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Beyond the Five (5) Dysfunctions of a team in Denver: Trust; does your team really have it?

I recently delivered the first day of a “Beyond the Five (5) Dysfunctions of a Team” training for an IT team in Denver. We spent a lot of time working on and discussing the issue of trust on their team. Trust is sometimes hard to define and even harder to create when it is not there or has been broken. What are the keys to developing, creating and keeping trust in a team and why is it so vital to a cohesive team?

Patrick Lencioni, in his best selling book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, identifies trust and the foundation for a successful team. We could go beyond that and say that trust is the foundation of any successful relationship, and that trust is part of developing high emotional intelligence, which is critical to effective leadership. How Lencioni defines trust is important. Essentially, he says that Trust is a function of Vulnerability. Now, before you run yelling “touchy-feely” down the hall, let me explain. In order to have an extraordinary team, you have to know that each person on that team has your back, will support you and encourage your development. That means that you have to trust them with knowing what you are NOT good at (your weaknesses and challenges), so that your team is not spending time defending egos, advocating for positions, covering up mistakes and pointing fingers at each other.

The team that I recently worked with had an “aha” moment around trust that I would like to share. We were working with the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) as part of the training and were starting to talk about conflict and our history with conflict. As Lencioni asserts, how we dealt with conflict in our families has a HUGE impact on how we deal with conflict now. We either handle conflict the same way our families did, or we do our best to do things differently. As the facilitator, I was setting the tone for the level of vulnerability that I was encouraging the group to share. I said, in my family, conflict was not welcomed and explained that my dad had a temper and the rest of us did our best to keep the peace and not rock the boat. Part of the reason why I teach conflict management is to help people find a productive way of dealing with conflict to do things differently than what MY family did. This wasn’t hugely vulnerable, but I was sharing something from my life that explains about who I am and why I do what I do.

As I was about to invite the rest of the group to share their history with conflict, one of the team members cracked a joke and laughed at what I had said in a way that was what I call “throwing a rock.” I had observed that the group members regularly teased each other and subtly put each other down in the group, and so I took this opportunity using myself as an example, to point out the impact this behavior could have on the team and how it could erode trust. Even though a few members may enjoy this kind of “banter,” the little digs and rock throwing absolutely create an environment where it is NOT safe to be vulnerable and share mistakes or weaknesses.

As we dove into this topic, two of the team members, including the Director, realized that they contributed to this potentially unsafe environment and set goals at the end of the day to work on creating a more supportive work environment. (I will let you know how it went after our part two training in a month!). Here are some of the specifics that came out of our work.

  1. The leader MUST set the example for vulnerability in the group. This includes sharing his/her mistakes and asking for feedback from the team.
  2. There must be an agreement among group members to help create a supportive environment and to CALL IT OUT when something happens during team interactions that takes away from the trust in the group.  Ask: is this building or taking away from trust in the group?
  3. The team needs to agree on a method for regularly giving each other positive and constructive feedback as a way to create a norm for building trust.
  4. The group must engage actively in activities that will help build trust such as training, team building activities, informal get togethers, etc.

Here is the first part of our Beyond the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team questionnaire that you can answer to see how well your team scores on the Trust index:

1. I feel comfortable showing my “weaknesses” to my team

o 1    o 2    o 3    o 4    o 5

2. I know that my team mates have the team’s best interests at heart instead of personal agendas

o 1    o 2    o 3    o 4    o 5

3. People feel safe to share their thoughts and ideas – even if their thoughts are contrary to what leadership has said

o 1    o 2    o 3    o 4    o 5

4. Our team believes that it is more important to foster creativity than to be right

o 1    o 2    o 3    o 4    o 5

5. I give my all for the team effort because I know others have my back

o 1    o 2    o 3    o 4    o 5

6. I feel enough trust to be vulnerable and open with my team

o 1    o 2    o 3    o 4    o 5

7. People feel safe to take risks with developing and presenting innovative ideas

o 1    o 2    o 3    o 4    o 5

8. Our team members give each other honest feedback about our strengths and challenges

o 1    o 2    o 3    o 4    o 5

9. Constructive feedback is received as an opportunity to grow and is not taken personally

o 1    o 2    o 3    o 4    o 5

If you would like support for your team in working Beyond the Five (5) Dysfunctions of a Team in Denver contact us at We are passionate about building extraordinary teams.

To your Growth!

Jeannie Gunter, MA
President, Transformative Training




Jeannie Gunter, MA

Jeannie Gunter, MA

Founder, Transformative Solutions

303 653-3097

Jeannie works with a wide variety of clients to help them increase their team effectiveness and leadership capacity in their teams. She has worked both nationally and internationally as an organizational consultant, facilitator, speaker and wilderness guide.

With a strong background in group dynamics, over the past 20 years Jeannie has guided hundreds of teams in a wide variety of organizations to successful outcomes in team, personal and professional development.


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