World-renowned author and leadership consultant Patrick Lencioni’s company, The Table Group, has partnered with educational publisher Wylie to release ‘The Five Behaviours of a Cohesive Team powered by DiSC’ product. This structured team-building package is a powerful addition to the toolkit of any coach or facilitator looking to maximise team performance. Here is some background on 5BCT+DiSC, and suggestions on how to get the most out of it when working with teams.
Criticism of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
Patrick Lencioni’s bestselling book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is used the world over by organisational development experts, facilitators and coaches to help build high performing teams. However, there have always been two key criticisms of Lencioni’s work. First, positive psychology ‘purists’ take issue with the negative framing implicit in the title (to which my response is: “Get over it.”). The second criticism, however, is more valid: while The Five Dysfunctions of a Team does a great job of describing the behaviours of a high performing team, the book provides scant detail on how to actually get a team to adopt them.
DiSC: Personality Type is only part of the Answer
DiSC is a widely-used personality instrument. However it’s narrow focus – how the team’s various personality types impact on team performance – is useful, but not comprehensive. There is more to why teams behave in the way they do than just personality interactions.
A Powerful Combination
The Five Behaviours of a Cohesive Team powered by DiSC (5BCT+DiSC) brings Lencioni’s work and DiSC together and addresses all of the issues above. It is a welcome addition to the team coach’s toolkit. It’s up-beat framing means the more pedantic positive psychology practitioners can stop hyper-ventilating. More importantly, this detailed and well-structured set of materials provides a clear roadmap that facilitators and coaches can use to help create cohesive, high-performing teams. It makes Lencioni’s theory practically applicable, and the inclusion of Wiley’s widely-used DiSC personality profile adds a valuable dimension to the solution as well. Both The Five Behaviours and DiSC are straightforward to understand and have high ‘face-validity’. That is, when you share them with teams, there are always plenty of nods around the room as people go “Yes, I’ve definitely see that dynamic play out” or “Aaah, that’s why James and I often don’t see eye-to-eye”. It’s a powerful combination.
Suggestions for when – and how – to use The Five Behaviours of a Cohesive Team powered by DiSC
For those considering the product, I offer three pieces of advice:
1) Consider whether team coaching is the right intervention 0r not;
2) Include real-world issues in the program’s design; and
3) Ensure the coach has the capability and credibility to work with the group.
Will Team Coaching Be Effective?
As with any team-based coaching intervention, the first question that should be asked is “Is team coaching the right solution in this situation?”. In many cases, the team’s lack of cohesion is being driven by other systemic factors that need to be addressed first, before team coaching can have an impact. An even more basic question is “Is this actually a team at all, or is it group?” (if it’s the latter, then team coaching is unlikely to be effective).
The late Gene Hackman and Ruth Wageman from MIT’s pioneering work on this topic is a must-read. They show that the system and structure around a team has a far greater impact on team performance than team coaching itself. The timing of the coaching intervention in the team’s lifecycle is also crucially important. Team coaching tends to only be effective at the start, the midpoint and the end of a team’s lifecycle, and is largely ineffectual in between. Careful thought needs to be given to these factors when planning a team coaching intervention, which is why it is generally best for the coach to work with the team’s leader first, to ensure that the right conditions are put in place before any team coaching starts.
Address real-world business issues
While The Five Behaviours of a Cohesive Team powered by DiSC works well ‘out of the box’, it is far more impactful if the coach integrates some real-world business challenges into the intervention design. Asking any team – and particularly an executive team – to set aside one or two days to improve how they work together is not realistic if that time is not also spent addressing some of the actual business challenges that team faces. This requires the coach to customise the program structure to weave in some ‘real-world’ work. It’s also a great way to get sceptical participants to buy-in:
“Two days working on being a better team? Sounds like a waste of my time.”
“Two days improving how operate as a team, as we work out how best to expand into Asia? Sounds valuable!”
This is yet another reason why it is so important for the coach to spend time with the CEO/team leader to carefully co-create the structure of the engagement. It is also best to speak with each of the attendees beforehand to gain their perspectives on both the team’s performance and the business challenges it faces. This helps refine the program design, and also starts to generate buy-in for the intervention before it starts.
A car is still only as good as its driver
Ultimately, this process requires skill on the part of the coach and relies on her or his capacity to credibly engage with the participants. Whatever team-building instrument is used – whether it be 5BCT+DiSC, Human Synergistics’ products, The Leadership Circle, Hogan or any other evidence-based instrument – the success of the intervention still heavily relies on the capability of the coach to engage with the team and earn their respect. The Five Behaviours of a Cohesive Team powered by DiSC is an excellent product, but it requires a capable coach to bring it to life.
A final thought: The Five Behaviours of a Cohesive Team powered by the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator
There is a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator version of the product as well, for coaches who favour the MBTI personality instrument over DiSC. While I’m certified in MBTI and find it to be highly effective in one-to-one or one-to-two coaching (such as where there are co-MDs), it is a more complex instrument than DiSC, and can be harder for participants to ‘get their heads around’. When working with a team, and where you don’t have a lot of time to spend on going through the instrument, I prefer working with DiSC. Explaining why someone with a strong preference for Dominance might conflict with a colleague who prefers Steadiness is easy. Explaining why someone with an Extraverted-Sensate-Thinking-Judging personality preference might clash with a colleague with an Introverted-Intuitive-Feeling-Perceiving personality preference requires a far more complex explanation. DiSC works better in short, sharp team interventions, where there is a lot of material to cover in a relatively short period of time, and where the participants are less interested in the theory and prefer to focus on achieving outcomes.
Revel Gordon is a Sydney-based Executive Coach and Team Coach who helps individuals, teams and organisations facing – or driving – digital disruption and change.