The Five Characteristics of Cohesive Teams
Nearly 400 years ago, John Donne famously wrote that no person is an island unto him or herself. I think of his poem often – remembering its truth is a great way to remain grounded, humble, and grateful.
Donne’s insight came to mind often as I recently read Patrick Lencioni’s excellent book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. This “leadership fable” describes the fictitious Silicon Valley startup DecisionTech and its untraditional new CEO, Kathryn Petersen. DecisionTech “had the most experienced – and expensive – executive team imaginable, a seemingly indestructible business plan, and more top-tier investors than any young company could hope for.”
And yet, after its “first few euphoric months of existence,” DecisionTech began to falter – so much so that its challenges were becoming existential. At the heart of the problem was a lack of teamwork. Through CEO Kathryn’s initial breaking – and then rebuilding – of the DecisionTech team, Lencioni drives home his fundamental point.
“Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.”
Although the title of his book is stated in the negative, I prefer to think of Lencioni’s insights in the positive – something he himself advocates in the later “Model” section of his book. As Lencioni puts it, members of highly effective and cohesive teams:
- Trust one another.
- Engage in unfiltered conflict around ideas.
- Commit to decisions and plans of action.
- Hold one another accountable for delivering against those plans.
- Focus on the achievement of collective results.
There is much to unpack here, and Lencioni does so admirably and memorably through the novel and effective use of storytelling at the beginning of his book. In my judgment, it should be required reading for all lawyers.
At Level 2 Legal, we take the creation and health of our teams very seriously – both those that are client facing and those that are internal. When we find a team that works, we stick with it – to the long-term advantage of our clients. Come back to us in two years with a new project for a former client, or with a new phase of discovery on a dormant project, and it is highly likely that most of the old team members can be reassembled.
That kind of team continuity is simply unheard of in our larger industry, but it’s the norm here at Level 2 Legal. And it’s one of the reasons why the highest compliment we receive not from one – but from many – of our clients is that we operate as a seamless extension of their own client service teams. It’s an honor – and a responsibility – that we never take for granted. Click below to get in touch with one of our eDiscovery experts.