What’s Your Family Dysfunction?

Most of the great teams that I’ve either been a part of or observed have one thing in common – they feel like family.  They are comfortable with each other in a way that only comes through true commitment to one another and their purpose.

But even great families have their dysfunction.  Patrick Lencioni said it this way in his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, “The fact remains that teams, because they are made up of imperfect human beings, are inherently dysfunctional.”

So what is your team’s dysfunction?  Do you know what it is?

The trouble with dysfunction is that we can get so used to operating within it that we don’t know it’s there.

It’s unlikely that you’ll every completely remedy your team’s dysfunction, but you do need to know what dysfunction you are prone to.  And although it’s painful to admit, as the leader you are more than likely responsible for either creating or perpetuating the dysfunction.  (Sorry, painful but true.) 

Dysfunction undetected or neglected will eventually wear on the unity and camaraderie of your team.

“Like a car with an engine that can’t fire on all cylinders, a business that’s dysfunctional may move forward for a while. But eventually it stops running.”  “With a close-knit staff, it’s easy to make allowances for people’s tempers or bad moods or refusal to take responsibility. But, sooner or later, that kind of thinking catches up with you and the business.”  from Microsoft Business

So how do you identify your dysfunction?

1) Seek outside counsel.  It could be a business leader in your church who has experience coaching teams.  It could be a consultant you hire.  There are also great tools such as the aforementioned Patrick Lencioni book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (and corresponding workbook).

2) Survey new staff.  It’s a healthy habit to have new employees do a survey about staff culture.  They have fresh eyes and are not desensitized to the dysfunction yet.  Many organizations do these surveys at 3 months and 12 months of employment.

3) Identify your own dysfunction.  Your past experiences both personally and professionally have formed your habits and operating methods.  It’s important to always be challenging your personal growth and development.  Career coaches and personal counselors can be valuable resources for you.

4) Pray for wisdom and discernment.  This probably doesn’t require further explanation.  We can’t lead without being led by God’s spirit.


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  • Janice September 18, 2012  

    Another great post, Jenni.  Being part of a smaller team in a commercial work environment for almost 14 years, I have seen the issue of getting “so used to operating within it” and the consequences that brings to the unity of the team.  Thanks for your continued wisdom!

  • Amanda Queen Dyer September 18, 2012  

    This is a great perspective I hadn’t thought of before. I love my team and they definitely feel like family, and I’m sure we have some dysfunctions I don’t even notice anymore.