When Teams Don’t Commit

Dysfunctional teams cannot be blamed for all business failures, but they play a major role in unsuccessful projects and missed goals. In his acclaimed bestseller, organizational consultant Patrick Lencioni identifies The Five Dysfunctions of a Team:

  1. Absence of trust
  2. Fear of conflict
  3. Lack of commitment
  4. No accountability
  5. Lack of attention to results

 No team functions well without trust in their leaders. Equally important is trust among team members. Without trust, people don’t openly debate the issues and explore new ideas.  Worse, lack of trust leads to complacency, consensus and groupthink where everyone just “goes along to get along”.  There is no real commitment and no accountability to each other. In the end, teams are distracted and lose focus on the results they were designed to achieve.

Lack of Commitment in Teams

When teams lack trust and fear conflict, they’re likely to avoid commitment. Instead, they focus on self-preservation and maintaining amicable relationships. As people attempt to avoid confrontation, they stop listening to others’ concerns. Discussions become superficially polite.  For example, I hear about this a lot in coaching sessions.  Most people can sense when someone isn’t listening to their ideas or questions.  This single dynamic―often subtle―will shut down team engagement and commitment, and tension continues to grow.

Teammates who are cut off or ignored feel left out. They’re less committed to team effort, so they’re unlikely to “get with the program.” It becomes difficult for a team to move forward amid stalled decisions or incomplete assignments. Enthusiasm for projects takes a nosedive, and confrontations become commonplace. Some members even stop caring about whether the team succeeds.

Lack of commitment also becomes a problem when you fail to convey clear goals or direction. People are left to wonder what they’re supposed to do, and the team’s success is no longer their top priority. They mentally check out and just start going through the motions.

You can re-establish commitment by prompting team members to ask questions. When you invite dialogue, teammates learn more about each other. They’ll see others’ intentions, attitudes, motives and mindsets more clearly, eliminating the need to guess or assume.

Successful team leaders solicit all opinions, positions and ideas, while affirming those who offer them. They make a point of considering all input, which conveys a sense of worthiness to team members.  When teams have clear plans and directions, members become infused with confidence and commitment. People want to be led in ways that assure success and fulfillment.

What happens where you work? I’d love to hear from you. I can be reached here and on LinkedIn.