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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

by Patrick M. Lencioni
Jossey-Bass, 202 pages, $16.47

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An effective leader realizes that getting everyone in an organization rowing in the same direction is more than half the battle. As a manager, one of the most important questions you ask a prospective employee is how they operate as part of a team. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team focuses on teambuilding without resorting to gimmicky, quick fix methods. Any supervisor who is interested in devoting time and effort to cultivating a team that trusts and motivates each other or reshaping a team to function better will find Lencioni's book insightful.

In the first half of the book, Lencioni creates the fictional teambuilder Kathryn and takes her through a narrative as she is called into "Decisiontech" to help repair a dysfunctional situation. Readers will recognize the problems she tackles at the Silicon Valley firm as universal to organizations. Because it is set up like a fable, it easily correlates to real life, brick and mortar businesses. Her remedies include getting rid of the dead weight and ensuring that she has "the right people on the bus and in the right seats" by reassigning professional roles.

The second half is more traditional, exploring the five dysfunctions of a team. Lencioni identifies these as:

  1. Absence of Trust
  2. Fear of Conflict
  3. Lack of Commitment
  4. Avoidance of Accountability
  5. Inattention to Results

Citing real life examples and using simple exercises, the author goes through the step-by-step process of effective teambuilding. Identifying behavioral tendencies and recognizing varying agendas on a team is the first step in trying to solve problems. Above all, Lencioni instructs that individual egos must be shelved for the betterment of the team.

The book's strong suit is teaching without being overbearing. Lencioni is able to sneak complex concepts into deceptively simple prose with distorted characters and light humor. Anyone in a leadership position interested in changing their business culture will find The Five Dysfunctions of a Team entertaining and informative.

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