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The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by author Patrick Lencioni

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

You have to trust your friends before you can build the castle.

The foundation of all healthy relationships is the existence of trust. Even in the sandbox friends have to trust each other in order to play nicely and work on the same castle. When we don’t trust each other playing in the sand we all go to our separate corners and will turn our backs on our playmates or take our eyes off of our toys. (We don’t share them either).

The same applies to teams in business. In order to build a successful company (the castle) the team must be cohesive and trust one another. Teammates must be vulnerable with each other and admit their weaknesses and mistakes, ask each other for help, assistance and feedback. Trust allows them to appreciate each other and tap into one another’s skills and experience. Teams that prioritize building trust, set a foundation that results in building a successful company.

We have observed teams that lack trust and they become self destructive. Building trust among teammates is the foundation of our approach to making dysfunctional team’s functional. A sand castle built without trust will not last through the day.


Don’t be afraid to speak the truth passionately in the sandbox.

If we don’t trust our friends in the sandbox we hesitate to be honest with them and ask for their opinions. We won’t share our toys or advice on how to build a better castle. But when we do trust, real progress begins to happen.

When trust exists, team members minimize politics and dig in and solve real problems quickly. Without trust, teams are reluctant to be honest and passionate about how they feel and avoid controversial topics.

Time and energy are wasted with posturing and interpersonal risk. Teams that cannot be honest with each other miss opportunities to flush out real issues and solve the real problem. With trust, teams move to solving problems and tackling the difficult issues, therefore coming to solutions that quickly solve problems and move companies forward.

If we want to build the best castle of any sandbox on the play ground, we have to be honest with our friends (without offending) and take constructive criticism. When we feel secure to be open and truthful with our sandbox friends, we can work together to build the best castle.


Jump into the sandbox with both feet.

Everyone loves to play in the box with someone who is enthusiastic and wants to give their all to playing in the sand. We don’t want to have someone with one foot in the box and one foot out.

We like to play with people that are committed. Without commitment, friends second guess each other. This breeds a lack of confidence and fear of failure and windows of opportunity close due to excessive analysis and unnecessary delays.

When team members are fully committed they create clarity around direction and priorities. They align the entire team around common objectives and move forward without hesitation. They take advantage of opportunities before their competitors do. We want to play with people that are fully committed and people who truly want to play in the box with us.


Build your part of the castle and your friends will build theirs.

When you and your friends have decided to build a castle together, it is expected that everyone will do their part. When friends don’t do what they said they will do, it can create resentment with the others who are fully engaged and willing to do their part. Teams that avoid accountability encourage mediocrity, miss deadlines and place an undue burden on team members.

Teams that play well in the sandbox ensure that poor performers feel pressure to improve. They establish respect among team members who are held to the same high standards.
Teams that accept accountability also avoid excessive bureaucracy around performance management and corrective action.

When we do our part and our sandbox friends do theirs, we all build the castle together and the outcome is positive.


It’s about the castle; it’s not about you so get your head out of the sand.

Two things that get in the way of building the best castle are when friends in the box want to draw attention to themselves (self-interest) or make sure they don’t lose their place in the box (self-preservation). We want to play with friends who want the team to take credit for the final creation, not the individual.

Team members who put their individual needs, or the needs of their department above the collective goals, make it difficult to achieve better overall results.
They rarely defeat competitors and are easily distracted. This self interest, self preservation model encourages team members to focus on their own careers and individual goals rather than the team’s achievements.

We want to play in the box with people who want to work on the same castle as we do.


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team © 2002 The Table Group | Purchase the book.