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According to Patrick Lencioni, trust is the most important factor in overcoming the 5 Temptations of a CEO. In his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, he also asserts that trust is needed for an organization to overcome adversity and resolve team dysfunction.

So what dysfunctions do we need to be aware of? According to Lencioni, the five team dysfunctions are as follows:  

1. Inattention to results

Members of dysfunctional teams become distracted from collective goals and instead focus more on the advancement of their individual careers. 

2. Avoidance of Accountability

Employees in this environment feel little or no pressure to improve their performance, and they resent team members who have higher standards.

3. Lack of Commitment

Teams in this category will miss opportunities due to excessive analysis, stalling, second-guessing and unnecessary delay.

4. Fear of Conflict

A culture where conflict is unwelcome creates an opportunity for backroom politics, and total avoidance of important issues. Frustration grows from individual members because they are unable to share their opinions and ideas.

5. Absence of Trust

Weaknesses and vulnerabilities are concealed, mistakes are hidden, and individuals stop asking for - and giving - help to others. There is a failure to tap into one another's skills and expertise.

While the absence of trust is listed as number five on the dysfunctions list, it is in fact the building block upon which all other dysfunctions present themselves. There can be no constructive conflict, commitment, accountability or focus within an organization without trust. It is the one dysfunction that needs to be addressed most urgently.

To illustrate the importance of trust in your organization, let's consider the characteristics of an environment where a high level of trust has been established. In organizations where trust is present, individuals readily ask for help, admit mistakes (and apologize for them), give input, listen actively to the opinions and ideas of others, offer constructive feedback, create a positive atmosphere, and leverage the skill sets of others in the organization.

There are many kinds of trust and all of them are important. Personal trust is the kind that endears someone to you in a social or personal setting. Another kind of trust is expertise-based, where an individual's work is routinely at a high standard and that person develops a reputation for excellence in executing a particular function. This is the kind of person whose work is regularly endorsed. Another kind of trust, which is more difficult to create, is that which can be described as agenda-free. This kind of trust exists when individuals demonstrate that their interactions with one another are without an ulterior motive or agenda.

Creating trust is perhaps the greatest of all challenges, but it is not impossible. It starts when leaders demonstrate vulnerability and carries on from there. It can be established throughout the organization by the exchange of personal stories, group and team exercises, as well as through the use of assessments.

Lencioni's theory is succinct and direct in its illustration. The challenge for CEOs lies in the meaningful implementation of this theory. That is where the work really begins. When leaders take responsibility for the creation of trust, they are on their way to establishing a corporate culture which embraces openness, honesty, mutual respect and understanding. In doing so, they set their businesses up for long-term success.


Larry Hart

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