mark cerqueira well-rounded nerd

Manager Reads - The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Reading has slowed down a bit since the release of Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition but this long overdue episode of Manager Reads covers The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni.

Who recommended the book? My manager Ravi recommended this book for Twitch’s Leadership Book Club back in 2018. We’ve covered a bunch of books since then but we still haven’t gotten around to this one. Given all the leadership books I’ve ordered Amazon kept recommending this one to me so I gave into the recommendation machines and finally grabbed a copy and dove in.

Judge the book by its cover, font, page quality? The Five Dysfunctions of a Team has an unexciting cover. The title can’t seem to make up which casing strategy, font size, or font style it wants to use so it goes with a kitchen sink approach here.

The black-and-white photo taken from outside a room with the shades down for some reason also feels drab. The five people in the room likely representing the five dysfunctions reminds me of the homonculus in Fullmetal Alchemist representing the Seven Deadly Sins. 🤓 The plus side of the photo is they were at least thoughtful enought to include a woman in it. Also the five people in the room are definitely humans and not animals so I’m unsure why the book calls itself a fable. 🤷‍♂️ I suppose fable sounds better than “story” or “fictional example to illustrate my point.”

Inside the book the pages shine bright and white; I’m more of a fan of off-white or almond colored pages as they’re easier on the eyes. The pages themselves are also incredibly thin; without even lifting a page up to allow light to come through the other side it’s possible to see text on the other side. Yikes! 👎

Thoughts on the book and the big take-aways? Similar to Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box this book teaches its lesson through a fictional story following Kathyrn who becomes the CEO of a tech company and needs to work through the dysfunctions of its executive team. It’s relatively easy-to-read since it doesn’t dump information on you en masse but rather introduces problems and solutions at a more human pace as it follows the different characters. The five dysfunctions of the team are:

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

These five dysfunctions interact (e.g. without trust people will fear conflict) and combine to make teams less likely to succeed. The last section of the book, following the “fable” dives deeper into each of the five dysfunctions explaining: what it looks like when a team suffers from that dysfunction; what teams look like when they don’t suffer from that dysfunction; and suggestions for overcoming that dysfunction and the role the leader should play in working through the dysfunction.

While there is value in understanding these five dysfunctions, I am not a fan of the fictional story format in leadership books. Of the 224 pages in this book, only 10 dive deep on the dysfunctions in the aforementioned last section. This feels far too little.

Favorite quote from the book? “It is ironic that so many people avoid conflict in the name of efficiency, because healthy conflict is actually a time saver.”

Elevator pitch for suggesting (or not suggesting) the book? Read the last chapter to get a concise, but perhaps too brief, overview of the five dysfunctions of a team. Consistently and intentionally nudging your team away from these dysfunctions will level up your team.

Notes in Evernote? Looking for random sentences I found interesting in the fable? Check out my notes on 🐘.

Most of the world’s wisdom is written down in its best books. Manager Reads is a series covering books on management and leadership, focusing on books that can improve your own leadership with the wisdom of others. Enjoyed this post and want to see more? Check out more at Manager Reads.