We all know that effective teamwork is a must for the success of any business, but what happens when there’s a conflict amongst your team?

Avoiding conflict won’t get you anywhere, but if mis-handled it can seriously impact progress and create a toxic working environment.

In this article, we’ll explore conflict amongst teams and consider practical strategies to address and resolve constructively.

As a reference tool, we’ll use Patrick Lencioni’s renowned model – ‘Five Dysfunctions of a Team’ – which provides valuable insights and strategies into addressing and resolving conflicts within a team setting.

Introduction to the Five Dysfunctions Model

Patrick Lencioni’s ‘Five Dysfunctions of a Team’ model originated from his significant experience as a consultant and author in organisational management. First introduced in his 2002 book, the model addresses the key common challenges encountered by teams, and offers a practical framework for understanding and resolving conflicts.

Lencioni’s inspiration for the model came from his observations of the challenges that teams often face in the business world. Through his work with multiple companies,  Lencioni began to notice recourring patterns of dysfunction that prevented teams from reaching their full potential. He observed that these dysfunctions were not isolated incidents, but instead widespread issues that could have a significant impact on team performance and the overall success of the business.

The model itself is based on Lencioni’s deep understanding of human behavior, psychology, and team/organisational dynamics. He drew insights from psychology, group dynamics, leadership, and management theories to craft a holistic framework that helps teams identify and overcome the barriers to effective collaboration.

The model’s popularity stems from its relatable storytelling and applicability, making it easy and practical for businesses’ to grasp underlying dynamics at play within their teams. It’s a favourite of ours at Infusion Group and we use it frequently when working with teams to improve their dynamics and create high performance.

Introducing the Five Dysfunctions

Lencioni’s model identifies five interrelated dysfunctions that can get in the way of a team being effective:

1.    Absence of Trust

Trust is the foundation of any successful team. When team members are not vulnerable or open with one another, conflicts arise due to miscommunication, hidden agendas, and a lack of support

2.    Fear of Conflict

Teams that shy away from healthy debates tend to do this because of the absence of Trust. Unresolved issues can fester because of the lack of openness, and intensify, hindering collaboration and productivity

3.    Lack of Commitment

A team that does not have open discussions and a clear decision-making processes will struggle to get buy-in from all members. If team members don’t feel their voice is heard, they’re unlikely to be bought into the decision, so won’t feel committed to wider team goals and initiatives

4.    Avoidance of Accountability

In an environment where team members don’t to hold one another accountable, deadlines are missed and performance tends to be poor. This leads to frustration, conflicts, and team goals not being reached

5.    Inattention to Results

When individuals prioritise their personal ambitions over collective team goals, conflicts arise as competing priorities and interests get in the way of focus on the overall team success

Solving Conflict Using Lencioni’s Model

Addressing each of the dysfunctions one by one can be a powerful way of resolving conflict when it arises:

1.    Build Trust

The absence of Trust can only be solved by encouraging open and honest communication. Leaders should lead by example, share personal experiences, show vulnerability and admit mistakes. This creates an environment where team members feel safe to be themselves and express their opinions without fear of judgment or failure

2.    Embrace Healthy Conflict

Healthy conflict and debate should be encouraged. Ask everyone to share their views, listen to their diverse perspectives, and encourage hidden conflicts to be voiced. It’s crucial to provide guidelines and standards for holding respectful disagreements to ensure that issues are fully explored and resolved effectively

3.    Commit to Decisions

Encourage commitment by involving team members in decision-making processes. Ensure that all viewpoints are considered, and once a decision is reached, clearly communicate the rationale and expectations. Ask for feedback and ensure that everyone understands the context for the decision being made, and their part to play in next steps

4.    Hold Each Other Accountable

Establish a culture of mutual accountability where team members feel comfortable addressing performance issues (their own and others) constructively. Regular check-ins and feedback sessions will help ensure that everyone is aligned with team goals.

5.    Focus on Collective Results

Shift the team’s focus from individual accomplishments to the broader team goals. Yes, individual performance is essential, but ensure there is a focus on celebrating successes together. Establish clear metrics for measuring collective progress and achievements

In Summary

Incorporating Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team model into the way you and your team operate can help you and your team effectively address and overcome conflict.

By building trust, embracing healthy conflict, committing to decisions, holding each other accountable, and focusing on collective results, you will create a more positive and productive environment.

It takes time, practice, and constant reinforcement – but with the right approach and commitment, conflicts can be turned into opportunities for feedback, growth and collaboration, resulting in a stronger and more resilient team.

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