Does this book address any weaknesses of your nonprofit board?
By Joseph John
Warning: This article isn’t intended to be negative. On the contrary, I write it in the hopes that it may be a wake-up call for nonprofit boards for some bit of reflection. It’s planned to be timely, since this is the time of year that as vacations end many boards are adding new people. Yes, it’s that time of year when many nonprofit boards begin re-focusing on their goals and objectives after several months of non-meetings.
Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is a very good resource and should be read by all chairpersons and members of a nonprofit executive board. It’s easy-to-read, and easy-to-digest; however, like many well-written management/leadership books, the concepts that appear to be elementary are, in reality, the concepts that drive an organization to success. “Elementary?” “Basic?” Maybe. But the tag line Lencioni‘s company uses reinforces the concept: “Simple wisdom for organizations.”
Read the entire book or just excerpts, but guaranteed, it will provide some introspection for you to determine if your organization is running smoothly — or not. The book will also guide you through the steps that need to be taken if any of the Five Dysfunctions seem to be mirrored in your nonprofit organization.
And what are the five dysfunctions Lencioni addresses:
Absence of trust – this occurs when team members are reluctant to be vulnerable with one another and are unwilling to admit their mistakes, weaknesses or needs for help.
Fear of conflict – teams that are lacking on trust are incapable of engaging in unfiltered, passionate debate about key issues, causing situations where team conflict can easily into veiled discussions and back channel discussions.
Lack of commitment – without conflict, it is difficult for team members to commit to decisions, creating an environment where ambiguity prevails.
Avoidance of accountability - when teams don’t commit to a clear plan of actions, even the most focused and driven individuals hesitate to call on their peers on actions and behaviors that may seem counterproductive to the overall good of the team.
Inattention to results – team members naturally tend to put their own needs (ego, career development, recognition, etc.) ahead of the collective goals of the team when individuals aren’t held accountable.
So where do you begin to determine whether or not your team, your nonprofit board, may be dysfunctional? Picture in your mind a triangle, the same shape Lencioni uses as his paradigm. The base of that triangle is absence of trust. Or, if you drew a circle, absence of trust would be in the center with the other four dysfunctions orbiting the #1 dysfunction. Isn’t it interesting that so many interpersonal interactions begin with TRUST? It doesn’t matter what management book you read — all organizations must begin with TRUST.
I leave you with an exercise. Envision the triangle that Lencioni uses. Now, where would you would classify some of the following positive traits of a team — traits which overcome one or more of the five dysfunctions. Oh, by the way. There’s no answer sheet attached to this article. The answers can be found in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.
…minimizes individualistic behavior …benefits from individuals who subjugate their own goals/interests for the good team…avoids distractions
…ensures poor performers feel pressure to improve…establishes respect among team members who are held to the same high standards…identifies potential problems quickly by questioning one another’s approaches without hesitation
…aligns the entire team around common objectives…changes direction without hesitation or guilt…moves forward without hesitation
…have lively interesting meetings…solve real problems quickly…minimize politics
…admit weaknesses and mistakes…ask for help…also offer and accept apologies without hesitation
How well did you do?
So, welcome back from vacation and my wish is that your nonprofit board is ready to work and cooperate with each other by striving to eliminate any dysfunctions that may exist. Your organization, and the communities you serve, will be the better for it.