The Fear of Conflict

The second of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is fear of conflict. If board members don’t trust each other enough to be willing to be vulnerable with each other – to be comfortable that they are appreciated as a person – there is apt to be a fear of conflict within the board. Board members may feel that if they express a concern or a divergent view they are risking their acceptance by their colleagues.

This fear of conflict can lead to poor decision-making. Material problems may be swept under the rug and ignored to avoid hurt feelings or personal attacks. The views of outspoken, yet uninformed, board members may heavily influence board decisions without all of the important facts being voiced. When board members are afraid to verbalize helpful information due to the possibility – or even likelihood – of negative fallout, the board’s mediocre or poor decisions handicap the organization.

The Absence of Trust

“The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” model points out that the foundation of an effective team is trust. Stephen M. R. Covey’s book, “The Speed of Trust”, also attest to this. When there is an absence of meaningful trust the board will not function as a cohesive, effective team.

The most significant element of trust that enables a group to be an effective team is vulnerability or transparency. Board members need to know about each others’ backgrounds and life experiences, understand how each person is wired, and appreciate what each other brings to the board table. Being transparent with each other, rather than wearing facades, sets the stage for board members to accept each other as worthy human beings.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Board Team

In his bestselling book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”, Pat Lencioni explains five common elements of ineffective work groups. This fable also illustrates what teams can do to become effective in each of the five disciplines. Since effective boards are highly functional teams, these five dysfunctions apply to them as well.

A team can be defined as a group of people who work together to achieve common goals. Boards have the legal responsibility to lead the organization by making high end decisions that direct the organization’s future and protect the owners’ interests. Unfortunately, many boards are dysfunctional teams.