Date: 04/11/2016 | By: Kevin Brent

Are you running a truly cohesive team in your business?

It takes effort to build a cohesive team, but the process does not have to be complicated and the rewards can be great.  In fact, keeping it simple is essential.  Based on the best-selling book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni, this blog by Kevin aims to provide a clear, concise and practical guide to improving your team.

 Click here to listen to Kevin’s webinar on this topic.


One of the key challenges we see with businesses trying to scale is getting the most out of their team – hiring the right people is of course key and we address that in another webinar – but then it is about retention and about building a team that pulls together. 

We’ve seen many examples of the power of effective teams, and with some of our clients the effectiveness of the team becomes a competitive advantage – indeed with small and medium sized businesses competing against larger ones this is sometimes a real opportunity to differentiate.

I’m sure each of us can think of examples where we have led or been in a team that has worked really well – and ones where it hasn’t.

I’m going to cover the 5 key behaviours according to Lencioni that a cohesive team needs to master  – the 20 second summary is that a cohesive team needs to :

  • Build trust
  • Master conflict
  • Achieve commitment
  • Embrace accountability and
  • Focus on results

Each behaviour builds on the previous one – so it is a journey and you should not treat each one in isolation

To really make it work, team members need to have a sound understanding of themselves as well as their peers – and the starting point for this is often behavioural profiling and we use DiSC.



We hear the word trust banded around in many contexts with many interpretations. What we mean by it here is:

  • A willingness to be completely vulnerable with one another
  • Confidence among team members that we all have good intentions and that there is no reason to build protective fences – that we can be open

Trust is the single most important behaviour in not only Lencioni’s model but almost every other team model – including recent work undertaken by Google where they referred to it as

  • Psychological Safety – how comfortable do you feel taking risks on this team without feeling insecure or embarrassed?

So how can we build trust or overcome the lack of trust if it exist?

Tools that are useful to overcome lack of trust:

  • The leader must create an environment that does not punish vulnerability. Display of vulnerability on a part of team leader must be genuine. Acknowledge mistakes/ show vulnerability
  • Undertake Personality and Behavioral Profiling
  • Personal Histories Exercise
    • Where did you grow up?
    • How many siblings and where do you fit?
    • Describe a unique or interesting challenge from your childhood or early adulthood
  • Do what we say we will do: Follow through! Actions speak louder than words!
  • Team Effective Exercise What makes an effective team – and what doesn’t!


Mastering Conflict

You may think that the goal is to avoid conflict – well I’m afraid not!

All great relationships require productive conflict – and if you want a team to produce the best possible solution you need to be able to engage in productive conflict.

If we think about it terms of a conflict spectrum – at the one end we have ‘artificial harmony’ where everyone keeps their real thoughts hidden and ‘follow’ and at the other where we have ‘aggressive and destructive politics’ – with manipulation and back stabbing – we want somewhere in between where we can engage in constructive conflict around issues and ideas


Conflict isn’t personal – it is around ideas and issues and it is not mean!  But it can be uncomfortable – which is why we the trust/ vulnerability is so important first – otherwise we descend into politics

Achieving Commitment

What we mean here is

  • Clarity around decisions
  • Moving towards complete buy-in from every member of the team – even those who may have initially disagreed with the decision

And going back to conflict – conflict is important to get commitment.  I you or I as the leader impose our decision then what do you think the levels of buy-in and commitment will be like?  If however, we allow constructive conflict and everyone in the team has their say – how much stronger will the but-in and commitment be?

But this is not the same as consensus – or leading by committee.  This will just lead to decisions that are too late and equally dissatisfying for everyone!

Teams without commitment

  • Live in ambiguity regarding directions and priorities
  • Spend too much time in analysis
  • Have limited confidence and are fearing of failures
  • Discuss and review decisions for too long

Are not clear on what was decided


Some ways to begin to overcome lack of commitment:

  • Make sure you enable conflict! Get everyone’s ideas out
  • Explain why going with particular decision –and why not others
  • Communicate!: formulate action plan, communicate quickly and comprehensively
  • Set and honour deadlines, including interim milestones.
  • Contingency and worst case scenario analysis: remove the fear from mistakes


Embracing Accountability

Some of you will recall my recent webinar on accountability – so it might be worth looking it out if you haven’t or refreshing if you have. 

Accountability is overused.  In that webinar I explained accountability is about measuring – about tracking progress not about authority. Lencioni defines it as:

“The willingness of team members to call their peers on performance or behaviours that might hurt the team”

So again it is about tracking and also about bringing to attention of the team.

In this context of effective teams – it is not just about the numbers – it is also about raising concerns over behaviour of other team members

Focusing on Results

If we get everything else right, the ultimate goal of creating cohesive team is to achieve results – but inattention to results can be one of the biggest challenges to team success.  In the context of a cohesive team, results:

  • Refer to the collective goals of the team – not individuals
  • Are not limited to financial measures, but are also related to expectations and outcome based performance

When a team is focused on results in the right way:

  • Team members value collective success more than individual achievement
  • Team members willingly make sacrifices in their areas for the good of the team
  • When the team fails to achieve collective goals, each member takes personal responsibility to improve the team’s performance
  • Team members are quick to point out the contributions and achievements of others

What can you do next?

Well you can put into action some of the ideas raised – beginning with activities to help increase trust amongst the team.

 Click here to listen to Kevin’s webinar on this topic.


If you’d like to assess your team based on the 5 behaviours and gain further insights into how to build your team then you might like to consider The Five Behaviours of a Cohesive Team Assessment Profile which you ca do through BizSmart  just contact