Are you a leader or member of a team/organization that’s broken – or maybe starting to unravel? If so, you’re not alone. Research has found that up to 75% of cross-functional teams are dysfunctional. Stress brought on by the COVID pandemic, including moving to remote working almost overnight, has been overwhelming. While there is no magic formula, successful leaders will invest time and energy to uncover the best strategy that leverages the team’s potential.

In the book “5 Dysfunctions of a Team,” author Pat Lencioni outlines five of the most common issues that teams experience. These include:

  • Absence of trust: team members don’t feel safe about their future which prevents building trust within the team
  • Fear of conflict: in order to preserve artificial harmony, team members avoid productive conflict
  • Lack of commitment: a lack of clarity or buy-in prevents team members from making decisions they will stick to
  • Avoiding accountability: the desire to avoid interpersonal discomfort prevents people from holding each other accountable
  • Personal agendas: the pursuit of individual goals and personal status erodes the focus on collective success

Identifying the root cause of the problem is the key here…and it’s important to understand that several of these dysfunctions may be part of the dynamic. If you’ve been part of a group in need of serious repair for a long time or you’re feeling like you’re just starting to spiral downward, here are five things to address:

  1. Seek to understand. The most important step after you’ve identified the root cause of the problem is to understand the various issues around it. I’ve found that many kinds of assessment tools – such as ShadowmatchExtraordinary Groups, the Myers-Briggs test, and  DISC assessments– can give us insights about ourselves and the teams we work with every day. These insights can be profoundly impactful to both individuals AND teams and can provide another set of solutions to fix what’s broken.
  2. Be honest and transparent about the issues. Don’t try to move forward as quickly as possible without giving people a “say.” That doesn’t mean you have to dwell in the negative, but sometimes hearing directly from frustrated team members themselves will help you move forward more quickly.
  3. Don’t focus just on the team. Most organizations have inherent processes, standard operating procedures, and systems that can sometimes be a huge part of the problem. Don’t ignore the infrastructure around the way people work – it can set the team up for success or be a huge obstacle in the way.
  4. Create a tactical action plan. Don’t leave any discussion, workshop, or alignment session without it. Each individual and team should have a list of things they will do differently and an understanding of how they will demonstrate their commitment to making the change.
  5. Follow-up and hold people accountable. Make sure you follow-up and revisit how well things are going a few months after your team alignment work is complete. Did the team change the things they said they were going to do? You should expect some adjustments but also plan for some of the issues and obstacles to be out of the way.

Sheri Browning is a Partner at PeopleResults and loves helping leaders and teams go from dysfunctional to success. You can reach her at or on Twitter @sbPResults.