How to Overcome a Dysfunctional Team

Posted by  Shaun Fitzgibbons on 07/10/2017

There a number of core dysfunctions that can undermine even the most talented teams. While there many books written about this topic, Patrick Lencioni’s best selling business book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, is a team management guide that describes the most common pitfalls of any team.

The same business dysfunctions are prevalent in sports, and this book has even been used by coaches in the National Football League. Here are four ways to overcome a dysfunctional team using quotes from Lencioni’s book.



“If everything is important, then nothing is.”

Begin every season with the practice of setting individual and program-wide goals. One dysfunction that can creep into your team is a lack of focus or direction by not having established goals in place. The best way overcome this common misstep is to use the popular SMART goal method.

This method is about outlining your objectives so that they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Keeping those five constraints in mind will help build a framework of success for your program. One way to keep track of those goals is by using a Team Goal Board, so that all objectives are in one, convenient place.


“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.”

Another issue that teams run into is a lack of accountability. Players care about themselves and they don’t worry how their play affects the team. Accountability is crucial for the larger team dynamic as your athletes can start to identify their own mistakes, learn from them, and make the team stronger.

Just as you can use a team goal board to track season-long or weekly goals, it can also be used to hold different sections of the team accountable. For example, you can set defensive passing yards allowed goals for the defensive backs on a football team. This instills accountability and brings those players together.


“When there is trust, conflict becomes nothing but the pursuit of truth, an attempt to find the best possible answer.”

Conflict in sports is inevitable. Not only will those conflicts happen on the field with your opponent, it can seep into the locker room and divide the team. Open communication is the best way to turn disagreements into constructive discussions for the betterment of the team. Once there is a foundation of trust, your team will be able to voice their opinions without the fear of retribution.

There are a multitude of activities and preparations that your coaching staff can make to prevent these issues. Taking all five of Lencioni’s dysfunctions of a team into account, your program will be better prepared to succeed this season.

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