Lencioni – 5 Ways Leaders Undermine Their Team

Why engagement requires a strong management team.

5 ways leaders undermine their team

Working on engagement requires a strong management team. A team that is able to put the general company goal, before the individual or division goals. 

Since we are all human, we tend to prioritize our own targets. It’s this thing called self – interest and self – preservation. Strong teams are not only aware of this human tendency, but also have the guts to remind each other of their responsibility.


Is it true, that building an effective and cohesive team is so hard? 

Organizations ask me to help them strengthen the engagement of their teams. Crucial in this process is management setting an example. You can not expect your employees to do what your management team isn’t able to do. That’s why I often start with building trust and commitment within the management team. After all, we are all humans with our fears, strengths and weaknesses. That’s why it is normal that also in management teams you find office politics, grudges, fear of failure and people avoiding feedback. The only way to overcome this, is to start building trust.

Or could it also be plain simple?

Working on openness, awareness and vulnerability, is not what makes most teams jump up and down of excitement. They’d rather avoid these – how they call them -fluffy, touchy-feeling sessions. Until they find out that fluffiness is not what these session are about. On the contrary they often find them rather confrontational. But they’re ok with that because they discover that it helps them in making faster and better decisions. It helps them in understanding each other, so they don’t have to put their energy in playing games and feeling bad about each other. Instead it enables them to put their full 100% in achieving results.

In that perspective, building a strong team is quite simple.

In “The five dysfunctions of a team” Lencioni lists the five dysfunctions a team must overcome to accomplish the results that it sets out. I use them as a roadmap during my sessions. I’ll explain them briefly below.

I added my own notes on what I experience in teams when working with Lencioni’s model.

1. Absence of Trust

The fear of being vulnerable prevents the building of trust within the team. 

Lencioni: “Members of great teams trust one another on a fundamental, emotional level. They are comfortable being vulnerable with each other about their weaknesses, mistakes, fears and behaviors. They get to the point where they can be completely open with one another, without filters.” 

Trust is the first and most important step in Lencioni’s model. Often trust has disappeared in teams because off previous bad experiences and misunderstandings. I’ve experienced that this can be rebuild by doing exercises that give team members insight in each others behavior, beliefs and motives. Mutual comprehension emerges. Things get surprisingly simple and straightforward. Team members look forward to meetings and other opportunities to work together.

2. Fear of conflict

The desire to preserve artificial harmony stifles the occurrence of productive conflict

Lencioni: “Teams that trust one another do not hesitate to disagree with, challenge and question each other, all in the spirit of finding the best answers, discovering the truth and making great decisions.”

I experienced that a majority of people will buy-in to an idea they don’t agree with, if they have been involved in the debate and their point of view has been heard and discussed in a respectful way.

During exercises I especially like to work with conflict or tensed situations. They have the potential to generate big change quickly. Once people understand why the other is doing what he is doing, demining is easy.

3. Lack of Commitment

The lack of clarity or buy-in prevents team members from making decisions they will stick to.

Lencioni: “Teams that engage in conflict ensure that all opinions and ideas are put on the table and considered.

If there is no trust or room for conflict, team members will take on a passive-aggressive role and artificially agree with the team’s direction but lacking any real level of commitment. Status quo will prevail.

4. Avoidance of accountability

The need to avoid interpersonal discomfort prevents team members from holding one another accountable for their behaviors and performance.

Lencioni: “Teams that commit do not hesitate to hold one another accountable. What is more, they don’t rely on the team leader as the primary source of accountability, they go directly to their peers.”

Most teams are reluctant to give one another constructive feedback. It’s very difficult though to hold one another accountable if you hesitate to give open feedback. What people fear is that their feedback will have an negative impact on their environment or relations. To overcome this understandable fear you need leaders that can create safe environments where people dear to speak their minds and hearts. Leaders that set the tone. If the team knows that the leader will call someone on something, they won’t feel stepping over the line doing it themselves. A leader that helps them realize that when they fail to provide peers with constructive feedback they are not only hurting the team. In fact they are  letting their teammates down personally.

5. Inattention to results

The pursuit of individual goals and personal status erodes the focus on collective success

Lencioni: “Teams that trust one another, engage in conflict, commit to decisions and hold one another accountable are very likely to set aside their individual needs and agendas and focus almost exclusively on what is best for the team.

Each team member must put the team’s goals first in all cases and where these conflict, the personal goals should be discarded for the good of the team. In my experience this becomes easier when your personal goals (your why) are aligned with the collective goal. When setting a team goal, it is important to spend enough time in finding alignment with everybody’s personal purpose. On top the team has to decide on how they can measure and visualize their success. The key lies in keeping results in the fore-front of people’s mind. 

Be the one that “keeps it real” by setting a new kind of leadership example.  

When you know what’s important to you, pursue it with all your heart. Take action to follow through, to become the person you most want to be, and to do the things you most want to do. If you want ongoing support to make those things happen, consider coaching to hold yourself accountable and to move forward – ambitiously – on the things you value most.

If you enjoyed this post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter, Linkedin or Facebook. Thank you!

So grateful to have shared this with you!

Live on purpose,




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