The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team | Learn: Your Fitness Business Resource

The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team

Tyler Spraul is the director of UX and the head trainer for He has his Bachelor of Science degree in pre-medicine and is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist. He is a former All-American soccer player and still coaches soccer today. In his free time, he enjoys reading, learning, and living the dad life. He has been featured in Shape, Healthline, HuffPost, Women's...

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UPDATED: Aug 25, 2020

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  • Teams grow by building healthy habits.
  • Conflict isn’t always a bad thing.
  • Our teams must be able to disagree but commit.
  • When the focus is on this big goal, team members will be able to nimbly make decisions with the big picture in mind.

Patrick Lencioni, consultant and speaker, has developed five dysfunctions of a team. These five dysfunctions have to do with leadership. Primarily, Patrick is writing from the point of view of a leader who has someone reporting to them.

These dysfunctions could apply to trainers who lead a larger group of trainers, but some might also apply to any trainer who has clients reporting to them.

Accountability leads to advancement and moving beyond the old. “The need to avoid interpersonal discomfort prevents team members from holding one another accountable.”

Manage your business and team better with our All-In-One Fitness Business Management Software. Request a demo today. 

Dysfunction #1 – Absence of Trust

We must trust one another’s skills and abilities. Trusting one another means being able to say:

  • I’m sorry
  • I was wrong
  • I need help
  • You’re better at this

All of these are signs of our humanity. We fundamentally know when they should be said, and they are not.

When we are open and honest in these ways, we create trust through vulnerability. Even one person on the team who refuses to be vulnerable can grind the honest conversation the team is working towards to a halt.

As leaders, we must work with people to grow in this area, but we must also be careful not to excuse incompetence.

Last, as a leader, you must know who you are. Are you OK with someone being better than you? Can you praise their excellence and also acknowledge your own area of opportunity.

Dysfunction #2 – Fear of Conflict

When we are afraid of conflict, we create a surface level unity which is the enemy of productivity. Most of us have been a part of a team that was afraid of any kind of conflict. Everyone is afraid to disagree with the leader. Anytime there’s complete unity with a diverse group of people, it’s most likely because there’s fear of conflict.

Conflict is actually a good thing and a sign of health as long as it’s ideological, not interpersonal.

For example, “Teams that engage in conflict… (Lencioni, 2002, p.204)
  • 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”

Having conflict must be built upon first having trust. Without trust, conflict is politics instead of just the pursuit of truth. Without conflict and the ability to express opinions, our teams will be mediocre.

When there is trust, and conflict is valued, and there’s something important to say, your team will say it. Great relationships are built on the ability to disagree — and make it through.

But when we fail to disagree with ideas, we are dooming to the relationship to failure.

Dysfunction #3 – Lack of Commitment

When people don’t weigh-in, they don’t buy-in. That doesn’t mean we are always seeking consensus. Usually, consensus means ideas are too late and everyone disagrees.

Teams must be able to disagree but commit. As leaders, we must hear our team, but if there’s a deadlock, we step in and make the tough call. As long as your team feels genuinely heard, they will commit even when they disagree.

When people haven’t been heard, they passively commit. They may go back to their team and say, “This idea is terrible.” And when they see the trainwreck about to happen, instead of stepping in to prevent it, they step back and just watch.

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Dysfunction #4 – Avoidance of Accountability

When people haven’t committed, they won’t have the courage to hold one another accountable. On great teams, accountability is peer-to-peer. The only way this happens is if we are willing to confront difficult issues.

Firing people is usually the last act of cowardice. You didn’t hold them accountable or did the minimum. And you didn’t invest in helping them grow, so you fired them.

We often use the excuse of time to avoid accountability for behavior responsibilities. Investing in correcting behaviors doesn’t have to be drawn out, but it does require persistence.

If you’re only willing to discuss numbers and not behaviors, remember behaviors always leads to numbers. By avoiding accountability, you are setting your team up for failure.

Dysfunction #5 – Inattention to Results

Lencioni says, “The fifth dysfunction, inattention to results, is the ultimate dysfunction of a team and refers to the tendency of team members to care about something other than the collective goal/mission of the group.”

These kind of results aren’t just the numbers. They are the big-picture goals of the team. When the focus is on this big goal, team members will be able to nimbly make decisions with the big picture in mind.

The dysfunction happens when one member is solely focused on their own personal results (i.e., “ego, career goals, recognition”). It can be manifested when one team member sees a mistake that affects the big goals of the team but doesn’t take the time to correct or hold people accountable because it may affect their own personal goals.

You want team members who will make choices for the good of the team.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I find the best talent for my team?

Finding the best talent for your team depends on many factors. Check out this article to learn how to secure the top talent for your team.

How do I handle disagreements with team members?

Resolving team conflict quickly is imperative to ensure that your business remains successful. Check out this article for solutions to team member disagreements.

How do I show appreciation for my team?

Here are ten creative ways to show your team that you appreciate them.

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