Patrick Lencioni: 5 Dysfunctions Of A Virtual Team

a face emerges from a computer monitor

Most leaders are familiar with Lencioni’s book, but how does it apply to virtual meetings?

How do you keep a team engaged and running when your meetings are all online? In a recent webinar, The Table Group Founder, Organizational Expert and Author Patrick Lencioni addressed that subject by applying his five dysfunctions of a team to a virtual team. “We’re going to emerge from this better than we were before as organizations or worse off than we were before. We’re going to either come out of this healthier or unhealthier.” It comes down to the behavior of the leader of the organization.

Here are his suggestions for creating a cohesive leadership team in a virtual world:


“In a virtual setting, we’re all sitting in our homes, and building trust will have a slightly different look,” says Lencioni. “Zoom calls are not meeting tools. Zoom calls are discussion and conversation and social interaction. The key to making this work right now is taking the time to do it well. Ignore efficiency for the sake of effectiveness. And, ignore professionalism for the sake of personalism,” says Lencioni.

Avoid just getting down to business in your Zoom call. Instead, says Jeff Gibson, a consultant at The Table Group, “Amp up the vulnerability because driving trust is vulnerability.” Gibson says to spend time talking about family and how everyone is doing right now. Rather than a happy hour or a quick check-in, find the happy medium between professional and personal.


“If you’re not taking care of the people who work for you, all of that external communication is not important. It’s not going to yield the results you need,” says Lencioni. “A big Zoom call with 1,000 employees is fine, but if you’re doing that and not sitting down for a few hours with each person on your team, and doing that regularly, it doesn’t make sense.”


This pandemic has slowed us all down. “The more you know about the people you work with, the more empathic you’re going to be, and the less likely you are to assign intentions to them that aren’t there,” says Gibson.


“The fear of conflict destroys teams, and that’s true now as much as ever. It’s a crisis in our business and the world. People are pretty upset, but we need to make good decisions. And the only way to do that is first by trusting each other so that we will have good conflict. If people are holding back and they’re not debating with one another, and they’re not arguing a little bit, then they’re not going to make good decisions,” says Lencioni.

And, this means healthy conflict during virtual meetings too.

“As a leader, if you imagine nine faces on the screen, you have to be so intentional about watching those faces and looking for people that might be disagreeing, because you have to disagree and commit. We talk about that all the time concerning the team, but as a leader, you have to actively mine for conflict, because again, it’s just not going to happen naturally the same way as when you might be in a room,” says Gibson.


Gibson says you should not let people mute or shut off the video. This is a time for increased personalism—not increased professionalism. And part of that personalism is us just being with one another. We know distractions (kids, dogs, etc.) are going to happen, but your ability to understand somebody’s leaning into a conversation is vital,” he says.

To listen to the entire webinar,


This article originally appeared in the May 2020 issue of the REAL Trends Newsletter. It is reprinted with permission of REAL Trends, Inc. Copyright © 2020. To read the rest of this issue & more, please visit our Real Trends page online.


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