It’s a new year and with it comes new opportunities. For many listeners, you’re at a point in your business where you’re looking to build a team in order to accomplish bigger and better things. With that comes all sorts of challenges. How do you step into that role as a leader and make a team that accomplishes everything you know it can? How do you get people to step up and take responsibility for their work? How do you make the hard choices and get everyone to buy in, even if they maybe thought the decision should go another way?
On today’s episode, we have Patrick Lencione, author of the bestselling book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (Amazon link). I can’t tell you enough how much of a gamechanger it’s been for me as I’ve been trying to build Team SPI. Don’t miss this episode, because the conversation we have is just mind-blowing in so many ways. Patrick is chock-full of so many great stories and examples to illustrate what a healthy team looks like, and where so many teams go wrong. [Full Disclaimer: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]
We run through all five dysfunctions and talk about them at length, but it all starts with vulnerability. If you aren’t able to be vulnerable with your team and trust that you’re all focused on the bigger goals you’re trying to accomplish, you’re opening yourself up to so many problems. With no trust, you end up in a situation where everyone is looking out for themselves instead of doing everything they can to help the team. Like I said, there’s so much here for anyone who works on a team, leads a team themselves, or is looking to build one in the future, so make sure to listen in.
- Why Patrick focuses on the dysfunctions that can destroy a team.
- Why trust is the foundation of a good team.
- How trust is built by vulnerability from to top of the organization on down.
- Which personality tests Patrick uses to spur conversation.
- How to foster productive conflict in your team.
- The difference between productive and unproductive conflict.
- Why it’s so important to get the whole team to commit to a decision.
- How to get your team to commit to decisions they’ve argued against.
- Why accountability is most effective coming from peers, rather than leadership.
- How to get your employees to put the team first.
- The Table Group
- At the Table with Patrick Lencioni podcast
- The Sports Culture podcast
- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni (Amazon link)
- The Five Temptations of a CEO by Patrick Lencioni (Amazon link)
- The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni (Amazon link)
Pat Lencioni: So basically what he did, it's quite amazing. He basically said to the team, and they sat him on the bench. He said, “I don't want to play if I don't get the ball.” Basically what he was saying is, “I am less concerned about the team than I am about me.” That is the kind of thing, human beings have the capacity to do that. They won the game, made the shot, and he apologized. The point of the matter is we don't come out of the womb thinking about teams, we come out of the womb thinking about ourselves, and that's why these dysfunctions are natural. If we're not learning to trust each other and to engage in good conflict and . . .
Pat Flynn: You're listening to Pat Lencioni, the author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (Amazon link), and I've got to tell you this, what a great way to start the year, with an interview with this person. [Full Disclaimer: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.] Because this was likely one of the most mind-blowing, valuable conversations I may have ever had with anybody related to business. He's the author of several books, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team being one of them, one that was very pertinent and relevant for my team as I started to grow it last year.
As you grow your business, there's going to come a point, if you haven't gotten there already, where you're going to need to work with other people. And knowing how to work with other people and these five things that we're going to be discussing in this episode that could break you and ruin the business. And you would just have everybody fighting against each other. These are so important. What a way to start the year. Happy new year. Sit back, relax. This is going to be an amazing episode. Cue the intro.
Announcer: Welcome to the Smart Passive Income Podcast, where it's all about working hard now so you can sit back and reap the benefits later. Now your host. He's super competitive, mostly with the younger version of himself, Pat Flynn.
Pat: Hey, everybody. Welcome to the Smart Passive Income Podcast, Session number 404. My name is Pat Flynn, here to help you make more money, save more time, and help more people, too. One of the things that can help us grow, expand our reach, make more money, better serve our audience, get more time back, is hiring a team. I recently hired a team and I've learned quite quickly just how important it is to learn not just about leadership, but about how a team functions and the things that can help the team grow. But also about the things that can help the team shrink, and shrink meaning just not working well together, people not being happy, people leaving. It just affects everything. This conversation with Patrick Lencioni, the author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, is so important and it's a great way to start the year because he's going to lay the foundation for what we need to know about as we begin to work with other people. Let's not wait any longer. Here he is, Pat Lencioni. Let's do this.
Hey Patrick, welcome to the SPI Podcast. Thanks for being here today.
Pat L.: It's great to have you. Actually, I do go by Pat just like you, but probably for this one, we should call me Patrick and you Pat so nobody gets confused.
Pat: Well you have a great name, and I'm excited to interview another Patrick for once. I'm just really excited more so because your book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, massively popular, best seller for years now, it had been required reading on my team, and it has helped out so much because building a team is something that's new to me. I just wanted to unpack a lot of the principles in this book for all of our listeners today who are just starting their entrepreneurial journey who are now building teams and just have no idea what they're doing.
Pat L.: Yeah, and life is a team sport more than ever.
Pat: It is. It is, and tell us a little bit about the origin story of this book in particular. Why did you sit down and spend time writing this book in the first place?
Pat L.: This was kind of an offshoot. My very first book was called The Five Temptations of a CEO (Amazon link). [Full Disclaimer: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.] I wrote it just as I was starting my business. I just worked with enough CEOs to see that there were these common mistakes they made. I wrote that book, we put it out there, people liked it, and what we realized was that it actually applied with a few twists to teams, to the entire team. The same things that plagued CEOs plagued their teams as a whole. Then I wrote, my third book was The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, and that book started to sell pretty well and then it just built up and built up. I think today it's selling as much or more than it ever has, and it's seventeen years later.
Pat: That's so great. I mean millions and millions of copies sold, and as a result, millions and millions of businesses functioning better. So let's unpack these five dysfunctions. People are likely hearing about this book for the first time, and I highly recommend you all get it. I promise you it will be worth the read. What do you mean by dysfunction of a team, and are there just five of them?
Pat L.: I think there are, actually. I think that there's lots of ways to build a team, but there's five ways to destroy them. From a marketing standpoint—although we didn't do it from a marketing standpoint. That's the truth. I remember when we titled it that, we said that's going to be more interesting to people, like, “Five dysfunctions, I want to know what they are.” If somebody writes a book about how to have a perfect marriage, I'm probably not going to pick that book up because I don't think there's such a thing and I'm probably going to feel bad, but if somebody writes a book, Four Ways to Destroy Your Marriage Forever, I'm probably going to pick that one up and look at the table of contents at least to figure out what I need to think about. There's five things that if we don't pay attention to those, Pat, our teams are going to fall apart. If we do the opposite, if we can overcome them, then we can build a team. Every team is dysfunctional, every team, if it turns its back on something or takes its eye off the ball, so to speak, it's going to devolve a little bit, just like every marriage. You and April love each other, but if you don't keep working on it, it can sour a little bit. So what we try to do is teach people here's the things you need to constantly stay on top of if you want your team to function well.
Pat: Okay, so what are those things that we need to stay on top of? Because it seems like there's a billion things to take care of when we start bringing new people, new personalities, new everything into our brand and handing off a lot of this work and letting people have access to our baby, our business. What's one of the dysfunctions we need to pay attention to?
Pat L.: The first one, and it's at the base of the pyramid that we teach for a reason, and that's because it's the foundation, is we have to have trust with the people we lead and we work with. Trust—it sounds very simple—but trust is not predictive trust, which means I've known them for a long time so I kind of know how they're going to act based on what I say or do. Really what trust is, it's about vulnerability. It's about the kind of trust that comes about when two people or a group of people know that they will gladly say to one another, “I don't know the answer. I need help. I don't know how do what you do. Teach me how to be like you. I admire you,” or, “I'm sorry, I was wrong yesterday.” When you know that people on your team are completely vulnerable, genuinely, and that they are not going to cover something up or pretend to know something that they don't, it changes everything. But if you're working with people and there is not that kind of vulnerability-based trust, the limits of your success are going to be pretty low.
Pat: I mean, to me, trust is something that has to be earned. How do you teach this as a leader to your team? How do you earn with and amongst each other? What are some ways that we can enable that?
Pat L.: It starts by—and the leader has to go first. If there's not really a clear leadership situation, then somebody's going to have to take a leap of faith, but they're going to do it by being vulnerable. When we teach people how to build trust—and we do this with executive teams from big companies to small ones—what we do is we take them through a few exercises and it drastically, rapidly begins the trust-building. We have them first just do something very simple and not touchy-feely, but it might sound like it, and that's we just have them really quickly tell us where they grew up and what was their childhood like. What was the biggest challenge of their childhood? Not their inner childhood, but just being a kid. So they begin to reveal some things about themselves.
Then we do something like the Myers-Briggs, or DISC, or Working Styles, some sort of tool that allows them to very openly say yeah, here's some strengths I have, here's some weaknesses I have. They're not bad, they're not good, they're just who I am. It's safe, but suddenly people are admitting things about themselves and giving other people permission to call them on that in a way that is safe and in a way that in the past they'd have felt reluctant. What we're teaching them is how to be vulnerable. Tell us about who you are and what was hard about growing up. Tell us about whether you're an introvert or an extrovert or whether you're a big-picture thinker or detail or you're a thinker, a feeler. All these things, and suddenly people are reading descriptions of themselves to their peers and saying, “Oh my gosh, I can actually be vulnerable and these people won't take advantage of me. They're going to be okay with that.”
Pat: Yeah. I think that's the big piece. It's okay to be vulnerable, because I can imagine some leaders, especially coming from certain backgrounds, positioning themselves as always being the perfect leader and only sharing the things that are good and those kinds of things. How do you sell vulnerability to somebody to someone who's not often comfortable or perhaps has never even shared that kind of stuff before?
Pat L.: What we just explain is—and the funny thing about it is when you ask them about their experience with other leaders, they agree, so it's hard to deny. It's like, “Do you trust a leader who never admits they're wrong? Do you trust a leader who can't apologize, who can't acknowledge when you have a better idea than them, who can't ask for help?” They're immediately like, “No. In fact, I don't like working for them.” Exactly. It's funny because people do question it just a little bit, but after a very short explanation, they're like, “You're totally right. If I want these people to trust me, and if I want them to be vulnerable with each other, how can I not do this myself?”
Pat: That makes sense. Okay, so the first dysfunction is just the team does not trust each other.
Pat L.: Lack of trust, which stems from a lack of wanting to be vulnerable with each other.
Pat: A follow up question on that. I know from my own personal experience when somebody does something that maybe just doesn't align and then lose trust for a little bit, it's hard to gain that trust back. Are there strategies for—and this is for people who are just worried about being perfect and whatnot, and I know you don't have to be perfect—but when you make a mistake, what might be the best strategy for every team member to sort of get trust back if it was lost?
Pat L.: Well the thing is, and this is what life is about, you have to be a little uncomfortable, but it's so liberating. It's like we've sat with people in a team and had them apologize. We had a team of people where these two guys didn't like each other, and we knew that. When they went through the Myers-Briggs, it explained a lot of it. The one guy read his type out, and the other guy said, “Wait, read that again.” He read it, and he goes, “So you don't do that to piss me off?” The guy said, “No, this is just how I am.” We said, “That's how God wired him.” He's like, “Oh, wow. Would you like me to help you with that?” The guy had tears in his eyes. “I would love for you to help me with this.”
What we talk about is the prayer of St. Francis is seek to understand more than to be understood. We tell people to avoid the fundamental attribution error, which is where we attribute other people's behaviors that frustrate us to their character, but then we give ourselves a break when we frustrate others and attribute it to our environment. Just by doing that, we allow people to apologize for things that have happened in the past, to explain it. And it's quite a liberating and joyful experience to watch people that were frustrated by each other learn how to say, “Oh, I guess we can get over that.” What you can't do is ignore it. If there's been trust broken in the past, you have to deal with it, but you can do it in a very positive way. It's uncomfortable, but not for very long.
Pat: It sounds like with your clients who work with you, you have them go through these tests and Myers-Briggs, and I know a lot of people kind of scoff at those, like “Oh no, it's just another personality test.” But it seems like it's an absolutely massively important thing, especially when you start working with other people. Personally, I've had experience with Myers-Briggs, but also very, very radically changing my life was the Enneagram in both relationships with my team and my wife. Are you fan of the Enneagram as well? If a person had to take one or two, which ones would you recommend?
Pat L.: You know what I would say is this, and I know of the Enneagram and we don't use it in our practice, but as long as it's accurate. The point is not what the tool is, the point is it has to be accurate. But does it allow two people or a group of people to start speaking honestly about themselves, their strengths and their weaknesses without feeling judged? I was with eight hundred people yesterday and I had just twenty minutes to do something with all these people. I used this thing called Working Styles, which just says, “Are you a tell oriented person or ask oriented person? Are you a task or people?” And it's very easy. In ten minutes, people can look up and go, “I'm a Driver.” Another person will go, “Oh, I'm an Amiable.” Then we can joke about it and people can talk about it. All we're trying to do is break down the idea that they can't admit when they're wrong, they can't admit what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are.
Any tool that gets at that is going to do that. We tell people, “Hey, Myers-Briggs doesn't define you, but it certainly gives people an understanding of how you're going to approach a problem differently than they will.” As long as they can begin . . . we'll have them read. I'm an ENFP, for instance. I don't focus very easily. I jump around, I have a little bit of ADD. That's what ENFPs often do. We're kind of all over the map. You know, the prayer is “God, help me to focus more—oh look, a bird—on the things I need to do.” When people know that about me, they can call me on it. If somebody in a meeting says, “Hey, you're not focusing,” I don't go, “Well how dare you say that?” I'm like, “Well, thank you, because you know that's my challenge. Now you're helping me with that. Yesterday when I blew this thing, it's because of that and that's not a good excuse. I'm going to work on it.”
If I don't have that vocabulary, Pat, with the people I work with, if we don't have any construct for understanding our strengths and weaknesses, making a comment about their behavior or their performance is going to feel very judgmental. So whether it's the Enneagram or the Myers-Briggs, as long as it's accurate and it allows a person to be honest about who they are, it works. We are not believers that one of these tools defines a person's life. I like it when people are kind of cynical or skeptical about that. I go, “No, just play with us here. Don't worry, we're not going to put you in too narrow of a box.” I love overcoming the skeptics and the cynics because then when they understand it, they're bought in more than anybody.
Pat: You're right. I mean that's what happened with the Enneagram for me. It's the common language that we can now use when we're sharing with each other and we're resolving issues and stuff. That's been super helpful. Thank you for that. That's absolutely huge.
Pat L.: Sure.
Pat: Trust and vulnerability, the lack of trust, if you will, number one.
Pat L.: Without that, the next one is impossible to overcome, and the next one is the fear of conflict. I love talking about this because we live in a world—I mean you and I are both out here in California. There's lots of different regions have different kinds, but we just live in a world that says never disagree, always affirm people, always be nice. We don't grow that way and teams don't grow that way. Now the reason why trust is important is because if you don't have vulnerability-based trust, Pat, with somebody, conflict is just politics. “No, I don't trust them. I don't think they're going to admit when they're wrong. I don't know if they're going to acknowledge if I have a better answer. I better think about the way I say things in order to manipulate this situation and win.” But when you do have vulnerability-based trust, when two people or a group of people are essentially buck naked with each other about who they are, conflict becomes nothing but the pursuit of truth or the best possible answer. It's a great thing.
Conflict is fantastic when there is trust. Teams that can't engage in conflict suffer and their decisions are always sub-optimal because conflict is how we get at the truth. If people aren't willing to honestly dialogue and honestly push on each other . . . You know this with you and April in your marriage. There is not a marriage in the world where the people don't argue sometimes, but they argue in the pursuit of what's the best thing to do for the kids? If we disagree, let's argue until one of us convinces the other, and that's a good thing. Teams that don't argue—actually I find that when they don't disagree around issues, it ferments into disagreement around people, and that gets really, really dangerous.
Pat: I think one scenario that our audience can really resonate with related to the fear of conflict and just how detrimental that can be is a lot of the audience is blogging or podcasting, and we often try to play middle ground and not want to upset any particular party or we don't want to be too bold with what we say because we worry about pushback or conflict. But obviously, you can't grow unless you take those bold leaps and those bold actions and perhaps step out of your comfort zone. You just kind of are complacent, and when you're complacent, you kind of just stay where you're at. As you're trying to grow your business or trying to grow your blog, playing the I fear conflict game is going to keep you where you're at, and this is exactly it in your team as well.
Pat L.: And online, conflict devolves into confirming what somebody else says or being really mean, and conflict isn't about meanness. Conflict is about honestly respecting the person enough to say, “I think your idea is wrong and here's why, but I'm willing to listen and if you convince me that you're right, I'll be the first to acknowledge that.” A society that doesn't have conflict really suffers. It's happening now. People will say there's all kinds of conflict. It's usually anonymous, mean-spirited shots across the bow as opposed to dialogue.
Pat: Right. It's a YouTube comment, usually. Is that what we're fearing? How does one encourage a team to seek conflict? It almost seems because you say conflict is good, it’s like let's look for opportunities where there's conflict so we can resolve and improve. What language do you give your team? How do you prepare them? Is this a conflict meeting that happens? How might one bring this up in a way in their team?
Pat L.: It's a great question. The first thing we do is we go back to that Myers-Briggs and we say, “What does your personality say about your likeliness to engage in conflict?” We always say, “What is your family? What was it like growing up in your family?” In my family, I'm Italian and Irish. We argued every day. My wife's family didn't ever argue. She's a convert, though. She's learned how to argue really well. You know how converts are. They're more into it than people born into it, but you just talk about that as a team. Some people are going to say, “In my culture—” some people might say, “I'm from a country where you just don't do that.” Some people say, “Well we do it a lot.” You have to have that conversation.
Then what we say is here's the deal. Everybody does have to agree that good conflict is important, and once they do that, then what the leader has to do, or team members, is that when they finally start to engage in conflict, usually around something very safe, but they're still going to feel very uncomfortable because . . . it's going to be minor but they're going to feel uncomfortable. That's when people have to do something counter-cultural and interrupt them in the middle of a conflict and go, “Hey, hey. Wait, wait, you guys. You know this argument, this discussion you're having right here? This is exactly what we need to have more of. Keep going. Don't feel bad.”
Now that sounds crazy, Pat, but I have said that to Fortune 500 executives because even in the boardrooms of big companies, people don't argue well. They feel uncomfortable, and I have to interrupt them and say, “I know you guys look like you're feeling a little uncomfortable with this conversation, but this is exactly what your team needs. Keep going.” They will drain away their feelings of guilt or fear that they're doing something wrong and re-engage in that conversation without it. What we call it is real-time permission.
If you're on a team or you have a vendor that you're working closely with and you want to have a team-like relationship with them, just let them know. Say, “Hey, I think it's really important that we argue. It's probably going to be a little uncomfortable,” and then the first time it happens to stop and say, “Hey, this is really productive. I really like this.” People need that in order . . . over time, after you do that four or five times, you're going to start getting more comfortable with it and it's going to happen quickly without fear of something being wrong.
Pat: I love that. I'm reflecting on times where team members on my team and even with me have had arguments, and they're always very civil, obviously. We respect each other, we trust each other, but those have always led to amazing breakthroughs, and I think that just allowing yourself to feel comfortable and even welcoming it in a controlled manner, like you said, is huge. Thank you for that. Let's keep going. We have a few more dysfunctions. Obviously, go get the book, read more into it, the examples, the stories, amazing. What's number three?
Pat L.: Number three is conflict is necessary in order to avoid the third dysfunction which is the inability of a team to commit. If you don't have conflict, you're not going to get people that are discussing something to actually commit to what you've decided on. What they're going to do, and this is what normally happens, is they passively commit. Nobody disagreed, nobody really passionately argued, so at the end of the meeting they nod their head, they smile, they leave, and they're not really supportive of the idea. At best they're going to short-arm things or pretend to be involved, but they're really not going to commit. What we say is this. If your team cannot, at the end of a conversation, completely commit and buy into that decision, that idea is not going to work. It doesn't matter what the quality of the idea is, if people haven't committed, it doesn't work.
This is where conflict comes in, because what we say is if people don't weigh in on a decision, they're not going to buy into that decision. That's not an argument for consensus, though. I hate consensus. If you wait for consensus, you're going to make decisions that are too slow and probably mutually disagreeable to everyone. The point here is everybody on a team needs to weigh in. They need to engage in that conflict so that at the end of their discussion, the leader or someone on that team can break the tie and say, “Okay, this is the answer, and I realize not everybody here agreed completely, but I've listened to you all. We know where you're coming from. You might even be right, but we need everybody to commit.”
The best organizations, whether it's a small business, whether it's a big organization, whether it's military, sports, a church. When people can disagree and then commit—and that's something that Andy Grove at Intel pioneered the idea. They had this thing. They said, “Disagree and commit.” Go to a meeting and have it out. At the end of the meeting, there's nothing left to say in the hallway, there's no backchannel chatter online or in the parking lot, but that requires that you have conflict so that you know everybody on the team is committed.
Pat: Can you define commitment? Does that mean just buying into what was discussed? Obviously, this all relates to trust, right? If a leader goes, “Hey, I've listened to you, and you may be right but I'm taking this. I'm the leader, trust me on this.” You commit, but what is that internally for a team member who may think otherwise? What does commitment really mean to them?
Pat L.: Yeah, what it means is you know that they're going to do everything they can to make it work. They're not going to hold anything back. I like to say this. Two companies, everybody does bad forensic analysis of businesses that succeed. They'll look at one, and the one that succeeded, they'll go, “Well they were smarter. They had a better idea.” The truth is one company can beat another with a worse idea that people really rallied around than one that had a better idea that people actually didn't commit to.
I've heard this in the military. People say, you know, I think it was General Patton who said, “A good plan,” and he said, “violently executed,” which means people really go do it, “is better than a better plan where people aren't on the same page.” Yet we live in a world that people think everything is decision science and they think the best idea always wins. It's like, nah. The idea that people rally around is going to out-do the one that people are tepid about. When we talk about commitment, we talk about people leaving a room and saying, “I am fully on board and I will do what is necessary to make this work.”
Pat: How do you avoid—and I'm imagining and I know this from personal experience working with people who have companies where there's . . . And I don't want to stereotype, but a lot of sort of perhaps those in the younger generation who may feel more entitled or who may have this conflict, but then use that conflict as weaponry to say something like if something didn't work, even though they committed to it, they followed the leader, they might hold a grudge. They might go, “I told you so,” or, “I knew that wouldn't work,” and it just leads to more dysfunction. How might one sort of deal with or manage that?
Pat L.: I think if you think about what it is, if they have vulnerability-based trust, they're not going to be trying to score points. They're going to say, “I know that we might make mistakes, and I'm speaking out about what this answer might be.” I like to say this. If I'm the leader of a team and I have to break a tie, and two people on my team think the answer should be A and two think it should be B, and I decide on A, I turn to the people on B and I say, “You might be right. I might be wrong on this, but we've all talked about it. I've heard what you had to say, and based on my wisdom or my role, we're going to go with A.” If B turns out to be right, those people don't come back and go, “See, I told you.” They go, “Yeah, we were there for that meeting. You listened to us, and okay, we were right, but we supported this anyway.” I think the thing is when you have vulnerability-based trust, there's no joy in proving someone wrong.
Pat: Right, right.
Pat L.: So it does go back to that trust, and that's the thing. A lot of people will say, “I want to get results,” or, “I want to commit to decisions.” It's like if you don't trust each other, it's just not real.
Pat: Perfect. Thank you for that. Let's move on. Number four. What is dysfunction number four?
Pat L.: Dysfunction number four is when we commit to decisions—and this is the biggest problem on most teams. We have an online team assessment, Pat, that people fill out. It takes them a half-hour, and everybody on our team fills it out. When they're done, they get scores back, colors, green, yellow and red on the five dysfunctions that says these are probably the areas where you struggle, where you're okay, or where you do really well. This is the one that has the most red, and that is the fourth dysfunction is teams that are unwilling to hold each other accountable. When human beings on a team cannot turn to one of their peers and say, “Hey, that's not good enough,” or, “I don't think that's what we agreed to,” or, “We need more from you in this area.” When people on a team cannot hold each other accountable, they're not going to succeed.
People in society, even more than accountability, Pat, people don't like to hold each other accountable. Even more than conflict, people don't like to hold each other accountable because they just feel like I'm never supposed to tell somebody that I'm not affirming them. But on a team where you have real vulnerability-based trust and people have argued about a decision and you've committed to that decision, then people are going to be far more likely to say, “Hey, that's not what we talked about,” or, “Hey, you need to do better on this or we're not going to make it.” Accountability is so critical on a team. Now notice what I said though, Pat. I said peer accountability. I didn't say the leader holding people accountable.
Most people think that the leader should be the primary source of accountability on a team, and that's not true. Peers are much better sources of accountability. The leader, however, has to be the ultimate source. People need to know that someone at some point, the leader is going to hold people accountable, and when you know that, then you're much more likely to turn to a peer and say, “Okay, I'll do this for you.” But if the leader is like me, Pat—I'm what technical people would call a wuss—I don't like to hold people accountable, and when leaders don't like to hold people accountable, peers are not going to do it for one another. This is one of the biggest things teams need to learn how to do is to relish the thought of somebody saying, “You need to do better at this.”
Pat: It's pretty amazing because I think we all know how important accountability is for ourselves. We need help. We need a friend to go to the gym with. We need somebody to tell us to do this, but then we don't consider how we might be able to provide that for others too. Is this simply the leader giving permission for that to happen? How can you encourage this?
Pat L.: Let me tell you what it was for me, because this was my big struggle as a parent, too. I want people to like me. I like to tell people positive things, and what I came to realize one day, Pat, and this was the breakthrough, is that not holding someone accountable is actually an act of selfishness. I thought it was an act of mercy. You know, they didn't do a very good job. I just won't say anything to them because I don't want them to feel bad. One day I realized, wait a second, I'm the one who doesn't want to feel bad. They don't benefit from not hearing. What I tell managers and people on teams is if you love the people you work with—and I hope you do, even if some days you don't like them, I hope you love them—then you owe it to them to tell them how to get better. You're never going to feel good about yourself when you didn't tell them and then later it bites them in the butt in their career, and you're like, “Well at least I didn't make them feel a little bit uncomfortable that day.”
Pat: That's huge. I mean it's just that simple mindset shift changes everything.
Pat L.: Everything.
Pat L.: It's an act of love far more to tell somebody, “Hey, here's something you could do better,” than it is to affirm somebody in something good or worse yet, of course, in something that's not good. I go to church. I do a lot of work with priests and ministers and stuff, and I tell priests, “Do you know what people tell you after church when you don't give a good homily?” They're like, “What?” They say, “Nice homily, Father.”
Pat: That's great. Yeah.
Pat L.: That's not good. That's not love.
Pat: What would be the love version of that?
Pat L.: I've done it a couple of times, Pat. It's not easy to do. I've left mass and prayed about it and said, “Oh, gosh, I have to tell . . .” I've pulled a priest aside after mass and said, “Hey, Father, I just want to tell you,” I tell them, “I liked this and I liked this,” whatever I like, I said, “but I think there's something you could do better.” One guy gave me a huge hug and said, “Nobody ever tells me this.” The other guy smiled really big and shook my hand and said, “Thank you so much.”
We don't develop strong relationships with people that we don't try to make better, but in our society we are taught don't ever have an uncomfortable moment. Don't ever push somebody out of their comfort zone. Don't ever allow someone to potentially judge you in the short term for being a little too tough on them. In the Bible it talks about iron sharpens iron. People don't even know that came from the Bible know what that means. Most people I find would rather have a pillow fight. Iron sharpens iron. My wife and I sharpen each other by pushing on each other in love, and we should do that at work too.
Pat: Too many of us are having pillow fights, that's for sure. Anyway, then on the receiving end of accountability, how do we position ourselves to openly accept and not again feel like we are being targeted or feeling like we're just not doing great work and ashamed of ourselves?
Pat L.: Well, there's layers to that one. I mean some of that goes to just healing the wounds we have that we don't feel ashamed for not being perfect. One of the things we can do on a team is just put ourselves in a position to be held accountable because if a leader wants their team to receive good feedback, the best thing they can do is receive it themselves. In fact, invite it. I say this to my kids a lot, and I say, “Listen, I know I'm not your friend. I mean I love you.” That's my problem, I try to be like their friend sometimes, but I say, “I'm not your peer, but I really do want to know if there's things you think I could do to be a better dad.” When they say, “You know, Dad, sometimes when friends come over you do this,” and I'm like, “Oh man, you're right. I'm sorry. I'm going to really work on that.” Think how much easier it is when I say to them, “Hey, you know something? I need you to work on this.” They don't look at Dad as, “He's never wrong. He never admits he's wrong. He never apologizes. He never takes my feedback, why should I take his?” The same happens at work. That leader or that peer who's like, “Oh yeah, I love it when you tell me things I need to improve on.” That only makes the whole team do that.
Pat: I mean you're no longer a hypocrite at that point.
Pat L.: Yeah.
Pat: Fantastic. We're close to the end of the road map here. What is the fifth and final dysfunction?
Pat L.: The last dysfunction on a team is when, it's going to sound strange, but it's that when teams don't focus on the collective results. It's the inattention to results. People will go, “What are you paying attention to if not results?” Well, it could be their own results. It could be my own department, my own budget, my own career, my own needs. What it is if we're on a team, we have to be all of us concerned about the collective good of the team. Even if we divide up the responsibilities, I can't say, “My part of the boat's not sinking. It's your part of the boat.” A team that realizes that we've got one boat and if we have to make sacrifices for one another, we have to do what's in the best interest of the whole team. Yet there's lots of examples, Pat, in society, where this doesn't happen. I love to talk about Scottie Pippen, the player for the Chicago Bulls years ago. You're a young guy, but . . .
Pat: Yeah, no. One of my favorite players.
Pat L.: Alright, so he played with Jordan, and when Jordan left the team, he retired, Pippen became the leader of the team. At the end of the year, they were still awesome, they had a great team. They played in the playoffs against one of their hated rivals, and during that game, they were tied with a few seconds left to go in the game. The coach, Phil Jackson, the great coach, designed a play to go to one of the other players who would have a better chance to make the shot, and Pippen refused to go in the game because he didn't get the ball.
Basically what he did, it's quite amazing. He basically said to the team, and they sat him on the bench. He said, “I don't want to play if I don't get the ball.” Basically what he was saying is, “I am less concerned about the team than I am about me.” That is the kind of thing. Human beings have the capacity to do that.
Now they won the game, made the shot, and he apologized. The point of the matter is we don't come out of the womb thinking about teams, we come out of the womb thinking about ourselves. That's why these dysfunctions are natural. If we're not learning to trust each other and to engage in good conflict and to commit to decisions and hold each other accountable, we are not going to get the results we want. It's only when we all know that when somebody does something selfish or somebody does something not for the best interest of the team, that people are going to say, “Wait a second. That's not okay.” That is an act of love that leads to results because the truth of the matter is great teams produce better results. That's the measure. They don't win every game, they don't make their number every single time, but over time the organizations, whether it's tiny or large, that work like a team, they win, and that's what this is all about. The proof is really in the pudding.
Pat: The personal results still are important though, right? It's just putting the team first before personal is really the goal.
Pat L.: Right. Yeah, obviously, because if you put the team's results first, you have to produce what you do, but you have to also be willing to give things up. One of the things we like to say is—if we were looking at a larger company—if I went to the head of marketing and I said, “Listen, what's your number one team? Is it the marketing department that works for you, or is it the team you're on with the CEO?” Many, many, many people in that role would say, with really good intentions, would say, “Listen, Pat, I work with the marketing department. I sit near them. I hired them. I spent my career in marketing. I love marketing. They would probably be my number one team, but this one's a close second.” That doesn't work.
That person has to be competent in what they do, but they have to get together with the CEO and decide if I have to give up resources, if I have to give up budget, if I have to spend time in somebody else's area and that produces a better result for the team, then that's what I'm going to do. It doesn't mean I'm going to be bad in my area.
This is football season and I like to say that the defensive coordinator has to be willing to give up draft picks or players or attention for the offense if that's how they're going to win. If the head coach punishes him for doing that and says, “Well, your defensive stats were down,” and he says, “I know it because I did this for the good of the team.” The leader has to recognize I want people that are going to do anything for the whole team. If we hold people accountable for their numbers or their performance without any regard for the fact that they should be making sacrifices for others, then we're making it impossible for them to be team players. When I work with companies, Pat, I tell them, “Your compensation should be tied primarily to the outcome of the entire team, not to their own individual areas,” because otherwise, we're just incenting them to live in silos.
Pat: That's huge.
Pat L.: Individual performance is really important, but it can't be more important than doing what's right for the whole team.
Pat: If a team happens to be struggling with multiple dysfunctions at once, somebody's listening to this or in the future, they see that there's a lack of commitment, there's inattention to results, the avoidance of accountability. Like, there's multiple things. Where might you suggest a person, a leader go to start to make things a little bit better? Is there one over another? I mean I know it's trust, obviously.
Pat L.: Definitely it's one over the other. Go to the bottom, because what happens is people say, “We don't have accountability on our team.” It's like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Before you decide that, go below and look at the one just before it.” Here's the thing. What we always say is this. If you took our team assessment and you were green on trust and red on all the others, we would say, “Even still, do anything you can to improve trust,” because when trust is strong you have a really good chance at overcoming the others, but when trust is weak at all, it's going to come out. It really is one of those things. People listening to this, if they do anything, whether they're talking about working on a small team and they're working with a vendor or a virtual partner, build really strong levels of interpersonal trust with that person, everything else gets exponentially easier.
Pat: How often in your work do you find that the root cause of the problem is actually the leader him or herself? And how do you being to get the leader to sort of accept feedback if they're just not playing the game correctly?
Pat L.: It's a great question and one of the most frequent questions I get. Here's what we say, because people say, “But it's the leader, it's the leader.” Here's what I would say first of all, is don't assume that the leader is leading the way he or she wants to. We always assume they're going everything intentionally. They've thought this through and they're confident that the way they're doing this is the right way. Be a hero and be the person who kindly and goes and tells the truth to that leader.
In my career path before I started my own firm at the Table Group, I was the guy that people would shove in the CEO's office and say, “You tell him.” I was like, “Why?” and they go, “Because he listens to you.” I didn't work for the CEO and his direct reports would say, “You tell him.” It was I think because I would go in there with empathy and respect but with the willingness to tell the truth to the leader. As a result of that, he trusted me. That is what people need.
If you're on a team and you're like, “Gosh, the leader just doesn't get this. They don't want to do this.” Be that one to say, “You know, I'm going to go to them and humbly share with them that I don't think I could do their job or that I'm condescending to them. Here's some things I think you could do that would really help and I think you would benefit from it and everybody else would, and I'm willing to help you.” More times than not they're going to listen and appreciate that, and that's a fantastic thing to do. Quite often they're going to ignore you, and at least you know they don't fire you for that. I like to joke about it and say, “One out of three times you'll get fired.” You're not going to get fired for telling the leader the kind truth.
You might find that they really are committed to the way they're doing things and they're not going to change. Now you know. Now you know. You know the serenity prayer. It's like, “God give me the courage to change the things I can, the patience to accept the things I can't, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Well if you haven't gone and tried to help that leader, you don't know what their limits are, and if you go there and that person goes, “No, I love doing it this way. I'm not going to change the way I do it and this is how it works.” Now you go, “Good. Now I know that, I can start to think about whether I want to accept this or move on.” What we shouldn't do is go, “Well, I think it's all about the leader. He or she doesn't want to change. I'm not going to say anything.” Nobody feels good about that.
Pat: No. Thank you, Pat.
Pat L.: Yeah. Sure.
Pat: This has been an incredible conversation. I just want to ask you one final question to get a sense of just the kinds of conflicts that potentially teams might have. Would you mind sort of giving us an inside look at a conflict that you've had to help manage? No names, no companies, I just want to know what the potential conflict was about and then ultimately what needed to happen in order for that conflict to be resolved.
Pat L.: Yeah, I'll share one with you. There's so many, and I'm really terrible at recalling them, but just recently I had one. I worked with an organization and there were three founders, and they were friends. They started this business and it had been going for a while, and they had other jobs too. It wasn't necessarily a second, passive income. They were trying to start a start-up, but they all had other jobs too, high profile people. One guy kind of checked out and started doing another job, and he didn't do anything for a year and a half.
I will tell you, they went on Shark Tank and they didn't get a deal, but they got some momentum. One guy just checked out and the other two guys were working like dogs. Well, the two guys that were working like dogs were making progress, and what they found is that the other guy, his attitude and his cultural approach to things didn't work. Two guys were getting a lot more done than three did when the guy was involved. But the guy wouldn't even check in. He didn't even ask, so we got together and said, “You know, what are we going to do here?”
The conflict was they needed to get the guy to recognize, “I haven't been contributing.” He really didn't want to do that, and they had to have a very, very difficult conversation about the fact that there was a breakdown of trust there. This guy was not going to acknowledge it and be vulnerable, and they had to confront him and say, “Your behavior doesn't match the culture we want, and we need you to not participate.” What happened was those guys realized without that trust, they were not going to be able to have the level of conflict, make decisions, commit to those, execute, hold people accountable, because their friend, for whatever reason, good guy, just was not willing to be vulnerable and be held accountable.
Pat: Did they buy him out?
Pat L.: Well that's what they're figuring out right now.
Pat L.: They're figuring out how to do that because it's still a very future-oriented business. I'd love to tell people about it, but I can't. And so they haven't come into the money yet, although they have some promise, so they're tying to figure out how do we value it and what would be fair to this guy, but we've done a lot of the work? I mean it's difficult. What it shows is without vulnerability, that person was not able to be vulnerable. He wasn't able to say, “I know I've let you guys down,” or, “I know I've checked out. I know that I've been a problem.” That makes it so difficult, and so these guys said, “We have to move him on because if he stays and we have to continue to live with that lack of vulnerability, we're never going to get this done.”
Pat: Could there have been a way to avoid this situation with this team? Are there conversations that potentially could have happened earlier, or is this sometimes unavoidable to get to this point and then you kind of resolve it after that?
Pat L.: It's a great question. The answer is oftentimes it's like, “We should have talked about this sooner and we still could.” Maybe had they done that—but I actually think that this one guy, he just really struggles with admitting when he's wrong. I've run into a number of executives like that. It's just too painful for them to say, “I'm sorry,” or, “Maybe I'm not good enough.” When you have a person that can't do that, it's a little crazy-making, and that's why it's so important that when you hire, you hire people . . . I wrote another book called The Ideal Team Player (Amazon link), and basically, there's three qualities that you have to have to be able to overcome the five dysfunctions, and one of them is humility. [Full Disclaimer: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.] The other two, by the way, just for your listeners, are humble, hungry, and smart. If they're humble it means they'll admit when they're wrong and they're not ego-driven. Hungry means they work really hard. Smart means interpersonally smart, not intellectually. They know how their words and actions affect people, but without humility, Pat, a person is not going to be a good team player. Ego driven people do not make team players.
Pat: Wow. This was one of the most valuable conversations I've ever had. I'm so thankful to have captured it and shared it for everybody.
Pat L.: Nice of you to say.
Pat: No, seriously, thank you. It's very pertinent in time for me building new teams and just thank you again for this. Where might people go? Where would you recommend they go to learn more from you and obviously pick up the book? Is there a recommended place to go to for that?
Pat L.: Yeah. You can buy the book wherever books are sold. We have a website that we just re-did. I think you might have helped us with that, Pat. I don't know if we asked you about that, but it's Table Group, like kitchen table, tablegroup.com, and we have all kinds of free stuff and you can figure out what we do and if there's a way we can help you. The other thing is, this is something you definitely helped us with, is we started a podcast four months ago called At the Table with Patrick Lencioni. At the Table with Patrick Lencioni. We just talk about the world of work and how teamwork, leadership, employee engagement, just work in general if people like that. We also started one . . . we do two now, a smaller one called Sports Culture, where we talk about how organizational culture influences sports. We talk a lot about what's going on in the world of sports. People just called and said, “You've got to do one about that.”
Pat: That's cool.
Pat L.: So there's another one called Sports Culture.
Pat: Well we'll put all the links in the show notes for everybody. Pat, thank you so much for your time today. I know you're a busy guy and helping out so many other companies. Thanks for helping all of us who are here listening on the other end. We appreciate you.
Pat L.: Pat, thanks for helping my company. You've done a lot for us.
Pat: Alright, I hope you enjoyed that interview with Pat Lencioni. Again, you can find his book anywhere books are sold. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, plus many other amazing works of his. Also, check out tablegroup.com and the podcasts as well, and we'll link to all those in the show notes. Smartpassiveincome.com/session404. One more time, smartpassiveincome.com/session404. Let me know what you think. I hope you enjoyed this. This was a very, very insightful conversation—like I said earlier—and I hope this was helpful for you as well. Whether you are in the Facebook group, smartpassiveincome.com/community or elsewhere on the interwebs, Instagram, Twitter, hit me up @patflynn and let me know what you thought of this episode.
If you're building a team, good luck because it's a struggle and it's one of the most beautiful things that can happen, and I'm thankful to have connected with Pat today to help us all do it even better. Let me know what you think. Thanks so much. Show notes again, smartpassiveincome.com/session404. Make sure you hit that subscribe button to start the year if you haven't already because guess what? We have a lot of great conversations coming up in the future and a lot of topics that are very, very important for us growing all of our businesses together, serving more people and making more money as a result. Cheers, take care. Thank you for being a part of Team Flynn, and as always, Team Flynn for the win. Peace.
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