Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dysfunction 1: Absence of Trust

Absence of Trust resulting from Invulnerability

Synopsis:  If the members of the team can’t share their past experiences and present thoughts, they will not trust each other enough to honestly discuss future goals for the team.


“The first dysfunction is a failure on the part of the team members to understand and open up to one another” (Lencioni, 2002, p.43).
“Great teams do not hold back with one another. They are unafraid to air their dirty laundry. They admit their mistakes, their weaknesses, and their concerns without fear of reprisal” (Lencioni, 2002, p.44).

“Teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability” (Lencioni, 2002, p.63).

“If we don’t trust one another, then we aren’t going to engage in open, constructive, ideological conflict. And we’ll just continue to preserve a sense of artificial harmony”         (Lencioni, 2002, p.91).

Members of teams with an absence of trust... (Lencioni, 2002, p.197)
  • Conceal their weaknesses and mistakes from one another
  • Hesitate to ask for help or provide constructive feedback
  • Hesitate to offer help outside their own areas of responsibility
  • Jump to conclusions about the intentions and aptitudes of others without attempting to clarify them
  • Fail to recognize and tap into one another's skills and experiences
  • Hold grudges
  • Dread meetings and find reasons to avoid spending time together

Members of trusting teams... (Lencioni, 2002, p.197)
  • Admit weaknesses and mistakes
  • Ask for help
  • Accept questions and input about their areas of responsibility
  • Give one another the benefit of the doubt before arriving at a negative conclusion
  • Take risks in offering feedback and assistance
  • Appreciate and tap into one another's skills and experiences
  • Focus time and energy on important issues, not politics
  • Offer and accept apologies without hesitation
  •  Look forward to meetings and other opportunities to work as a group

Suggested methods of increasing trust within a team: (Lencioni, 2002, p.198-200)
  • Personal Histories Exercises - by learning about each team member on a personal level, team members are able to relate on a personal level, which builds trust.  These exercises do not have to be intense, they can be simple background informational activities.
  • Team Effectiveness Exercises - through creating a list of strengths and areas each team member could work on, each team member is left with a list of positive attributes as well as positive, constructive feedback that they can use. Should be done in a controlled environment to ensure most effective, constructive feedback.
  • Personality and Behavioral Preference Profiles - behavior/personality tools such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator help teams understand how each individual contributes and works in individual and team settings.
  • Experiential Team Exercises - things like Outward Bound or various ropes courses can be valuable ways to encourage teamwork and trust both in and outside of the workplace.

What are some ways you have seen teams foster trust to avoid the dysfunction of "Absence of Trust"?
(Please click on the 'comments' below and leave your response)


  1. In one of the schools where I taught, we did an August staff retreat to Breckenridge. Not only did it help to stay overnight and be in a location that was away from school (we really got to know each other better), but one of our exercises during the staff development sessions was a personality indicator test called Colors (I think that is the name). It's similar to the Myers-Briggs although it only gives 4 categories/colors instead of the complex combinations of M-B. Each of the four groups presented information about their "color" in order for the rest of the staff to understand them better. This truly did help with trust and communication throughout the year!

  2. One technique I've witnessed is when a facilitator uses a method to create small group interactions that forces people out of their comfort zones. It engages people to make new acquaintances and learn information about someone they may not normally interact with. Then we took turns introducing one another to the entire group--supplying facts we just learned.

  3. An open door policy and transparency for me are two of the biggest ways to maintain a trusting environment. Meeting off site and staff retreats in my experience are also helpful in rebuilding a trusting environment. I think a change of location can lessen the tension of an office by meeting on neutral turf.

  4. When I was in the Army, we spent a LOT of time doing experiential exercises so that we could trust one another in times of stress.


Add your comments about the above dysfunction and discussion question here.