In Blog Articles, Monday Memo


In last week’s blog we dealt with the third of Patrick Lencioni’s team dysfunctions, namely lack of commitment. Because of this lack of real commitment and buy-in, team members develop an avoidance of accountability, 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 actions and behaviors that seem counterproductive to the good of the team.

In the context of teamwork, accountability 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 an unwillingness by team members to tolerate the interpersonal discomfort that accompanies calling a peer on his or her behavior and the more general tendency to avoid difficult conversations. Members of great teams overcome these natural inclinations, opting instead to “enter the danger” with one another.

Members of great teams improve their relationships by holding one another accountable, thus demonstrating that they respect each other and have high expectations for one another’s performance.

The most effective and efficient means of maintaining high standards of performance on a team is peer pressure. More than any policy or system, there is nothing like the fear of letting down respected teammates to motivate people to improve their performance.

So, where is your team on this continuum? Perhaps Lencioni’s summary will be helpful to identify the ‘spot’:

Avoidance of Accountability
A team that avoids accountability… A team that holds one another accountable…
·       Creates resentment between team members who have different standards of performance ·       Ensures that poor performers feel pressure to improve


·       Encourages mediocrity ·       Establishes respect among team members who are held to the same high standards
·       Misses deadlines and key deliverables ·       Identifies potential problems quickly by questioning one another’s approaches without hesitation
·       Places an undue burden on the team leader as the sold source of discipline ·       Avoids excessive bureaucracy around performance management and corrective action

So, where do you see you and your team members sitting? To help you, this week I am again offering the first two team leaders who respond on behalf of their teams and who qualify, another free 5 dysfunctions assessment for them and their teams, as well as a one-hour report back session with the team leader afterwards. To respond and see if you qualify, please send me a short email on in which you should tell me your team’s purpose, how many direct reports there are, and which dysfunction you think may be showing up. I undertake to revert to you within a couple of days.

Next week we will be dealing with the remaining dysfunctions, inattention to results, in a way that will help us to understand just how dysfunctional teams operate in this dysfunction and how healthy teams deal with it.

I hope that the series creates not only greater understanding for my readers, but that it perhaps creates more questions than answers. If I am successful in achieving this for you, please feel free to raise your views or questions with me at

(I am indebted to the work of Peter Hawkins, of Renewal Associates, especially his book, Leadership Team Coaching, as well as the methodology of Integral Coaching Canada, which I have integrated for purposes of this series and in developing my Systemic Leadership Team Coaching process. In this particular blog, I have lent heavily on the work of Patrick Lencioni in his book, The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team.)

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