ahead. It was no accident that it was the first real exercise on the agenda.

“Before we get into any heavy lifting, let’s start with

something that I call personal histories.”

Kathryn explained that everyone would answer five

nonintrusive personal questions having to do with their

backgrounds, and she ended her instructions with a hu-

morous caveat that even Martin seemed to appreciate. “Re-

member, I want to hear about your life as a child, but I’m

not interested in your inner child.”

One by one the DecisionTech executives answered the

questions. Hometown? Number of kids in the family? In-

teresting childhood hobbies? Biggest challenge growing up?

First job?

Almost to a person, every set of answers contained a

gem or two that few, if any, of the other executives knew.


20Lencioni/Naked 2/10/02 3:37 PM Page 52


Getting Naked

Carlos was the oldest of nine kids. Mikey studied bal-

let at the Juilliard School in New York. Jeff had been a bat-

boy for the Boston Red Sox. Martin spent much of his

childhood in India. JR has an identical twin brother. Jan

was a military brat. During the discussion, Nick even dis-

covered that he had played basketball in high school against

the team coached by Kathryn’s husband.

As for Kathryn, her staff seemed most surprised and im-

pressed not by her military training or automotive expe-

rience, but by the fact that she had been an All-American

volleyball player in college.

It was really quite amazing. After just forty-five minutes

of extremely mild personal disclosure, the team seemed

tighter and more at ease with each other than at any time

during the past year. But Kathryn had been through this

enough to know that the euphoria would diminish as soon

as the conversation shifted to work.

20Lencioni/Naked 2/10/02 3:37 PM Page 53


When the team returned from a short break, it was clear thatthey had already lost some of the glow from the morning’ssession. They spent the next several hours, working through lunch, reviewing their individual behavioral tendencies

according to a variety of diagnostic tools that they had com-

pleted before coming to Napa. One of these was the Myers-

Briggs Type Indicator.

Kathryn was pleasantly surprised that even Martin

seemed to be engaged in the discussion. But then again,

she reasoned, everyone likes to learn about—and talk

about—themselves. Until the criticism comes, that is. And

it was about to come.

But Kathryn decided that late afternoon was a bad time

to dive into the next phase, given everyone’s energy level.

So she gave them a break for a few hours in the afternoon,

to check e-mail, exercise, or do whatever else they wanted.

Kathryn knew they would be working late that night, and

she didn’t want them to get burned out too early.


21Lencioni/Deeper 2/10/02 3:37 PM Page 54


Going Deeper

Martin spent most of the afternoon break reading e-mail

in his room. Nick, Jeff, Carlos, and JR played bocce ball on

the court next to the hotel, and Kathryn and Jan met in the

lobby to talk about budgets. Mikey sat by the pool and

read a novel.

When they returned around dinnertime, Kathryn was

pleased to see them pick up the conversation where it had

ended earlier. By now, everyone had acknowledged their

different interpersonal styles at work and discussed the im-

plications of being an introvert versus an extrovert and other

similar qualities. They all were definitely loosening up.

People were eating pizza and beer, which made every-

thing seem less threatening. Suddenly, Carlos was teasing

Jan for being too anal, while Jeff razzed JR for being un-

focused. Even Martin responded well when Nick called

him a “raging introvert.” No one at the table was fazed by

the good-natured but substantive ribbing, with the excep-

tion of Mikey. It wasn’t that she took their teasing badly.

Worse yet, no one teased her at all. In fact, they made no

comments about her, and unsurprisingly, she made almost

none about them.

Kathryn wanted to bring her into the process but de-

cided not to be too aggressive so soon. Things were going

well—better than she had expected—and the team seemed

willing to talk about some of the dysfunctional behaviors

that Kathryn had observed during staff meetings. There was

no need to create a controversy on the first night, especially

after already having dodged a few bullets with Martin.

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

But sometimes things cannot be controlled, and Mikey

herself opened up the door to her own issues. When Nick

remarked to the group that he found the personality de-

scriptions to be amazingly accurate and helpful, Mikey

did what she so often did during staff meetings: she rolled

her eyes.

Kathryn was just about to call her on her behavior, when

Nick beat her to it. “What was that all about?”

Mikey reacted as though she had no idea what he was

referring to. “What?”

Nick was mostly teasing her, but he was clearly a little

annoyed. “Come on. You rolled your eyes. Did I say some-

thing stupid?”

She persisted in feigning ignorance. “No, I didn’t say


Now Jan jumped in, but gently. “You didn’t have to say

anything, Mikey. It was the look on your face.” Jan wanted

to defuse the situation by helping Mikey ’fess up without

losing face. “Sometimes I think that you don’t even know

you’re doing it.”

But Mikey wouldn’t bite, and she was beginning to get

ever so slightly defensive. “I really don’t know what you’re

talking about.”

Nick couldn’t hold back. “Come on. You do it all the

time. It’s like you think we’re all idiots.”

Kathryn made a mental note not to have beer brought

with dinner next time. But she couldn’t deny being glad

that things were coming to the surface. She took a bite of

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Going Deeper

pizza and watched with everyone else, resisting the temp-

tation to make artificial peace.

Out of nowhere, Mikey responded. “Listen, you guys.

I’m not into all this psychobabble. I don’t think any of our

competitors, who happen to be kicking our asses right now,

are sitting around a hotel in Napa talking about where they

get their energy or how they see the world.”

The room was caught off guard by the indictment of

the entire process, which they seemed to be enjoying, and

looked to Kathryn to see how she would respond. But Mar-

tin beat her to it.

“Yeah, you’re right.” People were shocked that Martin,

who seemed engaged in the process, was defending

Mikey—until he completed the punch line of his remark.

“They’re probably in Carmel.”

Had anyone else said it, the room would have chuck-

led. But coming from Martin and directed at Mikey in his

dry, sarcastic accent, it made everyone howl. Except, of

course, Mikey, who just sat there smiling painfully.

For a moment Kathryn thought her marketing VP would

walk out. That might have been better than what she did.

For the next ninety minutes, Mikey didn’t say a word, but

sat silently as the group continued their discussion.

Eventually, the topic naturally drifted toward more tac-

tical topics related to the business. Jan interrupted the con-

versation and asked Kathryn, “Are we getting off track here?”

Kathryn shook her head. “No, I think it’s good that we

dive into operational issues while we’re talking about

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

behavioral stuff. It gives us a chance to see how we put

this into action.”

As happy as Kathryn was by the interaction that was

taking place among the rest of the team, she couldn’t over-

look the fact that Mikey’s behavior was speaking volumes

about her inability to trust her teammates.

21Lencioni/Deeper 2/10/02 3:37 PM Page 58


Kathryn called the session to an end a little after 10:00 P.M.,and with the exception of Jan and Nick who had just begunan impromptu budget discussion, the team headed to bed. Mikey and Kathryn’s rooms were near the pool at the small

hotel complex, and as they walked to their rooms, Kathryn

decided to see if she could make some progress one-on-one.

“You okay?” Kathryn was careful not to be too dramatic

or maternal.

“I’m fine.” Mikey wasn’t faking very well.

“I know this is a difficult process, and that you might

feel like they were a little tough on you.”

“A little? Listen, I don’t let people make fun of me at

home, and I sure as hell don’t want people to do it at work.

Those guys have no idea about how to make a company


Kathryn was almost too confused by the scattershot

reply to respond. After a few moments, she said, “Well, we


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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

can talk about that tomorrow. I think they need to hear what

you think.”

“Oh, I’m not saying anything tomorrow.”

Kathryn tried not to overreact to Mikey’s comment,

which she attributed more to her momentary emotions than

anything else. “I think you’ll feel better in the morning.”

“No, I’m serious. They aren’t going to hear from me.”

Kathryn decided to let it go for the moment. “Well, get

a good night’s sleep.”

They were at their rooms now. Mikey ended the con-

versation with a sarcastic laugh. “Oh, I will.”

22Lencioni/Poolside 2/10/02 3:38 PM Page 60


Only Kathryn and Jan were in the conference room whenMikey arrived the next morning. She seemed enthusiasticand unbowed by the previous day’s events, which was a pleasant surprise for Kathryn.

Once the others had arrived, Kathryn kicked off the ses-

sion with an abbreviated version of the prior day’s speech.

“Okay, before we get started, I think it’s good to remember

why we are here. We have more cash, more experienced

executives, better technology, and more connections than

any of our competitors, and yet at least two of them are

ahead of us in the market. Our job is to increase revenue,

profitability, and customer acquisition and retention and

maybe even put ourselves in a position for an IPO. But

none of this will happen if we don’t function as a team.”

She paused, surprised at how closely her reports seemed

to be listening. It was as if they were hearing it for the first

time. “Any questions?”


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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Instead of just sitting there silently, a number of the

staff members shook their heads as if to say, No questions;

let’s get started. At least that’s how Kathryn interpreted it.

For the next few hours, the group reviewed the mate-

rial they had covered the previous day. After an hour or

so, Martin and Nick seemed to be losing a little interest,

and JR became more distracted each time his cell phone

vibrated and went unanswered.

Kathryn decided to address their concerns before they

started talking among themselves. “I know that you’re all

probably starting to wonder, ‘Didn’t we do this yesterday?’

And I realize it’s repetitive. But this stuff won’t stick unless

we understand how to apply it completely.”

For another hour, the group discussed the implications

of their various style preferences and the collective op-

portunities and challenges that those styles created. Mikey

made few comments, and whenever she did speak, the

flow of conversation seemed to slow dramatically. Martin

too said little, but seemed to be paying attention and fol-

lowing the conversation nonetheless.

By midmorning, they had completed their review of in-

terpersonal styles and team behaviors. And then, with less

than an hour until lunch, Kathryn decided to introduce

the most important exercise of the day, one that she would

look back on later as a moment of truth for Mikey and the

rest of the team.

23Lencioni/Rebound 2/10/02 3:38 PM Page 62


Walking back to the white board, Kathryn explained, “Re-member, teamwork begins by building trust. And the onlyway to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.” She wrote the word invulnerability next to trust on the

white board.


24Lencioni/Awareness 2/10/02 3:39 PM Page 63


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Then she continued. “And so, we are all going to dem-

onstrate vulnerability this morning in a low-risk but rele-

vant way.”

She then asked everyone to spend five minutes de-

ciding what they believed were their single biggest strength

and weakness in terms of their contribution to Decision-

Tech’s success or failure. “I don’t want you to give me some

generic weakness, and I don’t want you glossing over your

strengths because you’re too modest or embarrassed to tell

us what you think you’re really good at. Take this simple

exercise seriously, and be willing to put yourself out there.”

When it was clear that everyone had finished jotting

down their notes, Kathryn began the discussion. “Okay, I’ll

go first.” She looked at her notes briefly. “I think my big-

gest strength, at least the strength that will have the biggest

impact on our success, is my ability to see through fluffy,

superfluous information and cut to the point that matters.

I have a way of eliminating unnecessary details and get-

ting to the heart of an issue, and that should save us a lot

of time.”

She paused before continuing. “My weakness is that I

am not the world’s best external spokesperson. In fact,

I’m bad at it. I tend to downplay the importance of public

relations, and I’m not a talented or tactful speaker when

it comes to being in front of a large group or, even worse,

a television camera. I’m going to need help with that if we

are going to accomplish everything that we hope to.”

With the exception of JR and Mikey, everyone was tak-

24Lencioni/Awareness 2/10/02 3:39 PM Page 64



ing notes as Kathryn spoke. She liked that. “Okay, who

wants to go next?”

No one volunteered immediately. Everyone was look-

ing around—some hoping that one of their peers would

volunteer, others seeming to ask permission to step forward.

Finally, Nick broke the ice. “I’ll go. Okay, let’s see.” He

reviewed his notes. “My biggest strength is my lack of fear

when it comes to negotiation and management of outside

companies, whether they’re partners, vendors, or competi-

tors. I don’t have any problem pushing them to do more

than they want to do. My biggest weakness, however, is that

I sometimes come across as arrogant.”

A few of Nick’s peers laughed a little nervously.

He smiled and continued. “Yes, I’ve had that problem

since I was in college, and probably before. I can be sar-

castic and even rude at times, and sometimes I come across

sounding like I think I’m smarter than everyone else. And

that might be okay, I suppose, if I’m dealing with a ven-

dor, but with you guys, it could probably piss you off a lit-

tle, which I don’t think is going to help us get where we

want to go.”

Jeff commented, “It sounds like your strength and weak-

ness are rooted in the same things.”

Martin, to everyone’s surprise, voiced his agreement.

“Isn’t that usually the case?”

Heads around the table nodded.

Kathryn was impressed by the apparent honesty of Nick’s

remarks and the willingness of the other staff members to

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

make comments. She was glad he went first. “Good. That

was exactly the kind of thing I’m looking for. Who’s next?”

Jan volunteered and talked about her management skills

and attention to detail as strengths, something everyone

agreed with immediately. Then she admitted being more

conservative about finances than the CFO of a start-up

should be. She explained that this was a result of her train-

ing at larger companies and her concern that her peers

were not concerned enough about managing expenses.

“Still, I am probably making it harder for you all to meet

me halfway by being so controlling.”

Carlos assured her that the rest of the group could prob-

ably take a step or two in her direction.

Jeff went next. He struggled in his attempt to call out

his amazing networking skills and ability to build partner-

ships with investors and partners.

But Jan wouldn’t let him off the hook. “Come on now,

Jeff. If we’ve done one thing well, it’s been raising boat-

loads of money and getting investors excited about the

company. Don’t downplay your role in that.”

Jeff reluctantly accepted her kind-hearted rebuke, and

then blew everyone away with his admission of weakness.

“I am pretty afraid to fail. And so I tend to over-engineer

things and do them myself. I don’t like to tell other people

what to do, which, ironically, only makes it more likely that

I’m going to fail.”

For the slightest moment, Jeff seemed to fight back

emotions and then recovered instantly. He was sure no one

24Lencioni/Awareness 2/10/02 3:39 PM Page 66



noticed. “And I think that’s probably the biggest reason that

we haven’t succeeded, and that I’m not the CEO anymore.”

He paused, and then added quickly, “Which I’m okay with,

really. In fact, I’m pretty happy to be out of that job.”

The group laughed in a supportive way.

Kathryn couldn’t believe that the first three people to

step forward had done so well. For a moment, she began

to entertain hopes that the momentum would continue

and the day would be a runaway hit. And then Mikey


“Okay, I’ll go next.” Unlike her peers who had gone

before her, Mikey looked at her notes almost the entire

time that she talked. “My biggest strength is my under-

standing of the technology market and how to communi-

cate with analysts and the media. My biggest weakness is

my poor financial skills.”

Silence. No comments. No questions. Nothing.

Like Kathryn, most everyone in the room was torn be-

tween two emotions: relief that Mikey was finished, and

disappointment at the shallow nature of her response. At

that moment, Kathryn didn’t feel that it would be right to

force her vice president of marketing to be more vulnera-

ble. Mikey had to do it herself.

With every second that went by, the group quietly

begged for someone to break the silence. Carlos put them

out of their misery.

“Okay, I’ll go next.” Doing his best to bring the quality

of the conversation back to a higher level, he talked about

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

his follow-through as a strength and his failure to update

people on his progress as a weakness.

After he finished, Jan jumped in. “Carlos, I think you

missed on both of your answers.” Kathryn, not knowing that

Carlos and Jan had become fairly close, was surprised by the

directness of her remark.

Jan continued. “First, as thorough as you are, your will-

ingness to do the shit work and not complain is your

strength. I know that sounds terrible, but I don’t know

what would happen around here if you weren’t bailing

us out all the time.” A number of the others voiced their

agreement. “And on the negative side, I think you could

tell us what you’re thinking more during meetings. You

hold back too much.”

Everyone seemed to wait to see how Carlos would re-

spond, but he just nodded his head and took a note. “Okay.”

JR volunteered to go next and brought the room to a

roar when he explained, “Clearly, my biggest strength is

my follow-through and attention to detail.” The group en-

joyed the laughter for a few minutes, until JR continued.

“Seriously, I’m pretty good at building strong personal re-

lationships with customers. In fact, I’m really good at that.”

He said it modestly enough for everyone to appreciate.

“On the downside, if I don’t think something is terribly im-

portant, which usually means it isn’t going to get me closer

to closing a deal, I can sometimes blow it off.”

“Sometimes?” asked Nick. The room howled again.

24Lencioni/Awareness 2/10/02 3:39 PM Page 68



JR blushed. “I know, I know. I just can’t seem to get

around to my to-do list. I don’t know why. But I think that

hurts the team.”

Martin was the only remaining executive. “Okay, I think

I’m next.” He took a deep breath. “I hate talking about my-

self this way, but if I have to, I’d say that I’m good at solv-

ing problems, doing analysis—stuff like that. What I’m

not so good at is communicating with human beings.” He

stopped. “I mean, it’s not that I can’t do it, but I really pre-

fer people who aren’t sensitive. I like to have conversations

with people on a purely intellectual level and not have to

worry about what they’re feeling or anything like that. Does

that make sense?”

“Sure,” said Jeff, who decided to take a risk. “The prob-

lem is that it can sometimes make people think you don’t

like them. That they’re a waste of your time.”

Martin seemed visibly disappointed by Jeff’s remark.

“No, that’s not it at all. I mean, that’s not what I intend.

Crap. That’s bad. I don’t mean that at all, but I suppose I

can see how it comes across that way. I don’t know how to

change that.”

For the first time all morning, Mikey chimed in, smiling.

“Years of psychotherapy, my friend. And even then, you

probably wouldn’t be able to change it. You’re just an ar-

rogant s.o.b. But then again, isn’t every CTO in the Valley?”

Mikey laughed. No one else did, with the exception

of Martin, who seemed embarrassed by her remark and

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

wanted to add to its sense of being humorous. Inside, he

was melting.

Kathryn would later kick herself for not calling Mikey

on her remark, which at the time Kathryn attributed to her

astonishingly low emotional intelligence. Whatever the case,

it was clear to her now that Mikey’s behavior was having

a very real impact on the rest of the group.

24Lencioni/Awareness 2/10/02 3:39 PM Page 70


When everyone had found their seats around the table,Kathryn announced the change in direction. “Okay, we’regoing to move all the way to the final dysfunction, but we’ll be revisiting the fear-of-vulnerability topic and the need for

trust many, many times again over the course of the next

month. If anyone isn’t looking forward to that, you’d better

brace yourself.”

Everyone assumed she was talking to Mikey. None of

them could have guessed that another member of the team

was struggling as much as she was.

Kathryn described the next dysfunction by going to the

white board and writing the phrase inattention to results

at the top of the triangle.

“We are going to the top of the chart now to talk about

the ultimate dysfunction: the tendency of team members

to seek out individual recognition and attention at the ex-

pense of results. And I’m referring to collective results—

the goals of the entire team.”


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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Nick asked, “Is this about ego?”

“Well, I suppose that’s part of it,” agreed Kathryn. “But

I’m not saying that there’s no place for ego on a team. The

key is to make the collective ego greater than the individ-

ual ones.”

“I’m not sure I understand what this has to do with

results,” Jeff remarked.

“Well, when everyone is focused on results and using

those to define success, it is difficult for ego to get out of

hand. No matter how good an individual on the team might

be feeling about his or her situation, if the team loses,

everyone loses.”

Kathryn could see that a few of her reports were not

quite with her yet, so she took another approach. “I told

25Lencioni/Ego 2/10/02 3:39 PM Page 72



you yesterday that my husband is a basketball coach at St.

Jude’s High School in San Mateo.”

“He’s a damn good basketball coach,” explained Nick.

“He’s been getting job offers from colleges since I was in

high school, and every year he turns them down. He’s a


Kathryn was proud of her husband and enjoyed Nick’s

commentary. “Yeah, I suppose he is something of an anom-

aly, and he’s certainly good at what he does. Anyway, he

is all about the team. And as good as his teams are, few of

his kids play ball at big colleges because, frankly, they’re

not all that talented. They win because they play team bas-

ketball, and that usually allows them to beat bigger, faster,

more talented groups of players.”

Nick was nodding his head with the certainty of some-

one who had lost to St. Jude’s many times.

“Well, every once in a while, Ken, that’s my husband,

gets a player on his team who doesn’t really care about re-

sults. Or at least not the results of the team. I remember a

kid a few years ago who was interested only in his own

statistics and whether he received individual recognition:

All-League, picture in the paper, that sort of stuff. If the

team lost, he would be in a good mood as long as he was

getting his points. And even when the team won, he would

be unhappy if he didn’t score enough.”

Jan was curious. “What did your husband do about him?”

Kathryn smiled, eager to tell them more about Ken.

“That’s the interesting thing. This kid was without a doubt

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

one of the most talented players on the team. But Ken

benched him. The team played better without him, and he

eventually quit.”

“Harsh,” remarked JR.

“Yeah, but he came out the next year with a very dif-

ferent attitude, and went on to play for Saint Mary’s College

after he graduated. He’ll tell you now that it was the most

important year of his life.”

Jan was still curious. “Do you think most people like

that can change?”

Kathryn didn’t hesitate. “No. For every kid like that one,

there are ten who never made it.” The group seemed so-

bered by the definitive response, and more than one of

them were thinking about Mikey at that moment. “And as

harsh as that may sound, Ken always says that his job is to

create the best team possible, not to shepherd the careers

of individual athletes. And that’s how I look at my job.”

Jeff decided to ask the group a question. “Anyone here

play team sports in high school or college?”

Kathryn wanted to stop Jeff’s poll and keep the dis-

cussion moving in the direction she had planned. But she

decided that a little impromptu discussion was probably as

valuable for the team as anything else, as long as it had

something to do with teamwork.

Jeff went around the room, giving every person a

chance to respond to his question.

Nick reported that he had played baseball in college.

Carlos was a linebacker in high school.

25Lencioni/Ego 2/10/02 3:39 PM Page 74



Martin proudly announced, “I played football, the orig-

inal kind.” Everyone chuckled at their European colleague.

Mikey said she ran track in high school.

When Nick questioned her, “But that’s an individ-

ual . . . ,” she interrupted him cleverly, “I ran on the relay


Kathryn reminded everyone that she was a volleyball


Jan reported that she was a cheerleader and a member

of the dance team. “And if anyone here says those aren’t

teams, I’m going to cut your budget in half.”

They laughed.

Jeff confessed his lack of athletic aptitude. “You see, I

don’t understand why everyone thinks sports is the only

way to learn about teamwork. I never played sports much,

even as a kid. But I was in a band in high school and col-

lege, and I think I figured out the team thing from that.”

Kathryn saw an opportunity to regain control of the

discussion. “Aha. That’s a good point. First of all, you can

definitely learn teamwork from lots of different activities,

pretty much anything that involves a group of people

working together. But there is a reason that sports are so

prevalent when it comes to teams.” The seventh-grade

teacher in Kathryn suddenly emerged, wanting to give her

pupils a chance to answer her next question themselves.

“Does anyone know what that is?”

Like so many times in her classroom, the group seemed

to have no clue. But Kathryn knew that if she could tolerate

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

the silence for a moment, soon enough someone would

come up with the answer. This time it was Martin.

“The score.” As usual, Martin provided little context for

his answer.

“Explain,” commanded Kathryn, just as she would have

done with one of her students.

“Well, in most sports, there is a clear score at the end of

the game that determines whether you succeeded or failed.

There is little room for ambiguity, which means there is

little room for . . .” He paused to find the right words.

“. . . for subjective, interpretive, ego-driven success, if you

know what I mean.”

Heads around the room nodded to say that everyone did.

“Wait a second,” demanded JR. “Are you telling me that

athletes don’t have egos?”

Martin seemed at a loss, so Kathryn jumped in. “They

have huge egos. But great athletes’ egos are usually tied to

a clear result: winning. They just want to win. More than

making the All-Star team, more than getting their picture

on a box of Wheaties, and yes, more than making money.”

“I’m not sure there are many of those kinds of teams

around anymore, at least not in professional sports,” de-

clared Nick.

Kathryn smiled. “And that’s the beauty. The teams that

figure it out have a bigger advantage than ever before be-

cause most of their competitors are just a bunch of indi-

viduals looking out for themselves.”

25Lencioni/Ego 2/10/02 3:39 PM Page 76



Mikey was looking a little bored. “What does this have

to do with a software company?”

Again, Mikey brought the conversation to a halt. But

Kathryn wanted to encourage her in any way she could,

though she was already starting to doubt the likelihood

of turning her around. “Another good question. This has

everything to do with us. You see, we are going to make

our collective results as important as the score at a football

game. We aren’t going to leave any room for interpretation

when it comes to our success, because that only creates

the opportunity for individual ego to sneak in.”

“Don’t we already have a scoreboard?” Mikey persisted.

“You’re talking about profit?” asked Kathryn.

Mikey nodded and made a face as if to say, What else?

Kathryn continued, patiently. “Certainly profit is a big

part of it. But I’m talking more about near-term results. If you

let profit be your only guide to results, you won’t be able to

know how the team is doing until the season is almost over.”

“Now I’m confused,” admitted Carlos. “Isn’t profit the

only score that matters?”

Kathryn smiled. “Yeah, I’m starting to get a little too

academic here. So let me make this simple. Our job is to

make the results that we need to achieve so clear to every-

one in this room that no one would even consider doing

something purely to enhance his or her individual status or

ego. Because that would diminish our ability to achieve our

collective goals. We would all lose.”

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Something seemed to be catching on just slightly, so

Kathryn pushed forward. “The key, of course, is to define

our goals, our results, in a way that is simple enough to

grasp easily, and specific enough to be actionable. Profit is

not actionable enough. It needs to be more closely related

to what we do on a daily basis. And to that end, let’s see

if we can come up with something right now.”

25Lencioni/Ego 2/10/02 3:39 PM Page 78


Kathryn then broke everyone into groups of two or three andasked each group to propose a list of results categories thatmight serve as the team’s scoreboard. “Don’t quantify any of this yet; just create the categories.”

Within the hour, the group had generated more than

fifteen different kinds of results categories. By combining

some and eliminating others, they narrowed them to seven:

revenue, expenses, new customer acquisition, current cus-

tomer satisfaction, employee retention, market awareness,

and product quality. They also decided that these should

be measured monthly, because waiting a full quarter to

track results didn’t give them enough opportunities to de-

tect problems and alter activities sufficiently.

Unfortunately, now that the discussion was turning back

toward the business, some of the levity in the room seemed

to evaporate. As usual, it would be replaced by criticism.

Martin began. “I’m sorry, but this is nothing new, Kath-

ryn. Those are pretty much the same metrics that we’ve

been using for the past nine months.”


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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

It felt as if part of Kathryn’s credibility was diminishing

right before their eyes.

JR piled on. “Yeah, and none of it has helped us drive

revenue. Frankly, I’m not sure any of these matter if we

don’t get a few deals closed, and fast.”

Kathryn was almost amused at the predictability of

what was unfolding before her. As soon as the reality of

business problems is reintroduced to a situation like this

one, she thought, people revert back to the behaviors that

put them in the difficult situation in the first place. But she

was ready.

“Okay, Martin. Can you tell me what our market aware-

ness goal for last quarter was?”

Mikey corrected her boss. “We call it public relations


“Okay, fine.” She turned back to Martin. “Can you tell

me exactly what the PR goal was?”

“No. But I’m sure that Mikey can. I can tell you what

our product development dates are, though.”

“Okay. Then just tell me how we did in terms of pub-

lic relations activity?” She directed the question at Martin

again, making it clear that he ought to know the answer.

He seemed puzzled. “Hell, I don’t know. I assume that

Jeff and Mikey talk about that stuff. But I’m also assum-

ing that we didn’t do very well, given our sales numbers.”

Mikey was remarkably calm, which only made her sub-

sequent remarks all the more unpleasant. “Listen, I came

26Lencioni/Goals 2/10/02 3:39 PM Page 80



to the meetings every week with my PR numbers, but no

one ever asked about them. And besides, I can’t get us any

press if we don’t sell anything.”

Though JR should have been more upset than anyone

by the remark, Martin was the one to respond. And he did

so sarcastically. “That’s funny. I always thought that the pur-

pose of marketing was to drive sales. I guess I’ve had that


Almost as though she hadn’t heard Martin’s remark,

Mikey continued to defend herself. “I can tell you that

the problems we’re having are not due to marketing. In

fact, I think my department has done remarkably well given

what we’ve had to work with.”

Carlos wanted to say but your department cannot be

doing well because the company is failing and if the com-

pany is failing then we are all failing and there is no way

that we can justify the performance of our own depart-

ments . . . But he didn’t want to push Mikey any harder,

sensing that his colleague might snap under the pressure,

and so he let it go.

As frustrated as everyone was at that moment, Kathryn

was sure that a much-needed melee was about to ensue.

But just like that, the conversation came to a halt. And died.

So this is how it works, she thought to herself.

26Lencioni/Goals 2/10/02 3:39 PM Page 81


Kathryn was determined not to lose the momentum.

“Okay, I think I see the underlying problem.”

Jeff smiled and responded sarcastically, but in a nice

way. “Really?”

Kathryn laughed. “Pretty observant of me, huh? Anyway,

when I talk about focusing on results instead of individual

recognition, I’m talking about everyone adopting a set of

common goals and measurements, and then actually using

them to make collective decisions on a daily basis.”

Seeing that they weren’t going to cede the obvious

point easily, Kathryn decided to shift back toward a more

questioning approach. “How often did you all talk about

moving resources from one department to another in the

middle of the quarter in order to make sure that you could

achieve a goal that was in jeopardy?”

The looks on their faces said Never.

“And how disciplined were you during meetings about

reviewing the goals in detail and drilling down on why they

were or weren’t being met?” She already knew the answer.


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Deep Tissue

Jeff explained. “I have to say that I just considered it

Mikey’s job to do marketing, Martin’s to develop products,

JR’s to make sales. I would pitch in whenever I could, but

otherwise, I let them be accountable for their own areas.

And I dealt with their issues on a one-on-one basis when-

ever I could.”

Kathryn went back to the sports analogy, hoping this

would get through to them. “Okay, imagine a basketball

coach in the locker room at half-time. He calls the team’s

center into his office to talk with him one-on-one about the

first half, and then he does the same with the point guard,

the shooting guard, the small forward, and the power for-

ward, without any of them knowing what everyone else

was talking about. That’s not a team. It’s a collection of in-


And it was clear to everyone in the room that this was

exactly what the DecisionTech executive staff was.

Kathryn was smiling in disbelief, as if to say, I can’t be-

lieve that I have to tell you this. In a more patient tone, she

said, “All of you, every one of you, are responsible for sales.

Not just JR. All of you are responsible for marketing. Not

just Mikey. All of you are responsible for product devel-

opment, customer service, and finance. Does that make


Confronted by the simplicity and truth of Kathryn’s

plea, and their obvious inadequacies as a group, any illu-

sions of unity that had survived the first day and a half now

appeared to be gone.

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Nick was shaking his head and then spoke, as if he

couldn’t hold back any longer. “You know, I just wonder

whether we have the right people sitting at this table.

Maybe we need more heavy hitters who can get us into the

right accounts, and develop the right strategic partnerships.”

JR was not happy about the passive attack on sales. But

as usual, he didn’t respond.

Kathryn did. “Have you guys looked at your competi-

tors’ web sites?” A few of them nodded, not knowing what

she was getting at. “Do you know the track records of the

people who are running those companies?” Blank looks

on their faces. “Exactly. They don’t have heavy hitters on

their teams. Why do you think that they are making more

progress than you are?”

Jeff gave a half-hearted explanation. “Well, Wired Vine-

yard lined up a partnership with Hewlett-Packard right out

of the gate. And Telecart is getting most of its revenue from

professional services at this point.”

Kathryn seemed unconvinced. “And? What’s stopping

you from forming a partnership or adjusting your business

plan like they did?”

Jan raised her hand to speak but didn’t wait for Kathryn

to acknowledge her. “Don’t take this wrong, Kathryn. But

could you start saying us and we instead of you? You’re the

CEO, and you’re part of our team now.”

The room stopped, waiting to see how Kathryn would

handle the pointed comment. She looked down into her

lap, as if she were trying to decide how to respond, and

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Deep Tissue

then looked back up. “You’re right, Jan. I’m not a consul-

tant here. Thanks for calling me on it. I guess I just don’t

feel like I’m part of the group yet.”

“Join the club.”

Jan’s response caught everyone off guard.

“What do you mean by that?” asked Nick.

“Well, I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t feel

connected to what’s going on outside of finance. Sometimes

I feel like a consultant myself. At other companies where

I’ve worked I’ve always been more involved in sales and

operations, and right now, I feel isolated in my own area.”

Carlos agreed with her. “Yeah, it does seem like we

don’t really have the same goals in mind when we’re at

staff meetings. It almost feels like we’re all lobbying for

more resources for our departments, or trying to avoid get-

ting involved in anything outside our own areas.”

It was hard for anyone to argue with Carlos’s logic. He

continued, “And you guys think I’m such a prince for vol-

unteering, but that’s how everyone works at most of the

companies I’ve worked for.”

Kathryn was relieved to see that a few of the people

on the team were breaking through, which is why she was

so blindsided by the reaction to her next remark. “The pol-

itics around here are astounding, and they’re a result of

everyone being far too ambiguous about what we’re all try-

ing to accomplish, and that makes it easy to focus on in-

dividual success.”

Nick was frowning now. “Wait a second. I agree that

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

we’re not the most healthy group of executives in the Val-

ley, but don’t you think you’re going a little too far when

you say we’re political?”

“No. I think that this is one of the most political groups

I’ve ever seen.” As the words came out of her mouth, Kath-

ryn realized that she probably could have been a little more

delicate. Right away she could sense the people in the room

banding together to challenge her harsh critique.

Even Jeff took issue. “I don’t know, Kathryn. This might

be a function of your not having worked in high tech. I’ve

worked at some pretty political companies in the past, and

I don’t know if we’re all that bad.”

Kathryn wanted to respond, but decided to let the oth-

ers empty their chambers first.

Nick fired away. “I think we’re about average, based

on what I’ve heard from other executives. Keep in mind,

this is a tough market.”

Smelling blood in the water now, Mikey dove in. “I

agree. I mean, you’ve joined the company at a weird time,

and to make that statement after just a few weeks is pretty

careless.” Although her colleagues didn’t agree with the

harshness of that remark, Mikey knew that they weren’t

going to challenge her on this one and risk wasting an

opportunity to regain a little of the upper hand with their

new boss.

Kathryn waited until no more comments came, and then

responded. “First of all, I am sorry if my comment sounded

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Deep Tissue

flip. You’re right in that I haven’t worked in high tech, and

so my reference point could be a little off.” She let the par-

tial apology sink in before continuing and made sure not

to begin her next sentence with the word but. “And I cer-

tainly don’t want to come across as condescending to you,

because that doesn’t help us get where we need to go.”

Kathryn sensed that a few of the team members—Jan,

Carlos, and Jeff—received her statement in the sincere vein

in which it was intended.

She continued. “At the same time, I don’t want to down-

play the very dangerous situation that we’re all in. We have

big problems, and I’ve observed enough of this group to

know that politics are alive and well here.” As graciously

as she acknowledged the concerns of her people, Kathryn

was certainly not backing down. “And frankly, I would

rather overstate the problem than understate it. But only

for the good of the team, not for my own satisfaction. I can

assure you of that.”

Because of her consistent behavior over the past day

and a half, and the confidence with which Kathryn made

her remark, most of her staff seemed convinced that she

was sincere.

Nick frowned, but Kathryn couldn’t tell if he was angry

or confused. It was confusion. “Maybe you should tell us

exactly what you mean by politics.”

Kathryn thought for just a moment and then answered

as though she were reciting from a book she had memorized.

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

“Politics is when people choose their words and actions

based on how they want others to react rather than based

on what they really think.”

The room was silent.

Martin, as serious as ever, cut through the tension.

“Okay, we’re definitely political.” Though he had not in-

tended to be funny, Carlos and Jan laughed out loud. Jeff

just smiled and nodded his head.

As compelling as the points she was making were,

Kathryn could see that members of the group were still try-

ing to decide whether to embrace her ideas, or attack them.

It became immediately clear that the next move would be

an attack.

27Lencioni/Tissue 2/10/02 3:40 PM Page 88


To Kathryn’s surprise, it was JR who challenged her, and hewasn’t particularly nice. “I’m sorry, but you’re not going tomake us wait for three weeks to find out what the other dysfunctions are, are you? Can you just tell us what they

are so we can figure out what’s not working and get on

with it?”

Taken at face value, the comment would have been

somewhat innocuous. Maybe even a compliment if it were

offered in the spirit of true curiosity. But in that moment,

with the tone in which it was asked, and given the usually

mellow nature of the person who posed the question, it

was the harshest comment thus far of the off-site.

Had Kathryn been a less secure executive, she would

have been rocked by the remark. And for a moment, she al-

most let herself get disappointed that the goodwill she

thought she was generating had dissipated so quickly. But

then she realized that this was precisely what she needed in

order to provoke real change in the group: honest resistance.


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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

As much as she wanted to stick to her plan and grad-

ually unveil her simple model, Kathryn decided to take JR’s

advice. “No problem. Let’s go through the other three dys-

functions right now.”

28Lencioni/Attack 2/10/02 3:41 PM Page 90


Kathryn went to the white board, but before she filled in thesecond box from the bottom, she asked the group a ques-tion. “Why do you think that trust is important? What’s the practical downside for a group that doesn’t trust one an-


After a few seconds of silence, Jan tried to help Kathryn

out. “Morale problems. Inefficiency.”

“That’s a little too general. I’m looking for one very spe-

cific reason why trust is necessary.”

No one seemed ready to offer an answer, so Kathryn

quickly provided it for them. Just above absence of trust

she wrote fear of conflict.

“If we don’t trust one another, then we aren’t going to

engage in open, constructive, ideological conflict. And we’ll

just continue to preserve a sense of artificial harmony.”

Nick challenged. “But we seem to have plenty of con-

flict. And not a lot of harmony, I might add.”


29Lencioni/Exhibition 2/10/02 3:41 PM Page 91


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Kathryn shook her head. “No. You have tension. But

there is almost no constructive conflict. Passive, sarcastic

comments are not the kind of conflict I’m talking about.”

Carlos weighed in. “But why is harmony a problem?”

“It’s the lack of conflict that’s a problem. Harmony it-

self is good, I suppose, if it comes as a result of working

through issues constantly and cycling through conflict. But

if it comes only as a result of people holding back their

opinions and honest concerns, then it’s a bad thing. I’d

trade that false kind of harmony any day for a team’s will-

ingness to argue effectively about an issue and then walk

away with no collateral damage.”

Carlos accepted the explanation.

Kathryn pressed her luck. “After watching a few of your

29Lencioni/Exhibition 2/10/02 3:41 PM Page 92



staff meetings, I can say with a degree of confidence that

you don’t argue very well. Your frustration sometimes sur-

faces in the form of subtle comments, but more often than

not, it is bottled up and carried around. Am I right?”

Instead of answering her semi-rhetorical question and

giving Kathryn a modicum of satisfaction, Martin prodded

her. “So let’s say we start arguing more. I don’t see how

that is going to make us more effective. If anything, it’s

going to take up a lot more time.”

Mikey and JR were nodding now. Kathryn was ready

to take them on, but Jan and Carlos stepped in for her.

First Jan. “Don’t you think we’re wasting time as it is

by not hashing things out? How long have we been talk-

ing about outsourcing IT? I think it comes up at every meet-

ing, and half of us are for it, half are against it, and so it

just sits there because no one wants to piss anyone off.”

Carlos added with a sense of conviction that he rarely

showed, “And ironically, that is exactly what pisses us off!”

Martin was growing more and more convinced and

wanted to learn about the rest of the model. “Okay, what’s

the next one?” That was as close to an acknowledgment of

being right as Kathryn was going to get from Martin.

Kathryn went back to the white board. “The next dys-

function of a team is the lack of commitment and the fail-

ure to buy in to decisions.” She wrote the dysfunction above

the previous one. “And the evidence of this one is ambi-

guity,” which she wrote next to it.

29Lencioni/Exhibition 2/10/02 3:41 PM Page 93


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Nick was reengaging now. “Commitment? Sounds like

something my wife complained about before we got mar-

ried.” The group chuckled at his mediocre joke.

Kathryn was ready for the reaction. “I’m talking about

committing to a plan or a decision, and getting everyone to

clearly buy in to it. That’s why conflict is so important.”

As smart as he was, Martin was not afraid to admit his

confusion. “I don’t get it.”

Kathryn explained, “It’s as simple as this. When peo-

ple don’t unload their opinions and feel like they’ve been

listened to, they won’t really get on board.”

“They do if you make them,” countered Nick. “I’m

guessing your husband doesn’t let his players vote on

whether they want to run wind-sprints.”

29Lencioni/Exhibition 2/10/02 3:41 PM Page 94



Kathryn welcomed this kind of challenge. “No, he

doesn’t. But he’d let them make a case why they think they

shouldn’t. And if he disagreed with them, which in that sit-

uation I’m sure he would, he’d tell them why and then send

them off running.”

“So this isn’t a consensus thing.” Jan’s statement was

really a question.

“Heavens no,” insisted Kathryn, sounding like a school

teacher again. “Consensus is horrible. I mean, if everyone

really agrees on something and consensus comes about

quickly and naturally, well that’s terrific. But that isn’t how

it usually works, and so consensus becomes an attempt

to please everyone.”

“Which usually turns into displeasing everyone equally.”

Jeff made his remark with a look of pain on his face, as

though he were reliving a bad memory.

“Exactly. The point here is that most reasonable peo-

ple don’t have to get their way in a discussion. They just

need to be heard, and to know that their input was con-

sidered and responded to.”

“So where does the lack of commitment come into

play?” Nick wanted to know.

“Well, some teams get paralyzed by their need for com-

plete agreement, and their inability to move beyond debate.”

JR spoke up. “Disagree and commit.”

“Excuse me?” Kathryn wanted him to explain.

“Yeah, in my last company we called it ‘disagree and

commit.’ You can argue about something and disagree, but

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

still commit to it as though everyone originally bought into

the decision completely.”

That lit a bulb in Jeff. “Okay, I see where conflict fits in.

Even if people are generally willing to commit, they aren’t

going to do so because . . .”

Carlos interrupted. “ . . . because they need to weigh

in before they can really buy in.”

The room seemed to understand that.

“What’s the last dysfunction?” Everyone was surprised

that it was Mikey who asked, and she actually seemed in-

terested in the answer.

Kathryn went to the board to fill in the last empty box.

Before she could, Martin had opened his laptop and started

typing. Everyone froze. Kathryn stopped and looked at her

chief technologist, who seemed clueless about the new

sense of tension in the room.

And then suddenly it dawned on him. “Oh no, I’m ac-

tually, uh, I really am taking notes about this. Look.” He

was attempting to show everyone the document that he

was creating on his screen.

Everyone was amused at Martin’s anxiety about ex-

plaining his behavior and not wanting to violate the team

rules. Kathryn laughed, pleased that her engineer was sud-

denly enthusiastic about what was going on. “That’s okay.

We believe you. I’ll let it slide this time.”

Kathryn looked at her watch and realized that the

group hadn’t taken a break for several hours. “It’s late. Let’s

go ahead and break for a half-hour. We’ll finish this later.”

29Lencioni/Exhibition 2/10/02 3:41 PM Page 96



Though they would deny it if asked, Kathryn was cer-

tain that she saw disappointment on the faces of everyone

in the room. JR was big enough to admit it. “Let’s go ahead

and do the last one.” And then he added humorously, “I

don’t think any of us are going to be able to relax if we don’t

know what it is.”

As sarcastic as the comment could have sounded, buried

just below the humor was a subtle but unmistakable sense

of acknowledgment. Whether he was acknowledging the

rudeness of his prior statement or the validity of what

Kathryn was explaining didn’t seem as important as the

tone of the comment itself.

Kathryn was glad to oblige. She went to the board for

the last time and wrote avoidance of accountability.

29Lencioni/Exhibition 2/10/02 3:41 PM Page 97


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

She explained. “Once we achieve clarity and buy-in, it

is then that we have to hold each other accountable for what

we sign up to do, for high standards of performance and be-

havior. And as simple as that sounds, most executives hate

to do it, especially when it comes to a peer’s behavior, be-

cause they want to avoid interpersonal discomfort.”

“What exactly do you mean by that?” Jeff asked.

“I’m talking about that moment when you know you

have to call one of your peers on something that matters,

and you decide to let it go because you just don’t want to

experience that feeling when . . .” She paused, and Mar-

tin finished the sentence for her: “ . . . when you have to

tell someone to shut down their e-mail during meetings.”

“Exactly,” Kathryn confirmed appreciatively.

Carlos added, “I hate this one. I just don’t want to have

to tell someone that their standards are too low. I’d rather

just tolerate it and avoid the . . .” He tried to think of the

right way to describe it.

Jan did it for him: “ . . . the interpersonal discomfort.”

Carlos nodded. “Yeah, I guess that’s really what it is.”

He thought about it for a moment, then continued. “But it’s

weird. I don’t have as much of a problem telling my direct

reports what I think. I seem to hold them accountable most

of the time, even when it’s a sticky issue.”

Kathryn was thrilled by the remark. “Right. As hard as

it is sometimes to enter the danger with your direct reports

and confront them with something sticky, it’s even harder

with your peers.”

29Lencioni/Exhibition 2/10/02 3:41 PM Page 98



“Why’s that?” asked Jeff.

Before Kathryn could answer, Nick explained. “Be-

cause we’re supposed to be equals. And who am I to tell

Martin how to do his job, or Mikey, or Jan? It feels like I’m

sticking my nose into their business when I do.”

Kathryn explained further. “The peer-to-peer thing is

certainly one of the issues that makes team accountability

hard. But there’s something else.”

No one seemed to have a clue, and Kathryn was ready

to answer her own question. Just then Mikey’s face lit up

like she had just solved a puzzle. “No buy-in.”

“What?” asked Nick.

“No buy-in. People aren’t going to hold each other ac-

countable if they haven’t clearly bought in to the same plan.

Otherwise, it seems pointless because they’re just going to

say, ‘I never agreed to that anyway.’”

Kathryn was shocked at her unlikely star pupil. And if

that wasn’t enough, Mikey went on to say, “This actually

makes sense.”

Everyone looked at one another as if to say, Did you

hear what I heard?

On that note, Kathryn excused the team for their last

break of the day.

29Lencioni/Exhibition 2/10/02 3:41 PM Page 99


No matter how many times Kathryn had built or refurbishedteams, she never got used to watching the inevitable ebbsand flows. Why can’t we just make progress in one fell swoop? she asked herself.

In theory, with Mikey and Martin now seemingly on

board, it should have been relatively easy to make the team

work. But Kathryn knew that reality did not usually match

theory; she still had a long way to go. Two years of behav-

ioral reinforcement around politics is a tough thing to break,

and one lecture, no matter how compelling, is not going to

do it. The painful, heavy lifting was still to come.

With just a few hours until the end of the first off-site,

Kathryn was tempted to end the session early and send

everyone back to work on a relative high. But that would

have been a waste of two critical hours, she thought. She

needed to make as much progress as possible, and soon, to

ensure that the board wouldn’t be tempted to cut her ef-

fort short.


30Lencioni/Film Noir 2/10/02 3:41 PM Page 100


Film Noir

When the group had returned from their break, Kathryn

decided to introduce a relatively entertaining discussion

topic relating to conflict, one that would hold their interest

late in the day.

“Let’s talk more about conflict.”

She felt the room sink just a little at the prospect of tak-

ing on such a touchy subject. But Kathryn was actually look-

ing forward to this part.

“Someone tell me what the single most important arena

or setting for conflict is.”

After a pause, Nick took a stab. “Meetings?”

“Yes. Meetings. If we cannot learn to engage in pro-

ductive, ideological conflict during meetings, we are


Jan smiled.

“And I’m not joking when I say that. Our ability to en-

gage in passionate, unfiltered debate about what we need

to do to succeed will determine our future as much as any

products we develop or partnerships we sign.”

It was late afternoon now, and Kathryn sensed that her

team was drifting into postlunch food coma. Her words

didn’t seem to be getting through to them, and she would

have to make this interesting if she had any chance of mak-

ing it stick.

“How many of you would rather go to a meeting than

a movie?”

No hands went up.

“Why not?”

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

After a pause, Jeff realized that her question was not

a rhetorical one. “Because movies are more interesting.

Even the bad ones.”

His peers chuckled.

Kathryn smiled. “Right. But if you really think about it,

meetings should be at least as interesting as movies. My

son, Will, went to film school, and I learned from him that

meetings and movies have a lot in common.”

The group seemed more doubtful than intrigued, but at

least Kathryn had their interest for the moment. “Think

about it this way. A movie, on average, runs anywhere from

ninety minutes to two hours in length. Staff meetings are

about the same.”

Heads nodded, politely.

“And yet meetings are interactive, whereas movies are

not. We can’t yell at the actor on the screen, ‘Don’t go into

the house you idiot!’”

Most of the group laughed. Are they actually starting

to like me? Kathryn wondered in a brief and uncharacter-

istic moment of insecurity.

She went on. “And more importantly, movies have no

real impact on our lives. They don’t require us to act a cer-

tain way based on the outcome of the story. And yet meet-

ings are both interactive and relevant. We get to have our say,

and the outcome of any given discussion often has a very

real impact on our lives. So why do we dread meetings?”

No one answered, so Kathryn prodded them. “Come

on, why do we hate them?”

30Lencioni/Film Noir 2/10/02 3:41 PM Page 102


Film Noir

“They’re boring.” Mikey seemed to enjoy her answer

more than she should have.

“Right. They’re boring. And to understand why, all we

need to do is compare them to films.”

Now the group was starting to get interested again.

Kathryn continued. “Whether it is an action movie, a

drama, a comedy, or an artsy French film, every movie

worth watching must have one key ingredient. What is that


Martin answered dryly. “Well, since we’re talking about

conflict, I’m guessing that’s it.”

“Yes, I suppose that I telegraphed that one, didn’t I?

Every great movie has conflict. Without it, we just don’t

care what happens to the characters.”

Kathryn paused for effect before delivering her next

line. “Let me assure you that from now on, every staff meet-

ing we have will be loaded with conflict. And they won’t

be boring. And if there is nothing worth debating, then

we won’t have a meeting.”

The team seemed to like that statement, and Kathryn

wanted to deliver on her promise immediately. “And so

we’re going to start right now.” She checked her watch.

“We have almost two hours until we break today, and so

I thought I would have our first substantive decision-

making meeting as a group.”

Nick objected, with a serious look on his face. “Kathryn,

I’m not sure I can do this.” Caught off guard, everyone

waited for an explanation. “I never received an agenda.”

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Everyone, including Jeff, laughed at the good-natured teas-

ing of their former CEO.

30Lencioni/Film Noir 2/10/02 3:41 PM Page 104


Kathryn wasted no time. “Okay, here’s the deal. Before weleave this meeting, we are going to establish something I callour overarching goal for the rest of the year. There is no rea- son that we can’t do this now, right here, today. Someone

take a stab.”

“What do you mean exactly?” Jan asked. “Like a theme?”

“Yeah. The question we need to answer is this: If we

do anything between now and the end of the year, what

should that be?”

Nick and JR responded in unison. “Market share.”

Heads around the table nodded, except Martin’s and

Jan’s. Kathryn called them out.

“You two don’t seem convinced. What are you thinking?”

Martin explained, “I think it’s product improvement.”

Jan added, “And I’m not so sure that cost containment

isn’t our top priority.”

Kathryn resisted the temptation to address their sugges-

tions herself. “Someone take them on.”


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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

JR obliged. “Okay, I think that our technology is as good

as, or better than, both of our top competitors’. And yet,

they are getting more traction than we are. If we fall too

far behind in terms of market capture, it won’t matter what

our products can do.”

Martin barely frowned. “If that’s the case, then imagine

what things would look like if we fell behind in products.”

Ever the peacemaker, Carlos asked, “Can’t we have more

than one overarching goal?”

Kathryn shook her head. “If everything is important,

then nothing is.” She resisted any further explanation, want-

ing the group to work through it.

Jan persisted. “Can someone tell me why cost contain-

ment isn’t the goal?”

Mikey responded quickly. “Because if we don’t find a

way to make money, avoiding spending it does us no good.”

As annoying as Mikey’s tone was, the truth of the statement

could not be denied. Even Jan nodded in concession.

Kathryn made a quick comment. “This is the most pro-

ductive conversation I’ve heard since I’ve been here. Keep


That was enough to give Jeff the courage he needed to

make his point. He winced, as though he didn’t want to

prolong the conversation. “I don’t know. I’m not sure that

market share is the right measure at this point. We don’t

really know what the size of the market is and where it’s

headed.” He paused while he decided what to say next. “I

think we just need more good customers. Whether we

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have twenty more or twenty less than our competition

doesn’t seem to matter as much.”

Mikey jumped in. “That’s the same as market share.”

“I don’t think so,” Jeff offered nondefensively.

Mikey rolled her eyes.

Nick wanted to avoid a repeat of the previous day’s en-

counter with Mikey. “Listen, whether we call it market share

or customers doesn’t really matter. We just need to sell.”

Now Kathryn spoke. “I think it matters. What do you

think, JR?”

“I think Jeff is right. If we get enough solid customers,

the kind who will be active references for us, then we’re

doing fine. Frankly, I don’t care at this point what our com-

petition is doing. That seems like a distraction more than

anything else—at least until we get rolling and the mar-

ket takes shape.”

Martin seemed annoyed now. “Listen, this is the same

kind of conversation we have at every meeting. If it’s not

market share versus revenue, it’s customer retention versus

satisfaction. It all seems academic to me.”

Kathryn forced herself to be silent for a few moments

as the room digested Martin’s comment. Then she asked,

“How do those conversations usually end?”

Martin shrugged. “We run out of time, I guess.”

“Okay. Let’s bring this conversation to a close in the

next five minutes. Does anyone here believe that the key

to the next nine months has something to do with market

share, customers, revenue, et cetera? If someone thinks

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

we’re in the wrong ballpark completely, speak up now,

and loudly.”

People looked at one another and shrugged as if to say,

I can’t think of anything better.

“Good. Then let’s come to closure on exactly what we’re

talking about. I’d like to hear someone make a passionate

plea for the answer being revenue. JR, how about you?”

“Well, one might argue that revenue is the right answer,

because we need cash. But frankly, I think that is far less

important at this point than proving to the world that there

are customers out there who are interested in our products.

Revenue is not as important as closing deals and getting

new customers.” He had just talked himself out of the rev-

enue answer. “Does that make sense?”

“It makes perfect sense to me.” Kathryn pushed on for

clarity. “So I’m not hearing anyone saying that revenue is

our most important goal.”

Jan squinted and spoke up. “Are you saying that we

don’t need to have a revenue goal?”

“No. We will definitely have a revenue goal. It’s just that

revenue is not the ultimate measure of our success right

now. We’ve narrowed it down to market share and new

customers. Someone tell me why market share is the right

answer. Mikey?”

“Market share is how analysts and the press define suc-

cess. It’s as simple as that.”

Martin countered. “No, Mikey. Whenever I’m inter-

viewed as a founder of the company, people ask me about

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key customers. They want marquee company names and

people who are willing to vouch for us.”

Mikey shrugged.

Kathryn challenged her. “Are you shrugging because you

don’t agree and you’re giving up, or because you feel like

he made a more compelling point than you can counter?”

Mikey thought about it. “The second one.”

“Okay. We’re down to new customer acquisition. Some-

one tell me why this should be our collective, overarching


This time Kathryn didn’t need to call anyone out. Car-

los volunteered.

“Because that will give the press something to write

about. It will give our employees confidence. It will pro-

vide more product feedback for Martin and his engineers.

And it will give us references to go out and get more cus-

tomers next year.”

JR chimed in. “Not to mention follow-on sales.”

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Kathryn announced, “unless I

hear something extremely compelling in the next five sec-

onds that makes me think otherwise, I believe we have a

primary goal.”

Members of the staff looked at each other as if to say,

Are we really agreeing on something?

But Kathryn wasn’t through yet. She wanted specifics.

“How many new customers do we need to get?”

The group seemed to be invigorated by the tangible

nature of the discussion. For the next thirty minutes, they

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

debated the number of new customers they could and

should acquire.

Jan lobbied for the most, followed by Nick and Mikey.

JR was frustrated and argued hard for the fewest, wanting to

keep his quota low so as not to discourage his salespeo-

ple. Jeff, Carlos, and Martin were somewhere in between.

As the debate seemed to be running out of steam, Kath-

ryn jumped in. “Okay, unless someone is holding some-

thing back, I think I’ve heard all the opinions in the room.

And we are probably not going to agree completely, which

is fine, because there is no science here. I’m going to set

the number based on your input, and we are going to stick

with that number.”

She paused for a moment, then continued. “Jan, we

aren’t going to do thirty deals this year, even though I know

how much you’d love that revenue on the books. And JR,

I can appreciate your desire to keep your folks motivated,

but ten is not enough. Our competitors are doing more than

double that, and the analysts will throw up all over us if we

come in at ten.”

JR seemed to offer no resistance to Kathryn’s logic.

She continued. “I think that if we can close eighteen

new customers, with at least ten being willing to be ac-

tive references, we will be doing well.”

She paused to allow any last comments. When none

came, she declared, “All right then. We will have eighteen

new customers by December 31.”

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No one could deny that in twenty minutes the team

had made more progress than they normally did during a

month of meetings. Over the next hour they drilled down

on the issue of new customers, discussing what each per-

son, from marketing to finance to engineering, would need

to do to make eighteen deals possible.

With fifteen minutes to spare before the off-site was to

officially end, Kathryn decided to bring things to a close.

“Okay, let’s call it a day. We’ll be having a staff meeting next

week when we can dig deeper into some of these and

other critical issues.”

The group seemed relieved to be finished. Kathryn

asked one final question. “Are there any comments, ques-

tions, or concerns people want to raise before we leave?”

No one wanted to bring up a topic that would delay

their departures, but Nick decided to make one comment.

“I have to say that I think we made more progress during

these past two days than I thought we would.”

Jan and Carlos nodded in agreement. Mikey, to every-

one’s surprise, didn’t roll her eyes.

Kathryn wasn’t sure whether Nick was trying to make

points with her, or whether he really appreciated what had

happened. She decided to give him the benefit of the

doubt and take the muted compliment to heart.

And then JR spoke. “I agree with Nick. We accomplished

a lot here, and getting clarity around our major goal is really

going to help.”

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Kathryn sensed that there was a qualifier coming. And

she was right.

JR continued. “I’m just wondering if we need to con-

tinue having these off-sites now. I mean, we’ve come a

long way, and we’re going to have to do a lot of work over

the next few months to close deals. Maybe we can just

see how things go . . .”

He didn’t really finish the remark, but let it hang there.

Martin, Mikey, and Nick were cautiously nodding their

heads in agreement.

Whatever sense of accomplishment that Kathryn had

felt just a few minutes earlier had diminished significantly.

As much as she wanted to put a quick and violent end to

JR’s suggestion, Kathryn waited to see if anyone would do

it for her. Just when she thought no one would help her,

Jeff spoke up and demonstrated that he had indeed taken

many of Kathryn’s ideas to heart.

“I’d have to say that canceling our next session in two

weeks would be a bad idea. I just think that when we go

back to work, it’s going to be easy to slip back into the

same stuff we’ve been struggling with for the past couple

years. And as painful as it’s been for me to sit here for the

past few days and realize how unsuccessful I’ve been in

making us work like a team, we have a long way to go yet.”

Jan and Carlos nodded their agreement.

Kathryn used the opportunity to prepare her team for

what was to come. She addressed her initial comment to

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JR and Nick. “I appreciate your desire to spend as much of

your time as possible closing deals.” She was being slightly

disingenuous but wanted to avoid slamming them too

hard, too early. “However, I want to remind you about what

I said at the beginning of this session yesterday. We have

more money, better technology, and more talented and ex-

perienced executives than our competitors, and yet we are

behind. What we lack is teamwork, and I can promise you

all that I have no greater priority as CEO than making you,

I mean, us, more effective as a group.”

Mikey, Martin, and Nick seemed to be relenting now,

but Kathryn continued. “And what I’m about to say is more

important than any other comment I’ve made since we ar-

rived yesterday.” She paused for effect. “During the next

two weeks I am going to be pretty intolerant of behavior

that demonstrates an absence of trust, or a focus on indi-

vidual ego. I will be encouraging conflict, driving for clear

commitments, and expecting all of you to hold each other

accountable. I will be calling out bad behavior when I see

it, and I’d like to see you doing the same. We don’t have

time to waste.”

The room was silent.

“Okay, we’ll be back here again in two weeks. Drive

carefully everyone, and I’ll see you in the office tomorrow.”

As everyone packed up and headed for the door,

Kathryn wanted to feel good about what she had accom-

plished. However, she forced herself to face the likely

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

prospect that things would have to get worse, maybe even

much worse, before they would get better.

Even most of the staff members seemed to be sobered

by the likely prospect of ongoing pain. And none of them

would have been surprised to know that one of their col-

leagues wouldn’t be around by the time the next off-site

began. They would have been shocked, however, to know

that the colleague would not be Mikey.

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Heavy Lifting

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Back in the office, even Kathryn was surprised by the rapiddeterioration of any progress that had been made duringthe off-site. The few glimmers of hope that did surface—like Car-

los and Martin having a joint customer satisfaction meeting

with their staffs—were enough to get employees whisper-

ing about what was going on. But in Kathryn’s mind, there

was no denying that the team was still guarded with one

another, and with her.

Based on the hallway demeanor she observed, Kathryn

felt as though the team had completely forgotten about

their two days in Napa. There was little interaction, and al-

most no signs of willingness to engage with one another.

The team seemed as though they were embarrassed by hav-

ing exposed themselves and were pretending that it had

never happened at all.

But Kathryn had been through this many times before.

And as disappointed as she was that the group had not

completely internalized the concepts from the off-site, she


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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

knew that this was a typical first response. She also knew

that the only way to defuse it would be to dive right back

in and get the group’s blood flowing again. She had no idea

that she was about to hit an artery.

It happened just a few days after the off-site had ended,

on the same day that Kathryn’s first official staff meeting

would later take place.

Nick had called a special meeting to discuss a possi-

ble acquisition. He invited anyone on the team who was

interested to attend but made it clear that he needed Kath-

ryn, Martin, JR, and Jeff to be there. Jan and Carlos also

showed up.

Before starting the meeting, Nick asked, “Where’s JR?”

“He’s not in the office this morning.” Kathryn said. “Let’s

get started.”

Nick shrugged and then began passing around a stack

of glossy brochures to his colleagues. “The company is

called Green Banana.” The group laughed.

“I know. Where do they get these names? Anyway,

they’re a company in Boston that is either complemen-

tary to us or a potential competitor. It’s tough to say. In any

case, I think we should consider acquiring them. They are

hurting for cash, and we’ve got more than we need at this


Jeff, feeling more like a board member than anything

else, asked the first question. “What would we get?”

Nick, who had already decided that the deal made sense,

answered quickly. “Customers. Employees. Technology.”

33Lencioni/On-Site 2/10/02 3:43 PM Page 118



“How many customers?” Kathryn wanted to know.

Martin asked another question before Nick could an-

swer the first one. “And is their technology good? I’ve never

heard of them.”

Nick again had quick answers. “They’re about half our

size in terms of customers.” He read his notes. “About

twenty, I think. And their technology is apparently good

enough for those customers.”

Martin looked skeptical.

Kathryn frowned. “How many employees? And are they

all in Boston?”

“Yes, they have somewhere around seventy-five peo-

ple, and all but seven of them are in Beantown.”

During the Napa off-site meeting, Kathryn had been

careful to hold back her opinions in order to develop the

skills of her team. But in the heat of real-world decision

making, restraint was not her best quality. “Hold on. This

doesn’t sound right to me, Nick. We would be increasing

the size of the firm by 50 percent and adding a whole new

set of products. I think we’ve got plenty of challenges to

deal with as it is.”

As prepared as Nick was for dissent, he couldn’t mask

his impatience. “If we don’t make bold moves like this,

we’re going to miss opportunities to distance ourselves from

our competitors. We have to be visionaries here.”

Now Martin rolled his eyes.

Kathryn pushed on Nick. “First, I need to say that

Mikey should have been at this meeting. I’d like to know

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

what she thinks in terms of market positioning and strategy.

And I . . .”

Nick interrupted. “Mikey isn’t going to add any value to

this conversation. This has nothing to do with public rela-

tions or advertising. This is strategy.”

Kathryn wanted to jump down Nick’s throat for being

so harsh to someone who wasn’t in the room, and every-

one could see that. But she decided it could wait for a few

minutes. “I wasn’t quite finished. I also believe that the

issues we currently have around politics would only be ex-

acerbated by an acquisition.”

Nick took a deep breath, the kind that says, I can’t be-

lieve I have to deal with people like this. Before he could say

something he would regret, Jan jumped in.

“And I understand that our cash position is better than

any of our competitors, and better than 90 percent of the

technology companies in the Valley. But just because we

have it doesn’t mean that we should spend it. Not unless

it’s a clear winner.”

Now Nick was about to regret his words. “With all due

respect, Kathryn, you might be a fine executive when it

comes to leading meetings and improving teamwork. But

you don’t know squat about our business. I think you

should defer to Jeff and me when it comes to things like


The room froze. Kathryn was sure that someone would

pounce on Nick for his mini-tirade. She was wrong. In fact,

33Lencioni/On-Site 2/10/02 3:43 PM Page 120



Martin had the audacity to look at his watch and say, “Hey,

I’m sorry, but I’ve got another meeting. Let me know if you

need my input.” And he left.

Kathryn was perfectly prepared to call any of her re-

ports on destructive behaviors that might hurt the team, but

she didn’t think the first opportunity would center around

her. That made it more difficult, but necessary nonetheless.

The question was whether she should do it privately, or in

front of the rest of the group.

“Nick, would you rather that we have this conversation

right here, or one-on-one?”

He stopped to consider her question carefully, fully

aware of what was about to ensue. “I guess I could be

macho and say, ‘If you have something to say, go ahead.’

But I think we should have this one alone.” He actually

smiled, but only for a split second.

Kathryn asked the rest of the group if they would leave

Nick and her alone. “I’ll see you this afternoon at the staff

meeting.” They gladly left.

As soon as they were gone, Kathryn spoke, but in a con-

fident and relaxed way, far more in control than Nick had


“Okay, first of all, don’t ever slam one of your team-

mates when that person isn’t in the room. I don’t care what

you think of Mikey. She is part of this team, and you have

to take your issues to her directly, or to me. You’re going

to have to make that right.”

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Nick, all six feet three inches of him, looked like a sev-

enth grader in the principal’s office. But just for a moment.

Then he regained his frustration and shot back at Kathryn.

“Look, I’ve got nothing to do around here. We were sup-

posed to be growing much faster by now and getting in-

volved in a lot more M&A activity. I can’t just sit around

and watch this place . . .”

Kathryn interrupted. “So this is about you?”

Nick didn’t seem to hear her question. “What?”

“This acquisition. It’s about you wanting to have some-

thing to do?”

Nick tried to backtrack. “No, I think it’s a good idea.

It could be strategic for us.”

Kathryn just sat and listened, and like a criminal being

interrogated, Nick started to spill his guts. “But yes, I am

completely underutilized here. I moved my family halfway

across this damn country with the expectation that I might

someday be able to run this place, and now I am bored,

helpless, and watching my peers screw this thing up.” Nick

was looking down now, shaking his head out of both guilt

and disbelief at his situation.

Kathryn calmly addressed his comment. “Do you think

you’re contributing to screwing this thing up?”

He looked up. “No. I mean, I’m supposed to be in

charge of infrastructure growth, mergers and acquisitions.

We’re not doing any of that because the board says . . .”

“I’m talking about the bigger picture, Nick. Are you

33Lencioni/On-Site 2/10/02 3:43 PM Page 122



making this team better, or are you contributing to the dys-


“What do you think?”

“I don’t think you’re making it better.” She paused. “You

clearly have a lot to offer, whether or not you ever run this


Nick tried to explain. “I wasn’t trying to say that I want

your job. I was just venting and . . .”

Kathryn held up her hand. “Don’t worry about it. You’re

allowed to vent from time to time. But I have to tell you that

I don’t see you stepping up and helping people. If anything,

you’re tearing them down.”

Nick wasn’t ready to buy what Kathryn was saying. He

argued, “So what do you think I should do?”

“Why don’t you try telling the rest of the group where

you’re coming from. Tell them what you just told me,

about feeling underutilized and moving your family

across . . .”

“That doesn’t have anything to do with whether we ac-

quire Green Banana or not.”

They both smiled for just a moment at the ridiculous


Nick continued. “I mean, if they don’t understand why

we need to be doing things like this, then maybe . . .” He


Kathryn finished his thought. “Maybe what? Maybe you

should quit?”

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Nick was hot now. “Is that what you want? If that’s what

you want, then maybe I will.”

Kathryn just sat there, letting the situation sink in for

Nick. Then she said, “It’s not about what I want. It’s about

you. You have to decide what is more important: helping

the team win or advancing your career.”

Even Kathryn thought she sounded a little harsh, but

she knew what she was doing.

“I don’t see why those have to be mutually exclusive,”

Nick argued.

“They’re not. It’s just that one has to be more impor-

tant than the other.”

Nick looked at the wall, shaking his head, trying to de-

cide whether he should be mad at Kathryn or thank her for

forcing his hand. “Whatever.” He stood and left the room.

33Lencioni/On-Site 2/10/02 3:43 PM Page 124


By two o’clock, everyone was seated around the table in themain conference room waiting for the staff meeting tobegin—everyone, that is, except Nick and JR. Kathryn checked her watch and decided to get started. “Okay, today

we’ll do a quick review of what everyone is working on,

and then spend most of our time laying the groundwork for

the eighteen deals we need to close.”

Jeff was about to ask Kathryn where Nick and JR were

when Nick walked in the room.

“Sorry I’m late.” There were two empty seats at the

table—one next to Kathryn and the other at the opposite

end. He chose the one away from the CEO.

Given what had happened earlier in the day, Kathryn

was not about to scold Nick for being late. The rest of

the team seemed to understand her restraint. Instead, she

launched into the meeting. “Before we get started, I need

to . . .”


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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Then Nick interrupted. “I’ve got something to say.”

Everyone knew that Nick could be rude. But the way he

had just interrupted Kathryn—and after arriving late to her

first official staff meeting—seemed particularly audacious to

the staff. Oddly enough, Kathryn didn’t seem flustered at all.

Nick began, “Listen, I need to get some things off my

chest here.”

No one moved. Inside, they were boiling with antici-


“First, about the meeting this morning. I was out of line.

I should have made sure that Mikey was there, and that

comment I made about her was not fair.”

Mikey was stunned, and then angry, but said nothing.

Nick addressed her. “Don’t get all pushed out of shape,

Mikey. I’ll tell you about it later. It’s not that big of a deal.”

Strangely, Mikey actually seemed reassured by Nick’s

candor and confidence.

He continued. “Second, as much as I believe that Green

Banana might be something we want to consider, my in-

sistence on doing the deal is more about giving me some-

thing to work on. See, I’m beginning to feel that I made a

bad career move by coming here, and I just want some-

thing that I can hang my hat on. I don’t know how I’m go-

ing to explain what I’ve been doing for the past eighteen

months on my resumé.”

Jan looked at Kathryn, the only person in the room who

didn’t seem shocked.

34Lencioni/Fireworks 2/10/02 5:01 PM Page 126



Nick continued. “But I think it’s time I faced the reality

of the situation and made a decision.” He paused before

going on. “I need to make a change. I need to find a way

to contribute to this team, and this company. And I need

you guys to help me. Otherwise, I should leave. But I’m not

ready to do that just yet.”

Kathryn would have liked to claim that she knew that

Nick would come around, but she would later admit to her

husband that she honestly believed he would quit. Being

wrong notwithstanding, she was suddenly thrilled that he

was staying. And she couldn’t quite explain why.

The room was silent, not knowing how to respond to

the statement that was out of character for both Nick and

the team. Kathryn wanted to congratulate Nick for being

so open but decided to let the moment speak for itself.

When it became clear that the team had fully digested the

magnitude of the situation and had nothing more to add,

Kathryn went ahead and broke the silence. “I need to make

an announcement.”

Martin was sure he was about to witness a group hug,

or some sort of touchy-feely, conciliatory comment from

Kathryn. Until she completed her thought. “JR quit last


If the room was quiet when Nick finished speaking, it

was dead now. But only for a few long seconds.

“What?” It was Martin who reacted first. “Why?”

“It’s not completely clear,” explained Kathryn. “At least

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

not based on what he told me. Evidently, he’s gone back

to AddSoft to be a regional VP again.” Kathryn hesitated

before her next comment, which she considered withhold-

ing, but decided wouldn’t be right. “He also told me he just

didn’t want to waste any more of his time at off-site meet-

ings working out people’s personal problems.”

Another heavy moment. Kathryn waited.

Mikey spoke first. “Okay, does anyone else here think

that this team-building stuff has gone too far? Are we mak-

ing things better, or worse?”

Even Carlos raised his eyebrows, as though he were

entertaining Mikey’s comment. The momentum in the

room seemed tangible now, and it was moving away from


After the longest three seconds in Kathryn’s brief career

at DecisionTech, Martin weighed in. “Well, I don’t think it’s

news to anyone here that I hate doing this team stuff. I

mean, it’s like fingernails on a bloody chalkboard to me.”

Kathryn didn’t need this.

Then Martin finished. “But that’s the biggest crock of

shit I’ve ever heard. I think JR was just afraid that he didn’t

know how to sell this stuff.”

Jeff agreed. “He did admit to me a few months ago,

over beers in an airport, mind you, that he has never had

to sell into a market that didn’t already exist. And that he

preferred having a brand name behind him. He also said

that he had never failed in his life, and that he wasn’t about

to do so here.”

34Lencioni/Fireworks 2/10/02 5:01 PM Page 128



Jan added, “And he hated when we asked him about

sales. He felt like we were pounding on him.”

Mikey chimed in. “Most of the sales that we have closed

were done by Martin and Jeff, anyway. I don’t think that

guy ever really knew how to . . .”

Kathryn was just about to jump in, when Nick spoke

up. “Listen, I know I should be the last person to say this

because I was JR’s biggest critic behind the scenes, but let’s

not do this. He’s gone, and we need to figure out what we’re

going to do.”

Carlos volunteered. “I’ll take over sales until we can find

someone else.”

Jan felt comfortable enough with Carlos to be direct

with him, even in front of the rest of the group. “As much

as we appreciate your offer, I think that there are two other

people in this room with more time on their hands and

more experience with selling.” She looked at Jeff who was

sitting next to Nick. “One of you two.”

Jeff responded immediately. “Don’t get me wrong. I’d

do whatever you want me to. But I’ve never run a sales or-

ganization, or carried a quota for that matter. I love to sell

to investors and even customers, as long as I’m with some-

one who knows what they’re doing.”

Mikey offered her opinion. “Nick, you ran field oper-

ations at your last company. And you headed a sales team

earlier in your career.”

Nick nodded.

Martin added, “But I remember when we interviewed

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Nick.” Martin often referred to people in the third person,

as though they weren’t sitting in the same room. It wasn’t

intentionally rude, just less personal. “He said that he

wanted to break away from his career label as a field guy.

He wanted to take on a more corporate, central leader-

ship role.”

Nick nodded again, quietly impressed that Martin had

remembered anything about him. “That’s right. I felt like I

was being pigeon-holed in sales and field ops.”

No one spoke for a moment. Nick continued. “But I

have to say that I was damn good at sales, and I enjoyed it.”

Kathryn resisted the temptation to begin selling Nick.

Jeff didn’t. “You do have a good relationship with the sales

force already. And you have to admit that you’ve been frus-

trated by our inability to get into more deals.”

Carlos joked. “Come on Nick. If you don’t do it, they’re

going to accept my offer.”

Kathryn shrugged at Nick to say, He’s right.

“In that case it would be negligent of me to say no.”

Everyone laughed, when suddenly a fire alarm sounded.

Jan slapped her forehead. “Oh, I forgot. We’re having

a fire drill today. The Half Moon Bay Fire Department said

we have to start doing these twice a year.”

Everyone slowly gathered their things.

Martin added a final bit of humor. “Thank God. I could

feel a group hug coming on any minute.”

34Lencioni/Fireworks 2/10/02 5:01 PM Page 130


Afew days later, Kathryn began having problems with herlaptop, so she called the IT department to see if anyonethere could fix it. The IT department was really just four people, headed by a guy named Brendan, one of Jan’s di-

rect reports. Given the size of the group, it wasn’t unusual

for Brendan to handle some calls himself. Especially if the

call came from an executive. Especially the CEO.

Brendan arrived promptly and quickly identified the

problem. When he informed Kathryn that he would need

to take the computer with him to fix it, she agreed but

explained that she would need it back before the end of

the week.

“Oh, that’s right. You have another off-site coming up.”

Kathryn was not surprised that Brendan knew about

the off-site. In fact, she was glad that employees knew how

her team was spending her time while they were out of the

office. But his next comment gave her reason for concern.


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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

“I wish I could be a fly on the wall during those meet-


Kathryn could not let that comment go without a ques-

tion. “Oh yeah? Why is that?”

Brendan, whose technical ability was matched only by

his lack of social awareness, responded without hesitation.

“Well, let’s just say that people around here would pay big

money to watch Mikey answer for her attitude.”

Though Kathryn could not deny feeling slightly glad

that others in the organization recognized Mikey’s behav-

ioral issues, her primary reaction to Brendan’s remark was

disappointment. She wondered how many other employ-

ees in the company knew details about what was happen-

ing at the off-sites.

“Well, I’m not sure that’s how I’d characterize what

we’ve been doing.”

Kathryn knew that Brendan was not to be blamed for

any of this, so she changed the subject. “Anyway, thanks

for taking care of my computer.”

Brendan left, and Kathryn contemplated how she would

handle the situation with Jan, and the rest of the team.



35Lencioni/Leaks 2/10/02 3:44 PM Page 132


The following week, just days after what quickly becameknown as the Fire Alarm Meeting, the next Napa Valley ses-sion began. Kathryn kicked off the event with her usual speech. “We

have more money, better technology, more talented and

experienced executives, and yet we’re behind our com-

petitors. Let’s remember that the reason we’re here is to

start working more effectively as a team.”

Kathryn then raised a difficult topic, but in a tone that

was as nonthreatening as she could make it. “I have a

quick question for everyone. What, if anything, did you tell

your people about the first off-site session we had?”

As hard as she tried, Kathryn could not completely

avoid creating an interrogation-like atmosphere in the

room. “I’m not here to pound on anyone. I just think we

need to get clear on our behaviors as a team.”

Jeff went first. “I didn’t tell my people anything. Not a

single thing.”


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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

The room laughed because Jeff no longer had any di-

rect reports.

Mikey went next. “I just said we did a bunch of touchy-

feely exercises.” She was trying to be funny, but every-

one could tell that there was some degree of truth in what

she was saying. No one laughed.

Martin suddenly became defensive. “If you have a prob-

lem with something we’ve done, then just tell us. Because

I’ll admit right now, that I had some pretty frank conver-

sations with my engineers. They want to know whether

we’re wasting our time or not, and I think they’re entitled

to an explanation. And if that means violating some degree

of confidentiality, then I’m sorry.”

The room was a little stunned by the uncharacteristic

diatribe, which was both longer and more emotional than

what they were used to from Martin.

Kathryn almost laughed. “Whoa. Whoa. I’m not mad at

anyone here. And I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have

talked to our teams about the off-site. In fact, I should

have been more explicit last time about our need to do so.”

Martin seemed relieved, and a little embarrassed.

Then Jan spoke. “I probably told my team more than

anyone else. And I’m guessing that one of them said some-

thing to you.”

Kathryn felt as though she had been caught by Jan.

“Well, in fact, it is one of your people who prompted me

to ask this question.”

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Off-Site Number Two

Mikey seemed to enjoy that Jan was being singled out.

Kathryn continued, “But this isn’t about you or anyone

else in particular. I’m just trying to understand how things

work in terms of confidentialities and loyalties.”

“What do you mean by loyalties?” Nick wanted to know.

“I mean, who do you all consider to be your first team?”

Not surprised by the confusion in the room, Kathryn

explained. “This is not a lecture about maintaining confi-

dential information. Or at least, that’s not the focus of what

I’m trying to say. It’s beyond that.”

Kathryn was getting frustrated by her own inability to

articulate the issue. She resorted to bluntness. “What I’m try-

ing to ask you is whether you think this team is as impor-

tant to you as the teams you lead, your departments.”

Suddenly everyone seemed to understand. And they

didn’t seem comfortable with the true answers in their


Jan asked, “So, you’re wondering if we confide in our

direct reports about things that we should be keeping be-

tween us here?”

Kathryn nodded.

Mikey responded first. “I am much closer to my staff

than I am to this group here. I’m sorry, but it’s true.”

Nick nodded. “I’d probably say that’s true for me too,

with the exception of the sales group I just took over.” He

thought about it. “But I’d say that within a few weeks, I’ll

be closer to them than to this team.”

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Though Nick’s comment was meant as a joke and pro-

voked a shallow laugh among the group, the sad truth of

it seemed to deflate the room.

Jan spoke next. “I think all of us would probably say

that we consider our teams more important than this one.”

She hesitated before finishing her thought. “But no one

more than me.”

That comment grabbed the attention of everyone at the


“Do you want to explain that?” Kathryn asked, gently.

“Well, as everyone here knows, I’m pretty tight with my

people. Of my eight direct reports, five have worked for

me at other companies, and I’m something of a parent to


Carlos joked, “She’s a den mother.”

They laughed.

Jan smiled and nodded her head. “Yeah, I’d have to

agree. It’s not that I’m overly emotional or anything like that.

It’s just that they know I’d do almost anything for them.”

Kathryn nodded as though she were figuring it all out.


Martin defended Jan. “That’s not a bad thing. My en-

gineers know that I protect them from distractions and ob-

stacles, and they work their butts off for me as a result.”

Jan added, “And they don’t quit when things get tough.

My people are extremely loyal.”

Kathryn just listened, but Nick sensed that she was

about to offer a counterpoint. “Are you saying that this is a

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Off-Site Number Two

problem? I would think that you would want us to be good


“Of course I do.” Kathryn assured them all. “I’m glad to

hear how strongly you feel about your staffs. And it’s very

consistent with what I learned during my initial interviews.”

The room waited, as if to say, So what’s the problem?

Kathryn continued, “But when a company has a col-

lection of good managers who don’t act like a team, it can

create a dilemma for them, and for the company. You see,

it leads to confusion about who their first team is.”

Jeff asked for clarification. “First team?”

“Yes, your first team. And all of this relates to the last

dysfunction—putting team results ahead of individual is-

sues. Your first team has to be this one.” She looked around

the room to make it clear that she was referring to the ex-

ecutive staff.

“As strongly as we feel about our own people and as

wonderful as that is for them, it simply cannot come at the

expense of the loyalty and commitment we have to the

group of people sitting here today.”

The team digested her remarks, and the difficulty that

they implied.

Jan spoke first. “This is a tough one, Kathryn. I mean,

it would be easy for me to sit here and agree with you and

give you a half-hearted assurance that this would be my

first team, but I just don’t see how I can abandon what I’ve

worked so hard to build in my department.”

Carlos tried to find a happy medium. “I don’t think you

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

have to abandon it.” He looked to Kathryn for confirm-


She squinted, as if dreading having to hold the line.

“Well, you don’t have to destroy it. But you do have to be

willing to make it secondary. And for many of you, that

might very well feel like abandonment.”

Somewhat discouraged, the group considered the dif-

ficult proposition.

Jeff tried to lighten the mood. “Think how crappy this

has been for me. You guys were my first team. I didn’t have

anyone else to go to and complain.” Everyone, including

Mikey, laughed. As much as Jeff was joking, they could see

that there was a kernel of truth to what he said, and they

felt sorry for him.

Kathryn felt the need to drive a point home. “I don’t

know how else to say this, but building a team is hard.”

No one spoke. Kathryn could see doubt on their faces.

But she wasn’t deterred by it, because it didn’t seem to

be about whether building the team was important, but

rather whether they could actually do it. Kathryn always

preferred that kind of doubt.

36Lencioni/Off-Site 2/10/02 3:44 PM Page 138


Kathryn pushed forward. “Listen. We aren’t going to solve thisone right here. It’s a process, and we don’t need to getbogged down contemplating our navels for more than a few minutes. Let’s just stick to our plan of building a team,

and then the prospect of putting this one first might not

seem so daunting.”

The group seemed ready to shake off their funk, so

Kathryn asked a simple question to get things going. “How

are we doing?”

Jeff spoke first. “I think we can’t deny what has hap-

pened since last off-site. I mean, if you would have told

me that JR would quit and that we would already have

someone like Nick in his place, I would have accused you

of engineering the whole thing from the beginning.”

Nick agreed. “Well, I never thought I’d be doing this

job, and I certainly never thought I’d be having fun at it.

But I think we may be in pretty good shape. Still, we have

a long way to go to make our numbers.”


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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Kathryn refocused the discussion. “But how are we

working as a team?”

Jan replied, “I think we’re doing okay. We seem to be

moving in the right direction and definitely having more

productive conflict.”

The group laughed.

“I don’t know. I’m starting to have my doubts.” Kathryn

wouldn’t have usually been surprised by a remark like that

at this point in the process. Except that it came from Carlos.

“Why is that?” she asked.

Carlos frowned. “I don’t know. I guess I still feel like

we’re not always talking about the big issues. Maybe I’m just

getting impatient.”

“What big issues are you thinking about?” Jan won-

dered out loud.

“Well, I don’t want to stir things up here . . .”

Kathryn interrupted. “I want you to.”

Carlos smiled. “Well, I guess I wonder whether we have

our resources in the right place to make this work.”

Martin seemed to sense that he was the target of Carlos’s

remark. And he was right. “What do you mean by resources?”

Carlos stammered, “Well, I don’t know. I guess we have

a pretty big engineering organization. Almost a third of the

company, I think. And, well, we could probably use more

resources in sales, marketing, and consulting.”

Martin didn’t attack statements like that with emotion.

He preferred what he liked to call a Sarcratic approach—

a sarcastic version of the Socratic method. He was about

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Plowing On

to challenge Carlos’s remark cleverly, until Mikey joined in.

“I agree with Carlos. Frankly, I don’t know what half our

engineers do. And I salivate over the thought of using our

money for better marketing and advertising.”

Martin sighed audibly as if to say, Here we go again.

His disgust was not lost on anyone in the room.

Kathryn set the tone for what was about to happen.

“Okay, let’s have this out. And let’s not pretend we’re doing

anything wrong. We owe it to our shareholders, and our

employees, to figure out the right way to use our money.

This is not a religious battle. It’s about strategy.”

Having defused the tension just a bit, Kathryn then

stoked the flame. She directed her statement at Martin. “I’m

guessing you’re tired of people questioning our investment

in engineering.”

Martin was calm, but intense. “You’re damn right I am.

What people can’t seem to understand is that it’s not engi-

neering we’re investing in—it’s the technology. We are a

product company. It’s not like I’m spending money taking

engineers on golfing trips.”

“Come on, Martin,” exclaimed Nick. “Engineers don’t

golf.” After lightening the moment with humor, the new

head of sales then resumed the conversation. “It’s not that

we’re saying you aren’t being personally responsible. It’s

that you might be a little biased.”

Martin was not ready to relent. “Biased? Listen, I go on

as many sales calls as anyone else around here. And I speak

to analysts . . .”

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Jan jumped in now. “Hold on, Martin. We’re not ques-

tioning your commitment to the company. It’s just that you

know more about engineering than anything else, and

maybe that makes you want to invest in the product.” Jan

finally went to the heart of the matter. “Why do you get so

defensive when someone makes a comment about engi-


It was as though Jan had thrown a bucket of cold water

on Martin, spilling a little on everyone else in the room.

Mikey piled on, but more gently than usual. “She’s right.

You act like we’re questioning your intelligence.”

More calmly now, Martin persisted. “Isn’t that what

you’re doing? You’re saying that I’m overestimating the

amount of resources it takes to build and maintain our


Jan explained with more tact than Mikey could. “No.

It’s broader than that, Martin. We’re questioning how good

our products need to be for us to win in the market. We’re

questioning how much effort we need to be putting behind

future technology, because that might come at the expense

of having the market embrace our current technology.”

Kathryn stepped out of her facilitating role and added

to Jan’s perspective. “And there is no way that you could

figure that out on your own. I don’t think anyone here is

smart enough, and has the breadth and depth of knowl-

edge, to know the right answer without hearing from every-

one else and benefiting from their perspective.”

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Plowing On

Ironically, the more reasonable the explanation was,

the more wound up Martin seemed to become. It was as

though he could easily deflect the insecure rants of Mikey,

but was being trapped by the fairness and logic of Jan and


“Listen, after all the time we’ve put into building this

product, I am not willing to read a bloody epitaph of our

company that blames our demise on bad technology.” Be-

fore anyone could point out to him that this was a blatant

demonstration of the fifth dysfunction, Martin beat them to

it. “And yes, I know that sounds a lot like I’m more inter-

ested in avoiding individual blame than I am in helping the

company win, but . . .” He didn’t seem to have a good ex-

planation for his behavior.

Jan bailed him out. “Why do you think I’m so anal

about finances?” It was a rhetorical question, so she an-

swered it for everyone. “The last thing I want to do is read

in The Wall Street Journal that we didn’t manage our cash

and had to close the company down. And Carlos doesn’t

want customer support issues to sink us, and Mikey does-

n’t want us to fail because we can’t build our brand.”

Even with such an even distribution of blame, Mikey

couldn’t seem to accept her own portion. She gave Jan a look

that said, I’m not worried about that.

Jan ignored her and commented to the rest of the group,

“It sounds like we’re all scrambling for lifeboats on the Ti-


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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

“I don’t think it’s quite that desperate,” countered Nick.

Kathryn qualified her CFO’s metaphor. “Well, then we’re

all trying to stand as close to them as possible just in case.”

Nick nodded as if to say, Okay, I’ll give you that. Kath-

ryn put the conversation back on topic and directed her

leading question toward Martin. “So where were we?”

Martin took a deep breath, shook his head as if he were

disagreeing with everything that had been said, and then

surprised everyone. “Okay, let’s figure this out.”

He went to the white board and mapped out his entire

organization, explaining what everyone was working on

and how it fit together. His peers were genuinely amazed,

both by how much they didn’t know about everything go-

ing on in engineering and how it all fit together.

After Martin had finished, Kathryn gave the group two

hours to discuss the relative merits of expanding or reduc-

ing the resources allocated to engineering and how to use

them in other areas. During that time, the team argued ve-

hemently at times, changed their minds, retrenched on their

original opinions, and then decided that the right answer

was not so apparent after all.

Perhaps most important of all, every member of the

team, including Kathryn, at one time picked up the marker

and went to the white board to explain a point. If anyone

yawned, it was because they were exhausted, not bored.

Finally, it was Jeff who offered a solution. He proposed

cutting one future product line entirely and delaying an-

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Plowing On

other for at least six months. Nick then suggested rede-

ploying the engineers from those projects and training

them to assist sales reps with product demonstrations.

Within minutes, the group had agreed, laid out an ag-

gressive time line for implementing the change, and stared

in amazement at the complex but workable solution on the

white board in front of them.

Kathryn then suggested they go to lunch and added,

“When we get back, we’re going to be talking about deal-

ing with interpersonal discomfort and holding each other


“I can’t wait.” Martin’s facetious remark was not in-

tended to be an indictment of the process, and no one took

it that way.

37Lencioni/Plowing On 2/10/02 3:45 PM Page 145


After lunch, Kathryn was determined to maintain the mo-mentum of the morning’s session, and she decided that fo-cusing on real issues, rather than exercises, was her best bet. So she asked Nick to lead the team in a review of their

progress around their eighteen-deal goal. He went to the

board and wrote the four key drivers that the group had

agreed to focus on during the previous off-site: product

demonstrations, competitive analysis, sales training, and

product brochures. Nick went right down the list.

“Okay, Martin, how are you doing with the product

demo project?”

“We’re ahead of schedule. It turns out to be a little eas-

ier than we thought, so we should be done a week or two

early. Carlos has been a big help.”

Nick didn’t like to waste time. “Great. How about com-

petitor analysis? Carlos?”

Carlos looked through a stack of papers on the table in

front of him. “I brought an update summary, but I can’t find


38Lencioni/Accountability 2/10/02 3:45 PM Page 146



it.” He gave up looking. “Anyway, we haven’t really started

yet. I haven’t been able to pull together a meeting.”

“Why not?” Nick was more patient than Kathryn ex-


“Well, quite frankly, because many of your people

haven’t been available. And I’ve been busy helping Mar-

tin with the demo.”


Nick decided to be constructive. “Okay, which of my

people haven’t been available?”

Carlos didn’t want to point fingers. “I’m not complain-

ing about them. It’s just that . . .”

Nick interrupted him. “It’s okay, Carlos. Just tell me

who needs to be more responsive.”

“Well, I think that Jack is key. And Ken. And I’m not

sure if . . .”

Now Kathryn interrupted. “Does anyone see a problem


Nick answered first. “Yeah, I need to communicate with

my staff about our priorities and make sure they’re ready

to support them.”

Kathryn acknowledged that this was true, but she was

looking for something else. “But what about Carlos? Don’t

you think he should have come to you about fixing this

problem before today? Not one of you challenged him when

he said he hadn’t even started the competitor analysis.”

Uncomfortable silence again.

Carlos was secure enough not to overreact to his boss’s

38Lencioni/Accountability 2/10/02 3:45 PM Page 147


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

question. For the moment, he seemed to be considering

it objectively.

Martin jumped in. “It’s hard to come down on someone

who is always pitching in.”

Kathryn nodded and then added firmly. “You’re right.

But that’s not a good excuse. The fact is, Carlos is a vice

president of the company, and he needs to prioritize better

according to what we agreed to do, and he needs to chal-

lenge people in the organization who are not responding

to his requests.”

Sensing now that Carlos was beginning to feel picked

on, Kathryn addressed him directly. “I’m using you as an ex-

ample, Carlos, because you are an easy person to let off the

hook. But this could apply to anyone. Some people are hard

to hold accountable because they are so helpful. Others be-

cause they get defensive. Others because they are intimi-

dating. I don’t think it’s easy to hold anyone accountable,

not even your own kids.”

That brought a few nods of acknowledgment from some

of the team members. Kathryn continued, “I want all of you

challenging each other about what you are doing, how you

are spending your time, whether you are making enough


Mikey challenged, “But that sounds like a lack of trust.”

Kathryn shook her head. “No, trust is not the same as

assuming everyone is on the same page as you, and that

they don’t need to be pushed. Trust is knowing that when

38Lencioni/Accountability 2/10/02 3:45 PM Page 148



a team member does push you, they’re doing it because

they care about the team.”

Nick clarified. “But we have to push in a way that

doesn’t piss people off.”

His statement sounded like a question, so Kathryn re-

sponded. “Absolutely. Push with respect, and under the as-

sumption that the other person is probably doing the right

thing. But push anyway. And never hold back.”

The team seemed to be digesting the point well, and

Kathryn let it sink in for a moment. Then she asked Nick

to continue.

He gladly obliged. “Okay, we’re on item number three,

which is the sales training program. I own that one my-

self, and we’re on pace. I’ve scheduled a two-day training

session for our salespeople, and I think that all of us should

be there too.”

Mikey seemed incredulous. “Why?”

“Because we should all consider ourselves to be sales-

people. Especially if closing those eighteen deals is really

our top priority.”

Kathryn left no doubt. “It is.”

Nick continued. “Then we are all going to be involved,

and we need to know how to help our sales reps.” Nick

gave everyone the date of the training, and they wrote it

in their calendars.

Mikey still seemed peeved.

“Is there a problem, Mikey?” It was Nick who asked.

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

“No, no. Go ahead.”

Nick wouldn’t accept that. Containing any frustration

that he might have felt, he pushed on. “No, if you think

there is a good reason for you not to be at sales training,

then I’m open to hearing it.” He paused to see if she would

respond, and when she didn’t, he continued. “Frankly, I

can’t imagine anything else being more important.”

Finally, Mikey responded sarcastically. “Okay, and I’d

like everyone to attend next week’s product marketing


Nick restrained himself again. “Really? Because if you

think we should all be there, and it makes sense, then we’ll

do it.”

Mikey didn’t even consider his offer. “Forget it. I’ll be

at the sales training. I don’t need any of you, other than Mar-

tin, at the product marketing meeting.”

Right at that moment Kathryn became certain that

Mikey would have to go. Unfortunately, the next five min-

utes would make that harder than she would have liked.

38Lencioni/Accountability 2/10/02 3:45 PM Page 150


Nick moved to the fourth item on the list. “Okay, how are wedoing with product brochures?” He directed the question atMikey. “We’re all set.” Mikey’s attempt to avoid being smug was


Nick was a little surprised. “Really?”

Sensing that her peers didn’t quite believe her, Mikey

reached down into her computer bag, retrieved a stack of

glossy leaflets, and began passing them around the room.

“This is scheduled to go to print next week.”

The room was quiet as everyone scrutinized the design

and read the copy. Kathryn could sense that most of them

were pleased by the quality of the material.

But Nick seemed uncomfortable. “Were you going to

talk to me about this? Because some of the salespeople are

out doing customer research for these brochures, and they’re

going to be a little miffed when they find out that their

input was not . . .”


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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Mikey interrupted. “My staff knows this stuff better than

anyone else in the company. But if you want to have some-

one in your department add their two cents, that would

be fine.” It was clear that she didn’t think it should be nec-


Nick seemed torn between being impressed by what

he was looking at and insulted by the way it was being

presented to him. “Okay, I’ll send you a list of three or four

people who should see this before we go forward.”

Any excitement about the progress Mikey had made was

blunted by her reaction to Nick.

Jeff tried to make the awkward situation better. “Well,

in any case, you and your staff did a great job with this.”

Mikey enjoyed the compliment a little too much. “Well,

I’ve been working hard on it. And it’s what I do best.”

The entire room seemed to groan silently at their col-

league’s continued lack of humility.

In a rare moment of impulsiveness, Kathryn decided

that she could not wait any longer. After announcing that

there would be a long afternoon break until dinner at six

o’clock, she dismissed everyone. Except Mikey.

39Lencioni/Contribution 2/10/02 3:46 PM Page 152


As soon as everyone had left the room and the door behindthem had closed, Kathryn felt a sense of remorse and a de-sire to go for a long walk by herself. How can I get out of this? she wondered, knowing that there was no backing

out now.

Mikey seemed to have no idea what was about to hap-

pen. Kathryn couldn’t decide if her ignorance would make

this easier or harder. She would find out soon enough.

“This is going to be a tough conversation, Mikey.”

The marketing vice president briefly flashed a look of

realization, and then covered it immediately. “It is?”

Kathryn took a deep breath and went right to the bone.

“I don’t think you are a fit for this team. And I don’t think

you really want to be here. Do you know where I’m com-

ing from?”

A genuine sense of shock hit Mikey, which caught Kath-

ryn off guard. She had to see this coming, Kathryn moaned

to herself.


40Lencioni/Talk 2/10/02 3:46 PM Page 153


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Mikey was incredulous. “Me? You’ve got to be kidding.

Of all the people on this team, you think that I . . .” She

didn’t complete the thought, but stared intently at Kath-

ryn. “Me?”

Strangely enough, Kathryn was suddenly more com-

fortable now that the issue was out on the table. She had

dealt with enough obliviously difficult executives in her ca-

reer to stand firm in the midst of their shock. But Mikey was

cleverer than the average executive.

“What’s the basis for this?” Mikey demanded.

Calmly, Kathryn explained. “Mikey, you don’t seem to

respect your colleagues. You aren’t willing to open up to

them. During meetings, you have an extremely distract-

ing and demotivating impact on all of them. Including me.”

As much as Kathryn knew that what she said was true, she

was suddenly aware of how shallow her accusations might

have sounded to someone unfamiliar with the situation.

“You don’t think I respect my colleagues? The prob-

lem is that they don’t respect me.” As the words came out

of her mouth, Mikey seemed to realize the gravity of her

accidental self-indictment. Slightly frazzled, she tried to

clarify. “They don’t appreciate the expertise I have. Or my

experience. And they certainly don’t understand how to

market software.”

Kathryn listened silently, growing more confident in

her decision with every word that Mikey spoke.

Sensing this, Mikey attacked, more calmly but with un-

40Lencioni/Talk 2/10/02 3:46 PM Page 154


The Talk

deniable venom. “Kathryn, how do you think the board

is going to react to my leaving the team? In less than a

month, you’ll have lost your head of sales and marketing.

I’d be pretty worried about my job if I were you.”

“I appreciate your concern, Mikey.” Kathryn’s response

had just a touch of sarcasm. “But my job is not to avoid

confrontation with the board. My job is to build an exec-

utive team that can make this company work.” She shifted

toward a more compassionate tone. “And I just don’t think

you like being part of this one.”

Mikey now took a breath. “Do you really think that tak-

ing me off the team is going to help this company?”

Kathryn nodded. “Yes I do. And I honestly believe it

will be better for you too.”

“How do you figure that?”

Kathryn decided to be as truthful, and kind, as possi-

ble. “Well, you might find a company that appreciates your

skills and style more.” Kathryn wanted to hold back the

next sentence, but realized it was in Mikey’s best interest to

hear it. “But I think that might not be easy if you don’t take

a look at yourself.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means you seem bitter, Mikey. And maybe that’s a

DecisionTech thing . . .”

Mikey interrupted before Kathryn could go any further.

“It is definitely a DecisionTech thing, because I’ve never

had problems like this before.”

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Kathryn was sure this wasn’t true, but she decided not

to rub salt in her wounds. “Then you will definitely be hap-

pier somewhere else.”

Mikey stared at the table in front of her. Kathryn sensed

that she was coming to terms with the situation, even ac-

cepting it. She was wrong.

40Lencioni/Talk 2/10/02 3:46 PM Page 156


Mikey excused herself to collect her thoughts. When she re-turned a few minutes later, she seemed more emotional anddetermined than ever. “Okay, first of all, I’m not resigning. You’ll have to fire

me. And my husband is a lawyer, and so I don’t think you’ll

have an easy time making a case against me.”

Kathryn didn’t flinch. But with complete sincerity and

sympathy, she responded. “I’m not firing you. And you

don’t have to leave.”

Mikey seemed confused.

Kathryn clarified the situation. “But your behavior

would have to change completely. And it would have to

change fast.” Kathryn paused to let Mikey consider what

she was saying. “And frankly, I’m just not sure that you

want to go through that.”

The look on Mikey’s face indicated that she definitely

didn’t want to go through that. But she defended herself

nonetheless. “I don’t think my behavior is the problem

around here.”


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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Kathryn responded. “It’s certainly not the only one, but

it’s a very real issue. You don’t participate in areas outside

your department. You don’t accept criticism from your peers,

or apologize when you’re out of line.”

“When have I been out of line?” Mikey demanded to


Kathryn couldn’t decide whether Mikey was being coy,

or if she were truly that socially unaware. In either case,

she would have to come clean with her, but calmly. “I don’t

know where to start. There’s the constant rolling of your

eyes. There’s the rude and disrespectful remarks, like tell-

ing Martin he’s an s.o.b. There’s your lack of interest in at-

tending sales training, even though that’s the company’s top

priority. I would say all of those are pretty out of line.”

Mikey sat in stunned silence. Confronted with such

stark evidence, she suddenly seemed to realize the weight

of her dilemma. Still, she had a few rounds of ammunition

left before she would cede defeat. “Listen, I’m sick of hear-

ing people complain about me. And I’m certainly not going

to change in order to fit in with this dysfunctional group of

people. But I’m not just going to make this easy for you

and leave. This is about principle.”

Kathryn remained confident. “What principle?”

Mikey couldn’t come up with a specific answer. She just

looked at Kathryn coldly, shaking her head.

Almost a full minute passed. Kathryn resisted break-

ing the silence, wanting Mikey to sit with herself and see

the emptiness of her arguments. Finally, Mikey said, “I

42_960756_c36_15.qxd 11/2/05 11:28 AM Page 158


Last Stand

want three months’ severance, all my stock options vested,

and the official record to show that I resigned on my own


Relieved, Kathryn was more than happy to give Mikey

everything she asked for. But she knew better than to say so

right there. “I’m not sure about all of that, but I’ll see if I can

make it happen.”

A few more awkward moments of silence passed. “So,

do you just want me to leave right now? I mean, should I

not even stay for dinner?”

Kathryn nodded. “You can come get your things at the

office next week. And meet with HR to work out your exit

package, assuming I can get you what you want.”

“You know you guys are screwed, don’t you?” Mikey

was going to punish Kathryn one way or another. “I mean,

you have no sales or marketing people left. And I wouldn’t

be surprised if you lost some of my staff members as a re-

sult of this.”

But Kathryn had been through this kind of situation

plenty of times before, and she’d spent enough time with

Mikey’s staff to know they saw many of the same flaws in

their boss that everyone else did. Still, she felt it would be

best to demonstrate some degree of concern. “Well, I would

certainly understand if that happened, but I hope it’s not

the case.”

Mikey shook her head again, as though she were about

to launch into another tirade. And then she picked up her

computer bag and left.

42_960756_c36_15.qxd 11/2/05 11:28 AM Page 159


Kathryn spent the rest of the break taking a long walk aroundthe vineyards. When the meeting resumed, she was re-freshed—but completely unprepared for what was about to happen.

Before Kathryn could raise the subject, Nick asked,

“Where’s Mikey?”

Kathryn wanted to deliver the message without seem-

ing too relieved. “Mikey isn’t going to be coming back.

She’s leaving the company.”

The looks on the faces of the people around the table

didn’t seem to fit Kathryn’s expectations. They appeared to

be surprised.

“How did that happen?” Jan wanted to know.

“Well, what I’m about to say needs to be confidential

because of legal issues relating to departed employees.”

Everyone nodded.

Kathryn was direct. “I didn’t see Mikey being willing to


42Lencioni/Flack 2/10/02 3:47 PM Page 160



adjust her behavior. And it was hurting the team. So I asked

her to leave the company.”

No one spoke. They just looked at one another and

at the brochures still sitting on the table in front of them.

Finally, Carlos spoke. “Wow. I don’t know what to say.

How did she take it? What are we going to do about mar-


Nick continued the list of questions. “What are we going

to say to employees? To the press?”

As surprised as Kathryn was by their response, she

quickly summoned an answer. “I don’t want to say a lot

about how Mikey responded. She was a little surprised, a

little angry, neither of which is rare in situations like this.”

The group waited for Kathryn to address the other issues.

She continued. “And as far as what we’re going to do

about marketing, we’ll start looking for a new vice presi-

dent. But we’ve got plenty of strong people in the organi-

zation now who can step up and keep things moving until

then. I have no concerns about that.”

Everyone seemed to digest and agree with Kathryn’s


“And we’ll have to simply tell employees and the press

that Mikey is moving on. We don’t have a lot of flexibility

there, in terms of getting into sensitive information. But I

don’t think we should be intimidated by anyone’s initial re-

actions. If we get our act together and make progress, em-

ployees and analysts alike are going to be fine. And I think

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

most people, especially employees, won’t be all that sur-


As confident as Kathryn was and as logical as her rea-

soning seemed, the mood in the room remained down.

Kathryn knew she would have to push them hard to focus

on real work. She didn’t realize how much more work she

had to do to put the Mikey issue to rest.

42Lencioni/Flack 2/10/02 3:47 PM Page 162


For the rest of the evening and into the next afternoon, thegroup focused on the details of the business, with special attention on sales. Though they certainly made progress, Kathryn could not deny that Mikey’s departure was contin-

uing to dampen the general atmosphere. She decided to

enter the danger.

When lunch was over, Kathryn addressed the group. “I’d

like to take a few minutes to deal with the elephant that’s

sitting in the corner. I want to know how everyone is feel-

ing about Mikey leaving. Because we need to make sure that

we deal with this as a team before I stand in front of the

company and explain it to them next week.” Though it al-

ways amazed her, Kathryn knew from past experience that

the departure of even the most difficult employees provoked

some degree of mourning and self-doubt among their peers.

Team members looked around at one another to see

who would go first. It was Nick. “I guess I’m just worried

about losing another member of the executive team.”


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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Kathryn nodded to acknowledge his concern but really

wanted to say, But she was never a member of this team!

Jan added, “I know she was a difficult person, but the

quality of her work was good. And marketing is critical

right now. Maybe we should have just tolerated her.”

Kathryn nodded to indicate that she was listening. “Any-

one else?”

Martin sort of raised his hand, making it clear that he

was about to make a statement that he didn’t want to make.

“I guess I’m just wondering who’s next.”

Kathryn paused before responding. “Let me tell you a

quick story about myself. One that I’m not too proud of.”

That got everyone’s attention.

Kathryn frowned, as if she didn’t really want to do what

she was about to do. “While I was in my last quarter of

graduate school, I took a job as a contractor at a well-

known retail company in San Francisco, where I ran a small

department of financial analysts. It was my first real man-

agement position, and I was hoping to land a permanent

job with the company after graduation.”

In spite of her limitations as a public speaker, Kathryn

had a knack for telling stories. “I inherited a pretty good

group of people. They all worked hard, but one guy in par-

ticular cranked out more reports, and better ones, than any-

one else. I’ll call him Fred. Fred took any assignment I gave

him and became my most reliable employee.”

“Sounds like a problem I’d like to have,” Nick com-


43Lencioni/Lifting 2/10/02 3:47 PM Page 164


Heavy Lifting

Kathryn raised her eyebrows. “Well, there’s more to

the story. No one else in the department could stand Fred.

And to be honest, he annoyed the heck out of me too. He

didn’t help anyone with their work, and he made sure

everyone knew how much better he was at his job, which

was undeniable, even to the people who hated the guy.

Anyway, my staff came to me a number of times com-

plaining about Fred. I listened carefully and even spoke

to Fred half-heartedly about adjusting his behavior. But I

mostly ignored them because I could tell that they resented

his skills. More importantly, I was not about to come down

on my top performer.”

The staff seemed to empathize with her.

Kathryn went on. “Eventually, the output of the de-

partment began to slide, and so I gave more work to Fred,

who complained a little but managed to get it all done.

In my mind, he was carrying the department. Pretty soon,

morale in the department began to deteriorate more rapidly

than ever, and our performance slid further. Again, a num-

ber of analysts came to me to complain about Fred, and

it was becoming clear that he was indeed contributing to

the problems of the group more than I had thought. After

a tough night of thinking and losing sleep, I made my first

big decision.”

Jeff guessed, “You fired him.”

Kathryn smiled in a shameful kind of way. “No. I pro-

moted him.”

Jaws around the table dropped.

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Kathryn nodded her head. “That’s right. Fred was my

first promotion as a manager. Two weeks later, three of my

seven analysts quit, and the department fell into chaos. We

dropped way behind in our work, and my manager called

me in to talk about what was going on. I explained the

Fred situation, and why I had lost the other analysts. The

next day, he made a big decision.”

Jeff guessed again. “He fired him.”

Kathryn smiled in a painfully humorous way. “Close.

He fired me.”

The staff seemed surprised. Jan wanted to make her

feel better. “But companies don’t usually fire contractors.”

Kathryn was suddenly a little sarcastic. “Okay. Let’s just

say that the assignment ended abruptly, and they never

bothered to have me back.”

Nick and Martin smiled, trying not to crack up. Kathryn

completed their thoughts. “I definitely got fired.”

Everyone in the room laughed.

“What happened to Fred?” Jeff wanted to know.

“I hear that he quit a few weeks later, and they hired

someone else to run the department. Performance improved

dramatically within a month of his departure, even though

the department now had three fewer analysts than before.”

“Are you saying that Fred’s behavior alone hurt the pro-

duction of the group by 50 percent?”

“No. Not Fred’s behavior.”

People seemed confused.

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Heavy Lifting

“My tolerance of his behavior. Listen, they fired the right


No one spoke. They seemed to be feeling their boss’s

pain, and making the obvious connection between Kathryn’s

story and what had happened the day before.

After a few moments, Kathryn brought her lesson home.

“I don’t plan on losing any of you. And that’s why I did what

I did.”

At that moment, everyone in the room seemed to under-

stand her.

43Lencioni/Lifting 2/10/02 3:47 PM Page 167


Back at the office, Kathryn held an all-hands meeting to dis-cuss Mikey’s departure and other company issues. In spiteof her typically tactful and gracious demeanor, the news pro- voked more concern among employees than the executives

had expected. And though they agreed that the reaction had

more to do with its symbolic meaning than with losing

Mikey in particular, it dampened the enthusiasm of the team.

So during the next staff meeting, Kathryn had the group

spend more than an hour discussing how they were going

to replace their head of marketing. After a heated debate

about whether to promote one of Mikey’s direct reports,

Kathryn stepped in to break the tie.

“All right. This has been a good discussion, and I think

I’ve heard everyone. Does anyone have anything else to add?”

No one spoke, so Kathryn continued. “I believe that we

need to find someone who can grow the department and

help us with branding. And as much as I would prefer to

promote someone internally, I don’t see anyone in the de-

partment who is close to being able to do that right now.


44Lencioni/Rally 2/10/02 3:48 PM Page 168



And so I think we should begin a search for a new vice


Every head in the room nodded support, even those

who had argued against an outside hire.

“But I can assure you that we’re going to find the right

person. That means everyone here will be interviewing

candidates and pushing to find someone who can demon-

strate trust, engage in conflict, commit to group decisions,

hold their peers accountable, and focus on the results of

the team, not their own ego.”

Kathryn was certain that her staff had begun to buy in

to her theory. After asking Jeff to organize the search for the

new VP, she shifted the topic to sales.

Nick reported that progress had been made with a few

key prospects, and that some regions of the country were

still struggling. “I think we need more feet on the street.”

Jan knew that Nick was asking for more money and

tried to put a quick halt to his thinking. “I don’t want to

add more expenses because that only means your quotas

will go up. We don’t want to get into a death spiral here.”

Nick breathed hard and shook his head in exasperation

as if to say, There you go again. Before anyone knew what

was going on, Nick and Jan were pounding on the table

trying to convince one another, and the rest of the group,

that their approach was right.

During a brief pause in the action, Jan threw herself back

in her chair in frustration and proclaimed, “Nothing around

here has changed. Maybe the problem wasn’t Mikey after all.”

44Lencioni/Rally 2/10/02 3:48 PM Page 169


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

That sobered the group.

Kathryn jumped in, smiling. “Hold on. Hold on. I don’t

see anything wrong here. This is the kind of conflict we’ve

been talking about for the past month. It’s perfect.”

Jan tried to explain herself. “I guess I just don’t see it

that way. It still feels like we’re fighting.”

“You are fighting. But about issues. That’s your job.

Otherwise, you leave it to your people to try to solve prob-

lems that they can’t solve. They want you to hash this stuff

out so they can get clear direction from us.”

Jan seemed tired. “I hope this is worth it.”

Kathryn smiled again. “Trust me. It will be worth it in

more ways than you know.”

Over the next two weeks, Kathryn began to push her

team harder than ever before around their behavior. She

chided Martin for eroding trust by appearing smug during

meetings. She forced Carlos to confront the team about

their lack of responsiveness to customer issues. And she

spent more than one late night with Jan and Nick, working

through budget battles that had to be fought.

More important than what Kathryn did, however, was

the reaction she received. As resistant as they might have

seemed in the moment, no one questioned whether they

should be doing the things that Kathryn made them do.

There seemed to be a genuine sense of collective purpose.

The only question that remained in Kathryn’s mind was

whether she could keep it going long enough for every-

one to see the benefits.

44Lencioni/Rally 2/10/02 3:48 PM Page 170



45Lencioni/Part 4 2/10/02 3:48 PM Page 171

45Lencioni/Part 4 2/10/02 3:48 PM Page 172


Although the last of Kathryn’s Napa Valley off-sites had a dif-ferent atmosphere from the others, it began with a famil-iar speech. “We have a more experienced set of executives 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 connected board of di-

rectors. Yet in spite of all that, we are behind two of our

competitors in terms of both revenue and customer growth.

And I think we all know why that is.”

Nick raised his hand. “Kathryn, I’d like you to stop giv-

ing that speech.”

A month earlier, everyone in the room would have been

shocked by such a blunt statement. But no one seemed to

be alarmed at all.

“Why is that?” Kathryn asked.

Nick frowned, trying to think of the right words. “I guess

it seemed more appropriate a few weeks ago when we were

a lot more . . .” Nick didn’t need to finish the sentence.


46Lencioni/Harvest 2/10/02 3:49 PM Page 173


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Kathryn explained as nicely as she could. “I’ll stop mak-

ing this speech when it’s no longer true. We are still behind

two of our competitors. And we are still not where we need

to be as a team.”

Kathryn continued. “But that’s not to say that we aren’t

on the right track. In fact, the first thing we’re going to do to-

day is take a step back and assess where we are as a team.”

Kathryn went to the white board and drew the triangle

again, filling in the five dysfunctions.

Then she asked, “How are we doing?”

The team considered the question as they re-examined

the model.

46Lencioni/Harvest 2/10/02 3:49 PM Page 174



Finally, Jeff spoke first. “We certainly trust each other

more than we did a month ago.” Heads around the room

nodded, and Jeff completed the thought. “Although I think

that it’s still too early to say that there isn’t more work to

be done.” Heads continued to nod.

Jan added. “And we’re doing better with conflict, al-

though I can’t say I’m used to it yet.”

Kathryn assured her, “I don’t think anyone ever gets

completely used to conflict. If it’s not a little uncomfortable,

then it’s not real. The key is to keep doing it anyway.”

Jan accepted the explanation.

Nick jumped in. “As far as commitment is concerned,

we have definitely started getting better buy-in around ob-

jectives and deliverables. That’s not a problem. But the next

one, accountability, worries me the most.”

“Why?” asked Jeff.

“Because I’m not sure that we’re going to be willing to

get in each other’s faces when someone doesn’t deliver, or

if someone starts acting against the good of the team.”

“I’m certainly going to get in their face.”

To everyone’s surprise, it was Martin who made the

comment. He explained. “I don’t think I could handle going

back to the way things were before. And so if it comes

down to a little interpersonal discomfort versus politics, I’m

opting for the discomfort.”

Nick smiled at his quirky colleague and finished the

model. “Well, I don’t think we’re going to have a results

46Lencioni/Harvest 2/10/02 3:49 PM Page 175


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

problem. None of us will come out of this smelling rosy if

we can’t make this company work.”

Kathryn had never been so glad to see a room full of

people nod their heads in agreement. But she decided that

she should let some of the air out of the team’s balloon.

“Listen, I agree with most of what you’ve said about the

team. You’re moving in the right direction. But I want to

assure you that there will be many days during the next

few months when you will wonder if you’ve made any

progress at all. It’s going to take more than a few weeks of

behavioral change before we see a tangible impact on the

bottom line.”

The team seemed to be agreeing with her too easily.

She decided she needed to rattle them one more time. “I’m

telling you this because we are not out of the woods yet.

I’ve seen plenty of groups slide backward that were a lot

further along than we are. This is about having the disci-

pline and persistence to keep doing what we’re doing.”

As bad as Kathryn felt about raining on the team’s pa-

rade, she was relieved to have prepared them for the bad

weather every team faces on the way to shedding their dys-

functions. And for the next two days, the team experienced

that weather. At times, working together in a spirit of co-

operation, at other times seemingly at each other’s throats,

the group wrestled with business issues and worked each

one through to resolution. Ironically, they rarely discussed

the notion of teamwork directly, which Kathryn interpreted

as a sign that they were making progress. Two observations

46Lencioni/Harvest 2/10/02 3:49 PM Page 176



that Kathryn made during breaks and meals told her she

was right.

First, the team seemed to stay together, choosing not

to go off on their own as they had at previous off-sites. Sec-

ond, they were noisier than they had ever been, and one

of the most prevalent sounds that could be heard among

them was laughter. By the end of the session, though they

were clearly exhausted, everyone seemed eager to sched-

ule follow-up meetings with one another when they re-

turned to the office.

46Lencioni/Harvest 2/10/02 3:49 PM Page 177


Three months after the final off-site had ended, Kathryn heldher first quarterly two-day staff meeting at a local hotel.The new vice president of marketing, Joseph Charles, had joined DecisionTech a week earlier and was attending his

first meeting with the group.

Kathryn kicked off the session by making an announce-

ment that no one was prepared for. “Remember Green Ba-

nana? The company that we considered buying last quarter?”

Heads around the table nodded.

“Well, evidently Nick was right about their being a pos-

sible competitor. They want to buy us.”

Everyone except Jeff, who sat on the board and already

knew about the offer, was shocked. No one more so than

Nick. “I thought they were in financial trouble?”

“They were,” explained Kathryn. “I guess they raised a

truckload of money last month and are suddenly hungry to

buy something. They’ve already made us an offer.”

“What’s it look like?” Jan wanted to know.


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Gut Check

Kathryn looked at her notes. “Quite a bit more than our

estimated worth today. We would all make decent money.”

Jan pressed on. “What did the board say?”

Jeff answered for Kathryn. “They’re leaving it up to us.”

No one spoke. It was as if they were all calculating their

potential payouts and trying to put the offer into some sort

of context.

Finally, an almost angry voice with a British accent broke

the silence. “No bloody way.”

Everyone turned toward their head of engineering. He

spoke with more passion than anyone had ever heard from

him. “There is no way that I am going to walk away from all

of this and hand it over to a company named after a piece

of unripened fruit.”

The group burst out into laughter.

Jan brought them back down to earth. “I don’t think

we should discard this quite so fast. There is no guarantee

that we’re going to make it. This is real money.”

Jeff added to his CFO’s point. “The board certainly

doesn’t think it’s a bad offer.”

Martin didn’t seem to believe Jeff. “Then why did they

leave it to us to make the decision?”

Jeff paused for a moment before explaining. “Because

they want to know that we have the fire in our bellies.”

Martin frowned. “The what?”

Jeff clarified for his British colleague. “They want to

know if we want to be here. If we’re really committed to the

company. And to each other.”

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Joseph summarized the situation. “It sounds like this is

a gut check.”

Carlos spoke for the first time during the meeting. “I

vote against it.”

Jeff was next. “So do I. Definitely.”

Nick nodded his head. As did Kathryn and Joseph.

Martin looked at Jan. “What do you say?”

She hesitated for a moment. “Green Banana? Are you


They broke into laughter.

Kathryn quickly refocused the meeting, wanting to cap-

ture the momentum and direct it toward real business.

“Okay, we’ve got plenty of other big topics to take care of

today. So let’s get started.”

For the next several hours, the group took Joseph

through the five dysfunctions. Nick explained the impor-

tance of trust. Jan and Jeff together covered conflict and

commitment. Carlos described accountability within the

context of the team, and Martin finished off results. They

then reviewed Joseph’s Myers-Briggs results and explained

the roles and responsibilities of his new peers, as well as

their collective goals.

Most importantly, for the rest of the day they launched

into some of the most passionate debates Joseph had ever

heard and ended those debates with crystal-clear agree-

ments and no sense of lingering bitterness. They called

each other on the carpet once or twice in ways that made

47Lencioni/Gut Check 2/10/02 3:49 PM Page 180


Gut Check

Joseph uncomfortable, but in each case they brought the

discussions around to results.

By the end of the session, Joseph decided he had joined

one of the most unusual and intense executive teams he

had ever seen, and he couldn’t wait to become an active

part of it.

47Lencioni/Gut Check 2/10/02 3:49 PM Page 181


Over the course of the next year, DecisionTech grew its salesdramatically, and met its revenue goals during three of itsfour quarters. The company moved into a virtual tie for the number one position in the industry, but had yet to sepa-

rate itself from its chief rival.

With the substantial improvement in performance, the

company saw turnover among employees subside and

morale rise steadily, with the exception of a slight and tem-

porary dip when the company missed its numbers.

Interestingly, when that happened, even the Chairman

called to encourage Kathryn not to get too disappointed in

light of the undeniable progress she had made.

With more than 250 employees, Kathryn decided it was

time to trim down the number of executives who reported

directly to her. She believed that the larger the company,

the smaller the team should be at the top. And with the ad-

dition of a new head of sales and a human resources di-

rector, her staff had grown to a barely manageable eight.

It wasn’t that Kathryn couldn’t handle the weekly one-on-

ones, but it was increasingly difficult to have fluid and sub-


48Lencioni/March 2/10/02 3:50 PM Page 182


The March

stantive discussions during staff meetings with nine people

sitting around the table. Even with the new collective atti-

tude of the members of the team, it would be only a mat-

ter of time before problems began to surface.

So more than a year after the final Napa off-site had

ended, Kathryn decided to make a few organizational

changes, which she delicately but confidently explained to

each of her staff members. Nick would again assume the

role of chief operating officer, a title he finally felt he had

earned. Carlos and the new head of sales would report to

him and would no longer be on the CEO’s staff. Human

resources would report to Jan, leaving Kathryn with five

direct reports: Martin as CTO, Jan as CFO, Nick as COO,

Joseph as VP of marketing, and Jeff as VP of business de-


A week later, another of Kathryn’s quarterly two-day

staff meetings took place. Before Kathryn could start the

meeting, Jan wanted to know, “Where’s Jeff?”

Kathryn responded matter-of-factly. “That’s what I

wanted to talk about first today. Jeff won’t be coming to

these meetings any more.”

The room was stunned. Both at what Kathryn had said,

and that she said it with so little emotion.

Finally, Jan asked the question that everyone was

thinking. “Jeff quit?”

Kathryn seemed a little surprised by the question. “No.”

Martin then followed. “You didn’t fire him, did you?”

Suddenly it occurred to Kathryn what everyone was

48Lencioni/March 2/10/02 3:50 PM Page 183


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

thinking. “No, of course not. Why would I fire Jeff? It’s just

that he’ll be reporting to Nick from now on. Given his new

role, he and I both agree that it makes a lot of sense.”

As much as everyone was relieved that their worst fears

had been allayed, there was still something bothering them.

Jan couldn’t hold back. “Kathryn, I can certainly see that

it makes sense. And frankly, I’m sure that Nick is glad to

have Jeff on his team.”

Nick nodded to confirm this, and Jan continued. “But

don’t you think he’s disappointed about not reporting di-

rectly to you anymore? I mean, I know we’re not supposed

to be concerned with status and ego and all of that, but he

is a board member, and a founder. Did you really consider

what this means to him?”

Kathryn smiled proudly, delighted that they had forced

her to explain what she had been wanting to tell them all

along. “You guys, this was Jeff’s idea.”

That thought had not occurred to any of them. Kathryn

went on. “He said that as much as he wanted to stay on the

team, it made more sense for him to be part of Nick’s

group. I actually gave him a chance to change his mind,

and he insisted it was the right thing to do for the company,

and for the team.”

Kathryn let her team enjoy a silent moment of admi-

ration for their former CEO.

And then she continued. “I think we owe it to Jeff and

everyone else at this company to make this work. Let’s get


48Lencioni/March 2/10/02 3:50 PM Page 184

The Model AS DIFFICULT as it is to build a cohesive team, it is not complicated. In fact, keeping it simple is critical, whether you run the executive staff at a multi- national company, a small department within a larger organization, or even if you are merely a member of a team that needs improvement. In that spirit, this section is designed to provide a clear, concise, and practical guide to using the Five Dys- functions Model to improve your team. Good luck.

49Lencioni/Model 2/10/02 3:50 PM Page 185

49Lencioni/Model 2/10/02 3:50 PM Page 186


In the course of my experience working with CEOs and theirteams, two critical truths have become clear to me. First,genuine teamwork in most organizations remains as elusive as it has ever been. Second, organizations fail to achieve

teamwork because they unknowingly fall prey to five nat-

ural but dangerous pitfalls, which I call the five dysfunc-

tions of a team.

These dysfunctions can be mistakenly interpreted as

five distinct issues that can be addressed in isolation of the

others. But in reality they form an interrelated model, mak-

ing susceptibility to even one of them potentially lethal for

the success of a team. A cursory overview of each dys-

function, and the model they comprise, should make this



50Lencioni/Overview 2/10/02 3:51 PM Page 187


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

1.The first dysfunction is an absence of trust among team

members. Essentially, this stems from their unwilling-

ness to be vulnerable within the group. Team members

who are not genuinely open with one another about

their mistakes and weaknesses make it impossible to

build a foundation for trust.

2. This failure to build trust is damaging because it sets

the tone for the second dysfunction: fear of conflict.

Teams that lack trust are incapable of engaging in un-

filtered and passionate debate of ideas. Instead, they

resort to veiled discussions and guarded comments.

3. A lack of healthy conflict is a problem because it en-

sures the third dysfunction of a team: lack of com-

Inattention to


Avoidance of Accountability

Lack of Commitment

Fear of Conflict

Absence of Trust

50Lencioni/Overview 2/10/02 3:51 PM Page 188


An Overview of the Model

mitment. Without having aired their opinions in the

course of passionate and open debate, team members

rarely, if ever, buy in and commit to decisions, though

they may feign agreement during meetings.

4. Because of this lack of real commitment and buy-in,

team members develop an avoidance of account-

ability, the fourth dysfunction. Without committing

to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and

driven people often hesitate to call their peers on ac-

tions and behaviors that seem counterproductive to the

good of the team.

5. Failure to hold one another accountable creates an en-

vironment where the fifth dysfunction can thrive. Inat-

tention to results occurs when team members put

their individual needs (such as ego, career develop-

ment, or recognition) or even the needs of their divi-

sions above the collective goals of the team.

And so, like a chain with just one link broken, team-

work deteriorates if even a single dysfunction is allowed

to flourish.

Another way to understand this model is to take the

opposite approach—a positive one—and imagine how

members of truly cohesive teams behave:

1. They trust one another.

2. They engage in unfiltered conflict around ideas.

50Lencioni/Overview 2/10/02 3:51 PM Page 189


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

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.

If this sounds simple, it’s because it is simple, at least

in theory. In practice, however, it is extremely difficult be-

cause it requires levels of discipline and persistence that few

teams can muster.

Before diving into each of the dysfunctions and ex-

ploring ways to overcome them, it might be helpful to as-

sess your team and identify where the opportunities for

improvement lie in your organization.

50Lencioni/Overview 2/10/02 3:51 PM Page 190


The questionnaire on the following pages is a straightforwarddiagnostic tool for helping you evaluate your team’s sus-ceptibility to the five dysfunctions. At the end of the ques- tionnaire, on page 194, there is a simple explanation of how

to tabulate the results and interpret the possible conclu-

sions. If possible, have all members of your team complete

the diagnostic and review the results, discussing discrep-

ancies in the responses and identifying any clear implica-

tions for the team.


51Lencioni/Assessment 2/10/02 3:51 PM Page 191


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Instructions: Use the scale below to indicate how each

statement applies to your team. It is important to evaluate

the statements honestly and without over-thinking your


3 = Usually

2 = Sometimes

1 = Rarely

____ 1. Team members are passionate and unguarded in

their discussion of issues.

____ 2. Team members call out one another’s deficien-

cies or unproductive behaviors.

____ 3. Team members know what their peers are work-

ing on and how they contribute to the collective

good of the team.

____ 4. Team members quickly and genuinely apologize

to one another when they say or do something

inappropriate or possibly damaging to the team.

____ 5. Team members willingly make sacrifices (such as

budget, turf, head count) in their departments or

areas of expertise for the good of the team.

____ 6. Team members openly admit their weaknesses

and mistakes.

____ 7. Team meetings are compelling, and not boring.

____ 8. Team members leave meetings confident that

their peers are completely committed to the de-

51Lencioni/Assessment 2/10/02 3:51 PM Page 192


Team Assessment

cisions that were agreed on, even if there was ini-

tial disagreement.

____ 9. Morale is significantly affected by the failure to

achieve team goals.

____ 10. During team meetings, the most important—and

difficult—issues are put on the table to be re-


____ 11. Team members are deeply concerned about the

prospect of letting down their peers.

____ 12. Team members know about one another’s per-

sonal lives and are comfortable discussing them.

____ 13. Team members end discussions with clear and

specific resolutions and calls to action.

____ 14. Team members challenge one another about their

plans and approaches.

____ 15. Team members are slow to seek credit for their

own contributions, but quick to point out those

of others.

51Lencioni/Assessment 2/10/02 3:51 PM Page 193

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51Lencioni/Assessment 2/10/02 3:51 PM Page 194




Trust lies at the heart of a functioning, cohesive team. With-

out it, teamwork is all but impossible.

Unfortunately, the word trust is used—and misused—

so often that it has lost some of its impact and begins to

sound like motherhood and apple pie. That is why it is im-

portant to be very specific about what is meant by trust.

In the context of building a team, trust is the confi-

dence among team members that their peers’ intentions are

good, and that there is no reason to be protective or care-

ful around the group. In essence, teammates must get com-

fortable being vulnerable with one another.

This description stands in contrast to a more standard

definition of trust, one that centers around the ability to

predict a person’s behavior based on past experience.

For instance, one might “trust” that a given teammate will


52Lencioni/Understanding 2/10/02 3:51 PM Page 195


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

produce high-quality work because he has always done

so in the past.

As desirable as this may be, it is not enough to represent

the kind of trust that is characteristic of a great team. It re-

quires team members to make themselves vulnerable to one

another, and be confident that their respective vulnerabilities

will not be used against them. The vulnerabilities I’m refer-

ring to include weaknesses, skill deficiencies, interpersonal

shortcomings, mistakes, and requests for help.

As “soft” as all of this might sound, it is only when team

members are truly comfortable being exposed to one an-

other that they begin to act without concern for protecting

themselves. As a result, they can focus their energy and at-

tention completely on the job at hand, rather than on being

strategically disingenuous or political with one another.

Achieving vulnerability-based trust is difficult because in

the course of career advancement and education, most suc-

cessful people learn to be competitive with their peers,

and protective of their reputations. It is a challenge for them

to turn those instincts off for the good of a team, but that

is exactly what is required.

The costs of failing to do this are great. Teams that lack

trust waste inordinate amounts of time and energy manag-

ing their behaviors and interactions within the group. They

tend to dread team meetings, and are reluctant to take risks

in asking for or offering assistance to others. As a result,

morale on distrusting teams is usually quite low, and un-

wanted turnover is high.

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Understanding and Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions

Suggestions for Overcoming Dysfunction 1

How does a team go about building trust? Unfortunately,

vulnerability-based trust cannot be achieved overnight. It

requires shared experiences over time, multiple instances

of follow-through and credibility, and an in-depth under-

standing of the unique attributes of team members. How-

ever, by taking a focused approach, a team can dramatically

accelerate the process and achieve trust in relatively short

order. Here are a few tools that can bring this about.

Members of teams with an absence 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 • Look forward to meetings and other opportunities to work as a group

52Lencioni/Understanding 2/10/02 3:51 PM Page 197


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Personal Histories Exercise In less than an hour, a team

can take the first steps toward developing trust. This low-

risk exercise requires nothing more than going around the

table during a meeting and having team members answer

a short list of questions about themselves. Questions need

not be overly sensitive in nature and might include the fol-

lowing: number of siblings, hometown, unique challenges

of childhood, favorite hobbies, first job, and worst job. Sim-

ply by describing these relatively innocuous attributes or

experiences, team members begin to relate to one another

on a more personal basis, and see one another as human

beings with life stories and interesting backgrounds. This

encourages greater empathy and understanding, and dis-

courages unfair and inaccurate behavioral attributions. It is

amazing how little some team members know about one

another, and how just a small amount of information be-

gins to break down barriers. (Minimum time required: 30


Team Effectiveness Exercise This exercise is more rigor-

ous and relevant than the previous one, but may involve

more risk. It requires team members to identify the single

most important contribution that each of their peers makes

to the team, as well as the one area that they must either

improve upon or eliminate for the good of the team. All

members then report their responses, focusing on one per-

son at a time, usually beginning with the team leader.

While this exercise may seem somewhat intrusive and

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Understanding and Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions

dangerous at first glance, it is remarkable how manageable

it can be and how much useful information, both construc-

tive and positive, can be extracted in about an hour. And

though the Team Effectiveness Exercise certainly requires

some degree of trust in order to be useful, even a relatively

dysfunctional team can often make it work with surprisingly

little tension. (Minimum time required: 60 minutes.)

Personality and Behavioral Preference Profiles Some of

the most effective and lasting tools for building trust on a

team are profiles of team members’ behavioral preferences

and personality styles. These help break down barriers by

allowing people to better understand and empathize with

one another.

The best profiling tool, in my opinion, is the Myers-

Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). However, a number of oth-

ers are popular among different audiences. The purpose

of most of these tools is to provide practical and scientifi-

cally valid behavioral descriptions of various team mem-

bers according to the diverse ways that they think, speak,

and act. Some of the best characteristics of tools like the

MBTI are their nonjudgmental nature (no type is better

than another, although they differ substantially), their basis

in research (they are not founded upon astrology or new

age science), and the extent to which participants take an

active role in identifying their own types (they don’t sim-

ply receive a computer printout or test score that alone dic-

tates their type). Many of these tools do require the

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

participation of a licensed consultant, which is important

to avoid the misuse of their powerful implications and ap-

plications. (Minimum time required: 4 hours.)

360-Degree Feedback These tools have become popular

over the past twenty years and can produce powerful re-

sults for a team. They are riskier than any of the tools or ex-

ercises described so far because they call for peers to make

specific judgments and provide one another with construc-

tive criticism. The key to making a 360-degree program

work, in my opinion, is divorcing it entirely from compen-

sation and formal performance evaluation. Rather, it should

be used as a developmental tool, one that allows employ-

ees to identify strengths and weaknesses without any re-

percussions. By being even slightly connected to formal

performance evaluation or compensation, 360-degree pro-

grams can take on dangerous political undertones.

Experiential Team Exercises Ropes courses and other ex-

periential team activities seem to have lost some of their

luster over the course of the past ten years, and deservedly

so. Still, many teams do them with the hope of building

trust. And while there are certainly some benefits derived

from rigorous and creative outdoor activities involving col-

lective support and cooperation, those benefits do not al-

ways translate directly to the working world. That being

said, experiential team exercises can be valuable tools for

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Understanding and Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions

enhancing teamwork as long as they are layered upon

more fundamental and relevant processes.

While each of these tools and exercises can have a signif-

icant short-term impact on a team’s ability to build trust,

they must be accompanied by regular follow-up in the

course of daily work. Individual developmental areas must

be revisited to ensure that progress does not lose momen-

tum. Even on a strong team—and perhaps especially so—

atrophy can lead to the erosion of trust.

The Role of the Leader

The most important action that a leader must take to en-

courage the building of trust on a team is to demonstrate

vulnerability first. This requires that a leader risk losing

face in front of the team, so that subordinates will take the

same risk themselves. What is more, team leaders must cre-

ate an environment that does not punish vulnerability.

Even well-intentioned teams can subtly discourage trust by

chastising one another for admissions of weakness or fail-

ure. Finally, displays of vulnerability on the part of a team

leader must be genuine; they cannot be staged. One of the

best ways to lose the trust of a team is to feign vulnerabil-

ity in order to manipulate the emotions of others.

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Connection to Dysfunction 2

How does all of this relate to the next dysfunction, the fear

of conflict? By building trust, a team makes conflict possi-

ble because team members do not hesitate to engage in

passionate and sometimes emotional debate, knowing that

they will not be punished for saying something that might

otherwise be interpreted as destructive or critical.


All great relationships, the ones that last over time, require

productive conflict in order to grow. This is true in mar-

riage, parenthood, friendship, and certainly business.

Unfortunately, conflict is considered taboo in many sit-

uations, especially at work. And the higher you go up the

management chain, the more you find people spending in-

ordinate amounts of time and energy trying to avoid the kind

of passionate debates that are essential to any great team.

It is important to distinguish productive ideological

conflict from destructive fighting and interpersonal politics.

Ideological conflict is limited to concepts and ideas, and

avoids personality-focused, mean-spirited attacks. How-

ever, it can have many of the same external qualities of in-

terpersonal conflict—passion, emotion, and frustration—so

much so that an outside observer might easily mistake it

for unproductive discord.

But teams that engage in productive conflict know that

the only purpose is to produce the best possible solution

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Understanding and Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions

in the shortest period of time. They discuss and resolve is-

sues more quickly and completely than others, and they

emerge from heated debates with no residual feelings or

collateral damage, but with an eagerness and readiness to

take on the next important issue.

Ironically, teams that avoid ideological conflict often

do so in order to avoid hurting team members’ feelings,

and then end up encouraging dangerous tension. When

team members do not openly debate and disagree about

important ideas, they often turn to back-channel personal

attacks, which are far nastier and more harmful than any

heated argument over issues.

It is also ironic that so many people avoid conflict in the

name of efficiency, because healthy conflict is actually a

time saver. Contrary to the notion that teams waste time and

energy arguing, those that avoid conflict actually doom

themselves to revisiting issues again and again without res-

olution. They often ask team members to take their issues

“off-line,” which seems to be a euphemism for avoiding

dealing with an important topic, only to have it raised again

at the next meeting.

Suggestions for Overcoming Dysfunction 2

How does a team go about developing the ability and will-

ingness to engage in healthy conflict? The first step is ac-

knowledging that conflict is productive, and that many

teams have a tendency to avoid it. As long as some team

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

members believe that conflict is unnecessary, there is lit-

tle chance that it will occur. But beyond mere recognition,

there are a few simple methods for making conflict more

common and productive.

Mining Members of teams that tend to avoid conflict must

occasionally assume the role of a “miner of conflict”—

someone who extracts buried disagreements within the

team and sheds the light of day on them. They must have

the courage and confidence to call out sensitive issues and

force team members to work through them. This requires

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


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

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Understanding and Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions

a degree of objectivity during meetings and a commitment

to staying with the conflict until it is resolved. Some teams

may want to assign a member of the team to take on this

responsibility during a given meeting or discussion.

Real-Time Permission In the process of mining for con-

flict, team members need to coach one another not to re-

treat from healthy debate. One simple but effective way to

do this is to recognize when the people engaged in con-

flict are becoming uncomfortable with the level of discord,

and then interrupt to remind them that what they are doing

is necessary. As simple and paternal as this may sound, it

is a remarkably effective tool for draining tension from a

productive but difficult interchange, giving the participants

the confidence to continue. And once the discussion or

meeting has ended, it is helpful to remind participants that

the conflict they just engaged in is good for the team and

not something to avoid in the future.

Other Tools As mentioned earlier in this section, there are

a variety of personality style and behavioral preference tools

that allow team members to better understand one another.

Because most of these include descriptions of how differ-

ent types deal with conflict, they can be useful for helping

people anticipate their approach or resistance to it. Another

tool that specifically relates to conflict is the Thomas-Kilmann

Conflict Mode Instrument, commonly referred to as the TKI.

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

It allows team members to understand natural inclinations

around conflict so they can make more strategic choices

about which approaches are most appropriate in different


The Role of the Leader

One of the most difficult challenges that a leader faces in

promoting healthy conflict is the desire to protect members

from harm. This leads to premature interruption of dis-

agreements, and prevents team members from developing

coping skills for dealing with conflict themselves. This is not

unlike parents who overprotect their children from quarrels

or altercations with siblings. In many cases, it serves only

to strain the relationships by depriving the participants of

an opportunity to develop conflict management skills. It

also leaves them hungry for resolution that never occurs.

Therefore, it is key that leaders demonstrate restraint

when their people engage in conflict, and allow resolution

to occur naturally, as messy as it can sometimes be. This

can be a challenge because many leaders feel that they are

somehow failing in their jobs by losing control of their

teams during conflict.

Finally, as trite as it may sound, a leader’s ability to per-

sonally model appropriate conflict behavior is essential. By

avoiding conflict when it is necessary and productive—

something many executives do—a team leader will encour-

age this dysfunction to thrive.

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Understanding and Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions

Connection to Dysfunction 3

How does all of this relate to the next dysfunction, the lack

of commitment? By engaging in productive conflict and

tapping into team members’ perspectives and opinions, a

team can confidently commit and buy in to a decision

knowing that they have benefited from everyone’s ideas.


In the context of a team, commitment is a function of two

things: clarity and buy-in. Great teams make clear and

timely decisions and move forward with complete buy-in

from every member of the team, even those who voted

against the decision. They leave meetings confident that no

one on the team is quietly harboring doubts about whether

to support the actions agreed on.

The two greatest causes of the lack of commitment are

the desire for consensus and the need for certainty:

• Consensus. Great teams understand the danger of

seeking consensus, and find ways to achieve buy-in even

when complete agreement is impossible. They understand

that reasonable human beings do not need to get their way

in order to support a decision, but only need to know that

their opinions have been heard and considered. Great teams

ensure that everyone’s ideas are genuinely considered,

which then creates a willingness to rally around whatever

decision is ultimately made by the group. And when that

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

is not possible due to an impasse, the leader of the team

is allowed to make the call.

• Certainty. Great teams also pride themselves on

being able to unite behind decisions and commit to clear

courses of action even when there is little assurance about

whether the decision is correct. That’s because they under-

stand the old military axiom that a decision is better than no

decision. They also realize that it is better to make a deci-

sion boldly and be wrong—and then change direction with

equal boldness—than it is to waffle.

Contrast this with the behavior of dysfunctional teams

that try to hedge their bets and delay important decisions

until they have enough data to feel certain that they are

making the right decision. As prudent as this might seem,

it is dangerous because of the paralysis and lack of confi-

dence it breeds within a team.

It is important to remember that conflict underlies the

willingness to commit without perfect information. In many

cases, teams have all the information they need, but it re-

sides within the hearts and minds of the team itself and must

be extracted through unfiltered debate. Only when every-

one has put their opinions and perspectives on the table can

the team confidently commit to a decision knowing that it

has tapped into the collective wisdom of the entire group.

Regardless of whether it is caused by the need for con-

sensus or certainty, it is important to understand that one

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Understanding and Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions

of the greatest consequences for an executive team that does

not commit to clear decisions is unresolvable discord deeper

in the organization. More than any of the dysfunctions, this

one creates dangerous ripple effects for subordinates. When

an executive team fails to achieve buy-in from all team mem-

bers, even if the disparities that exist seem relatively small,

employees who report to those executives will inevitably

clash when they try to interpret marching orders that are not

clearly aligned with those of colleagues in other depart-

ments. Like a vortex, small gaps between executives high

up in an organization become major discrepancies by the

time they reach employees below.

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

52Lencioni/Understanding 2/10/02 3:51 PM Page 209


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Suggestions for Overcoming Dysfunction 3

How does a team go about ensuring commitment? By tak-

ing specific steps to maximize clarity and achieve buy-in,

and resisting the lure of consensus or certainty. Here are a

few simple but effective tools and principles.

Cascading Messaging One of the most valuable disciplines

that any team can adopt takes just a few minutes and is ab-

solutely free. At the end of a staff meeting or off-site, a team

should explicitly review the key decisions made during the

meeting, and agree on what needs to be communicated to

employees or other constituencies about those decisions.

What often happens during this exercise is that members of

the team learn that they are not all on the same page about

what has been agreed upon and that they need to clarify

specific outcomes before putting them into action. More-

over, they become clear on which of the decisions should

remain confidential, and which must be communicated

quickly and comprehensively. Finally, by leaving meetings

clearly aligned with one another, leaders send a powerful

and welcomed message to employees who have grown ac-

customed to receiving inconsistent and even contradictory

statements from managers who attended the same meeting.

(Minimum time required: 10 minutes.)

Deadlines As simple as it seems, one of the best tools for

ensuring commitment is the use of clear deadlines for when

decisions will be made, and honoring those dates with dis-

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Understanding and Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions

cipline and rigidity. The worst enemy of a team that is sus-

ceptible to this dysfunction is ambiguity, and timing is one

of the most critical factors that must be made clear. What

is more, committing to deadlines for intermediate decisions

and milestones is just as important as final deadlines, be-

cause it ensures that misalignment among team members

is identified and addressed before the costs are too great.

Contingency and Worst-Case Scenario Analysis A team

that struggles with commitment can begin overcoming this

tendency by briefly discussing contingency plans up front

or, better yet, clarifying the worst-case scenario for a de-

cision they are struggling to make. This usually allows them

to reduce their fears by helping them realize that the costs

of an incorrect decision are survivable, and far less dam-

aging than they had imagined.

Low-Risk Exposure Therapy Another relevant exercise for

a commitment-phobic team is the demonstration of deci-

siveness in relatively low-risk situations. When teams force

themselves to make decisions after substantial discussion but

little analysis or research, they usually come to realize that

the quality of the decision they made was better than they

had expected. What is more, they learn that the decision

would not have been much different had the team engaged

in lengthy, time-consuming study. This is not to say that re-

search and analysis are not necessary or important, but rath-

er that teams with this dysfunction tend to overvalue them.

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

The Role of the Leader

More than any other member of the team, the leader must

be comfortable with the prospect of making a decision that

ultimately turns out to be wrong. And the leader must be

constantly pushing the group for closure around issues, as

well as adherence to schedules that the team has set. What

the leader cannot do is place too high a premium on cer-

tainty or consensus.

Connection to Dysfunction 4

How does all of this relate to the next dysfunction, the

avoidance of accountability? In order for teammates to call

each other on their behaviors and actions, they must have

a clear sense of what is expected. Even the most ardent be-

lievers in accountability usually balk at having to hold

someone accountable for something that was never bought

in to or made clear in the first place.


Accountability is a buzzword that has lost much of its mean-

ing as it has become as overused as terms like empowerment

and quality. In the context of teamwork, however, it refers

specifically to the willingness of team members to call their

peers on performance or behaviors that might hurt the team.

The essence of this dysfunction is the unwillingness of

team members to tolerate the interpersonal discomfort that

accompanies calling a peer on his or her behavior and the

52Lencioni/Understanding 2/10/02 3:51 PM Page 212


Understanding and Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions

more general tendency to avoid difficult conversations.

Members of great teams overcome these natural inclina-

tions, opting instead to “enter the danger” with one another.

Of course, this is easier said than done, even among co-

hesive teams with strong personal relationships. In fact, team

members who are particularly close to one another some-

times hesitate to hold one another accountable precisely be-

cause they fear jeopardizing a valuable personal relationship.

Ironically, this only causes the relationship to deteriorate

as team members begin to resent one another for not liv-

ing up to expectations and for allowing the standards of the

group to erode. Members of great teams improve their rela-

tionships by holding one another accountable, thus dem-

onstrating that they respect each other and have high

expectations for one another’s performance.

As politically incorrect as it sounds, the most effective

and efficient means of maintaining high standards of per-

formance on a team is peer pressure. One of the benefits

is the reduction of the need for excessive bureaucracy

around performance management and corrective action.

More than any policy or system, there is nothing like the

fear of letting down respected teammates that motivates

people to improve their performance.

Suggestions for Overcoming Dysfunction 4

How does a team go about ensuring accountability? The key

to overcoming this dysfunction is adhering to a few classic

management tools that are as effective as they are simple.

52Lencioni/Understanding 2/10/02 3:51 PM Page 213


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Publication of Goals and Standards A good way to make

it easier for team members to hold one another accountable

is to clarify publicly exactly what the team needs to achieve,

who needs to deliver what, and how everyone must behave

in order to succeed. The enemy of accountability is ambi-

guity, and even when a team has initially committed to a

plan or a set of behavioral standards, it is important to keep

those agreements in the open so that no one can easily

ignore them.

Simple and Regular Progress Reviews A little structure

goes a long way toward helping people take action that

they might not otherwise be inclined to do. This is espe-

A team that avoids accountability . . . • Creates resentment among team members who have different

standards of performance • Encourages mediocrity • Misses deadlines and key deliverables • Places an 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

52Lencioni/Understanding 2/10/02 3:51 PM Page 214


Understanding and Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions

cially true when it comes to giving people feedback on

their behavior or performance. Team members should reg-

ularly communicate with one another, either verbally or in

written form, about how they feel their teammates are

doing against stated objectives and standards. Relying on

them to do so on their own, with no clear expectations or

structure, is inviting the potential for the avoidance of ac-


Team Rewards By shifting rewards away from individual

performance to team achievement, the team can create a

culture of accountability. This occurs because a team is un-

likely to stand by quietly and fail because a peer is not

pulling his or her weight.

The Role of the Leader

One of the most difficult challenges for a leader who wants

to instill accountability on a team is to encourage and allow

the team to serve as the first and primary accountability

mechanism. Sometimes strong leaders naturally create an

accountability vacuum within the team, leaving themselves

as the only source of discipline. This creates an environ-

ment where team members assume that the leader is hold-

ing others accountable, and so they hold back even when

they see something that isn’t right.

Once a leader has created a culture of accountability on

a team, however, he or she must be willing to serve as the

ultimate arbiter of discipline when the team itself fails. This

should be a rare occurrence. Nevertheless, it must be clear

52Lencioni/Understanding 2/10/02 3:51 PM Page 215


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

to all team members that accountability has not been rel-

egated to a consensus approach, but merely to a shared

team responsibility, and that the leader of the team will not

hesitate to step in when it is necessary.

Connection to Dysfunction 5

How does all of this relate to the next dysfunction, the inat-

tention to results? If teammates are not being held ac-

countable for their contributions, they will be more likely

to turn their attention to their own needs, and to the ad-

vancement of themselves or their departments. An absence

of accountability is an invitation to team members to shift

their attention to areas other than collective results.


The ultimate dysfunction of a team is the tendency of mem-

bers to care about something other than the collective goals

of the group. An unrelenting focus on specific objectives

and clearly defined outcomes is a requirement for any team

that judges itself on performance.

It should be noted here that results are not limited to

financial measures like profit, revenue, or shareholder re-

turns. Though it is true that many organizations in a capi-

talist economic environment ultimately measure their success

in these terms, this dysfunction refers to a far broader defi-

nition of results, one that is related to outcome-based per-


Every good organization specifies what it plans to

52Lencioni/Understanding 2/10/02 3:51 PM Page 216


Understanding and Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions

achieve in a given period, and these goals, more than the fi-

nancial metrics that they drive, make up the majority of

near-term, controllable results. So, while profit may be the

ultimate measure of results for a corporation, the goals and

objectives that executives set for themselves along the way

constitute a more representative example of the results it

strives for as a team. Ultimately, these goals drive profit.

But what would a team be focused on other than re-

sults? Team status and individual status are the prime can-


• Team status. For members of some teams, merely

being part of the group is enough to keep them satisfied.

For them, the achievement of specific results might be

desirable, but not necessarily worthy of great sacrifice or

inconvenience. As ridiculous and dangerous as this might

seem, plenty of teams fall prey to the lure of status. These

often include altruistic nonprofit organizations that come

to believe that the nobility of their mission is enough to jus-

tify their satisfaction. Political groups, academic depart-

ments, and prestigious companies are also susceptible to

this dysfunction, as they often see success in merely being

associated with their special organizations.

• Individual status. This refers to the familiar ten-

dency of people to focus on enhancing their own positions

or career prospects at the expense of their team. Though

all human beings have an innate tendency toward self-

preservation, a functional team must make the collective

52Lencioni/Understanding 2/10/02 3:51 PM Page 217


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

results of the group more important to each individual than

individual members’ goals.

As obvious as this dysfunction might seem at first glance,

and as clear as it is that it must be avoided, it is important to

note that many teams are simply not results focused. They

do not live and breathe in order to achieve meaningful ob-

jectives, 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.

Suggestions for Overcoming Dysfunction 5

How does a team go about ensuring that its attention is fo-

cused on results? By making results clear, and rewarding only

those behaviors and actions that contribute to those results.

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

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Understanding and Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions

Public Declaration of Results In the mind of a football or

basketball coach, one of the worst things a team member

can do is publicly guarantee that his or her team will win

an upcoming game. In the case of an athletic team, this is

a problem because it can unnecessarily provoke an op-

ponent. For most teams, however, it can be helpful to make

public proclamations about intended success.

Teams that are willing to commit publicly to specific re-

sults are more likely to work with a passionate, even des-

perate desire to achieve those results. Teams that say, “We’ll

do our best,” are subtly, if not purposefully, preparing them-

selves for failure.

Results-Based Rewards An effective way to ensure that

team members focus their attention on results is to tie their

rewards, especially compensation, to the achievement of

specific outcomes. Relying on this alone can be problem-

atic because it assumes that financial motivation is the sole

driver of behavior. Still, letting someone take home a bonus

merely for “trying hard,” even in the absence of results,

sends a message that achieving the outcome may not be

terribly important after all.

The Role of the Leader

Perhaps more than with any of the other dysfunctions, the

leader must set the tone for a focus on results. If team

members sense that the leader values anything other than

results, they will take that as permission to do the same

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

for themselves. Team leaders must be selfless and objec-

tive, and reserve rewards and recognition for those who

make real contributions to the achievement of group goals.


As much information as is contained here, the reality re-

mains that teamwork ultimately comes down to practicing

a small set of principles over a long period of time. Success

is not a matter of mastering subtle, sophisticated theory, but

rather of embracing common sense with uncommon levels

of discipline and persistence.

Ironically, teams succeed because they are exceedingly

human. By acknowledging the imperfections of their hu-

manity, members of functional teams overcome the natural

tendencies that make trust, conflict, commitment, account-

ability, and a focus on results so elusive.

52Lencioni/Understanding 2/10/02 3:51 PM Page 220



Kathryn understood that a strong team spends consider-

able time together, and that by doing so, they actually save

time by eliminating confusion and minimizing redundant

effort and communication. Added together, Kathryn and

her team spent approximately eight days each quarter in

regularly scheduled meetings, which amounts to fewer

than three days per month. As little as this seems when

considered as a whole, most management teams balk at

spending this much time together, preferring to do “real

work” instead.

Though there are actually many different ways to run

a management team, Kathryn’s methods are worth consid-

ering. Following is a description of how she ran her staff

after her initial team-building off-sites and the significant

investment in time that it required:


53Lencioni Note 2/10/02 3:52 PM Page 221


A Note About Time: Kathyrn’s Methods

• Annual planning meeting and leadership development

retreats (three days, off-site)

Topics might include budget discussions, major strate-

gic planning overview, leadership training, succes-

sion planning, and cascading messaging

• Quarterly staff meetings (two days, off-site)

Topics might include major goal reviews, financial re-

view, strategic discussions, employee performance

discussions, key issue resolution, team development,

and cascading messages

• Weekly staff meetings (two hours, on-site)

Topics might include key activity review, goal progress

review, sales review, customer review, tactical issue

resolution, cascading messages

• Ad hoc topical meetings (two hours, on-site)

Topics might include strategic issues that cannot be ad-

equately discussed during weekly staff meetings

53Lencioni Note 2/10/02 3:52 PM Page 222


As I was nearing the completion of this book, the horrible

events of September 11, 2001, occurred. Amid the unfath-

omable tragedy of the situation and the amazing triumph of

the country’s response, a powerful and inspiring example of

teamwork emerged—one that must be acknowledged here.

The men and women of the fire, rescue, and police de-

partments in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Penn-

sylvania demonstrated that groups of people working

together can accomplish what no assembly of mere indi-

viduals could ever dream of doing.

In emergency services professions like these, team mem-

bers live and work together, developing bonds of trust that

only families can rival. That allows them to engage in fo-

cused, unfiltered debate over the right course of action to

take when every second is precious. As a result, they are able

to commit quickly to unambiguous decisions under the most

dangerous of circumstances, when most other human beings

would demand more information before taking action. And


54Lencioni/Tribute 2/10/02 3:52 PM Page 223


A Special Tribute to Teamwork

with so much on the line, they don’t hesitate to push their

colleagues and hold them accountable for carrying their

loads, knowing that even one team member slacking could

cost lives. And finally, they have only one end in mind: pro-

tecting the lives and liberties of others.

The ultimate test of a great team is results. And consid-

ering that tens of thousands of people escaped from the

World Trade Center towers in New York City and the Pen-

tagon in Washington, D.C., there can be no doubt that the

teams who risked, and lost, their lives to save them were ex-


May God bless them all, as well as the victims and sur-

vivors they worked together to save.

54Lencioni/Tribute 2/10/02 3:52 PM Page 224


This book is the result of a team effort, not only during

its writing but throughout my education and career. I

would like to acknowledge those people who have been

instrumental in my life.

First, I thank the head of my own first team, my wife,

Laura. For your unconditional love, and your unwavering

commitment to me and our boys, I cannot adequately de-

scribe my appreciation. And I thank Matthew and Connor,

who will soon be able to read one of my books, though

they’ll certainly prefer Dr. Seuss. You give me so much joy.

Next, I offer sincere gratitude to my team at The Table

Group, without whose ideas, editing, and passion this book

would not have come to be. For Amy’s graceful judgment

and intuition, Tracy’s extraordinary and unending diligence,

Karen’s kind support, John’s stylish wisdom, Jeff’s optimis-

tic intelligence, Michele’s insightfulness and humor, and

Erin’s youthful authenticity. I am constantly amazed and

touched by the depth and quality of your commitment. You


55Lencioni/Acknowl. 2/10/02 3:52 PM Page 225



have helped me learn more about real teamwork than any

group I have ever known, and I thank you for that.

I want to acknowledge the support and love of my par-

ents. You have always given me the emotional safety net

I needed to take risks and chase dreams. And you have

given me so many things that you never had yourselves.

Thanks to my brother, Vince, for your passion, intensity,

and concern.

And to my sister, Ritamarie, for your wisdom, love, and

patience that mean more to me with every passing year.

And to the hundreds of cousins, aunts, uncles, and in-

laws of mine—the Lencionis, the Shanleys, the Fanucchis,

and the Gilmores. Thank you for your interest and kind-

ness, which mean a lot to me even though I am far away

from many of you.

Thanks to Barry Belli, Will Garner, Jamie and Kim Carl-

son, the Beans, the Elys, and the Patchs for your interest

and friendship over the years.

I thank the many managers and mentors I’ve had dur-

ing my career. Sally DeStefano for your confidence and gra-

ciousness. Mark Hoffman and Bob Epstein for your trust.

Nusheen Hashemi for your enthusiasm. Meg Whitman and

Ann Colister for your advice and counsel. And Gary Bolles

for your encouragement and friendship.

I thank Joel Mena for your passion and love. Rick Rob-

les for your coaching and teaching. And so many of the

other teachers and coaches I had at Our Lady of Perpet-

55Lencioni/Acknowl. 2/10/02 3:52 PM Page 226



ual Help School, Garces High School, and Claremont

McKenna College.

I thank the many clients whom I’ve worked with over

the years for your trust and commitment to building a

healthier organization.

I want to give special thanks to my agent, Jim Levine,

for your humility and insistence on excellence, or as my

wife says, for being “a humble butt-kicker.” And to my ed-

itor, Susan Williams, for your enthusiasm and flexibility.

Thanks to everyone at Jossey-Bass and Wiley for your per-

sistence, support, and commitment.

Finally, and certainly most important of all, I give all

thanks to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit for

all that I am.

55Lencioni/Acknowl. 2/10/02 3:52 PM Page 227

55Lencioni/Acknowl. 2/10/02 3:52 PM Page 228



Patrick Lencioni is founder and president of The Table

Group, a management consulting firm specializing in ex-

ecutive team development and organizational health. As a

consultant and keynote speaker, he has worked with thou-

sands of senior executives in organizations ranging from

Fortune 500s and high-tech start-ups to universities and non-

profits. Clients who have engaged his services include New

York Life, Southwest Airlines, Sam’s Club, Microsoft, Allstate,

Visa, FedEx, and the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, to

name a few. He is the author of five nationally recognized

books, including the New York Times best-seller The Five

Dysfunctions of a Team (Jossey-Bass, 2002).

Patrick lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his

wife, Laura, and their three sons, Matthew, Connor, and


To learn more about Patrick and The Table Group,

please visit www.tablegroup.com.

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To learn more about Patrick Lencioni and his other products and services, including free resources and his newsletter, please visit


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  • The Five Dysfunctions of aTeam: A Leadership Fable
    • The Fable
      • Part I: Underachievement
        • LUCK
        • BACKSTORY
        • KATHRYN
        • RATIONALE
        • GRUMBLINGS
        • THE STAFF
      • Part II: Lighting the Fire
        • FIRST TEST
        • END RUN
        • NAPA
        • THE SPEECH
        • PUSHING BACK
        • GOING DEEPER
        • POOLSIDE
        • REBOUND
        • AWARENESS
        • EGO
        • GOALS
        • DEEP TISSUE
        • ATTACK
        • EXHIBITION
        • FILM NOIR
      • Part III: Heavy Lifting
        • ON-SITE
        • FIREWORKS
        • LEAKS
        • PLOWING ON
        • THE TALK
        • LAST STAND
        • FLACK
        • RALLY
      • Part IV: Traction
        • HARVEST
        • GUT CHECK
        • THE MARCH
    • The Model
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