The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

The pyramid

The Five Dysfunctions is a business fable, which while it sounds cheesy (and maybe it is), the story really helps the message stick. I’ve read a few books like this and I’m starting to prefer the format to any other. Humans are hardwired to enjoy stories; it feels like a natural way to learn.

There’s a lot written about this book elsewhere, so I won’t try to do a full summary, but here are a few of my takeaways:

  • A management team should establish a common goal and a shared commitment to it. Emphasis on the shared–all departments should have buy in and be committed to it. Marketing should be committed to goals that are primarily engineering oriented. Product should commit to a goal primarily focused on the support team.
  • As a manger, the team you put first is the team of your peers. It seems counterintuitive, but it’s the only way to have unity as a whole business. When management is on the same page, the big problems can be solved as a team. The the team that works for you is obviously important, but as rough as it sounds, it has to come second.
  • Have healthy conflict. Conflict shouldn’t be avoided. When it happens, if the team trusts each other enough to have intense disagreement and still not lose sight of the fact that everyone is going towards a common goal, it’s a sign that the conflict is healthy.
  • Holding people accountable is almost never comfortable, but learning to do it anyway is a requirement for a leader.

Bring Solutions

When you don’t know what to do…

Organize your best ideas and present them to your manager or leader and let them choose from your list of 2 or 3 proposed solutions or suggest one of their own.

If you don’t have any good ideas, before you complain or ask for help, use whatever resources you have to get some ideas or at least next steps. If you can’t figure anything out, have a concise list of steps you’ve already taken ready to go before you ask for help.

Your manager will almost certainly notice and appreciate this and, when it comes time for choosing a leader, they’ll remember who always comes to them with answers.


Notes on The 21 Immutable Laws of Leadership

This post is an export of the notes I took while watching a YouTube lecture series by John C. Maxwell on what he calls The 21 Immutable Laws of Leadership.

1. The Law of the Lid

Leadership determines the highest level of effectiveness. Everything rises and falls based on leadership.

Maxwell tells a story about the first thing a certain hedge fund does after taking over a bankrupt company: they train all the leaders and fire the president. The reason?

“If the president was good, the company wouldn’t be bankrupt”

Rank yourself, and rank the lid numbers of those around you.

2. The Law of Influence

The true measure of leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less.

  • Position – lowest level of leadership. “Rights” are granted to you and people follow you because they have to.
  • Permission – relationships. People follow you because they want to.
  • Production – results. People follow you because of what you’ve done for the organization
  • People – reproduction. People follow you because of what you’ve done for them.
  • Personhood – respect. You’ve done it for so long that people respect you. The highest level of leadership.