The five behaviours of a cohesive team: Understanding the Lencioni model

Group of hands coming together

Building a cohesive team can drive forward collaboration and lead to greater success. So, how can managers unlock greater team maturity and alignment using the Lencioni model? Let’s take a look…

Most teams within the workplace will face obstacles on their road to success. While some will be external problems the team has little control over, many internal teamwork issues can arise and halt progress. From a lack of trust to avoidance of accountability, teamworking challenges can sometimes be difficult to overcome without the right direction.

The Lencioni model offers advice for how to steer your team towards working more cohesively by positively using common challenging behaviours. In this guide, we’ll delve into how the model works, and how it can be used to educate new managers on building team cohesion.

What is the Lencioni model?

Also known as the Five Dysfunctions of a Team – the Lencioni model picks out five common problem behaviours that, when maximised, can pave the way for an efficiently and effectively operating team. The behaviours interlink to form a pyramid structure, starting with trust behaviours at the base and ending with results behaviours at the top.

In theory, each behaviour must be tackled in turn to achieve cohesion. This means that if one or more are lacking along the way, the team will often need to start from scratch again.

Leaders striving to create a unified team should prioritise working on the five behaviours in Lencioni’s model.

What are the five behaviours, and how can managers use these to build team cohesion?

As we’ve mentioned, there are five key behaviours to address within Lencioni’s model.

These behaviours include:

  • Trust
  • Conflict
  • Commitment
  • Accountability
  • Results


Below, we’ll guide you through the dysfunctions of these behaviours and how managers can turn these around to fully optimise team cohesion.


Three employees sat at a meeting table having a discussion


According to Lencioni’s model, an absence of trust is the first major barrier to overcome when trying to achieve a cohesive workplace.

One of the key aspects of trust is vulnerability, which can take the form of skills deficiencies, weaknesses, and having to ask for help. Until all team members feel confident and comfortable that their vulnerabilities can’t and won’t be used against them, trust can’t be achieved – and progress can’t be made.

How can trust behaviours build team cohesion?

It’s important to remember that trust isn’t gained overnight. Trust often builds up slowly as individuals begin to feel safe and comfortable around one another – so the process takes time. Patience is therefore key when trying to gain trust where there currently isn’t any within a team.

Lencioni suggests trying the following to build trust:

  • Team-effectiveness exercises – Such as team-building retreats designed to build team bonding and trust.
  • Personality and behavioural profiler tests – Personality tests can help to identify why people approach tasks in the way that they do. Understanding this can lead to a more productive employee.
  • Leaders sharing vulnerabilities ahead of team members.
  • Encouraging open and honest discussion about weaknesses.


Trying out these activities can help build a layer of trust between team members and the leadership currently in place. It can also ensure everyone understands where strengths and weaknesses lie within the team, which can be useful later down the line when deciding who should shoulder responsibility for different aspects of a project.


Conflict can be tricky to overcome since it can cause interpersonal relationships to break down. However, constructive conflict can be a positive behaviour within the workplace environment since it encourages honesty and transparency.

Teams with a fear of conflict will often suffer from a lack of innovation and make poor decisions as a result of members being afraid to voice opposing opinions.


Business diversity - A multi ethnicity team in discussion

Business diversity – A multi ethnicity team in discussion

How can conflict behaviours build team cohesion?

Rather than something negative to shy away from, it’s worth establishing that conflict can sometimes be a positive thing. When conflict is used correctly within the workplace, it can lead to open discussions where all points of view can be considered, and feedback is offered and encouraged by all involved.

The Lencioni model offers some helpful suggestions for turning conflict into a positive:

  • Acknowledging the conflict, rather than ignoring it
  • Encouraging and engaging in healthy debates to resolve conflict
  • Allowing natural resolutions to surface over time


Without clarity of purpose, it can be difficult for team members to commit to decisions. This can lead to poor decision-making and ambiguity about goals and objectives.

A lack of commitment from team members can often prevail when leaders offer little direction, leaving everyone in the dark about deadlines, meetings, and goals, both short-term and long-term.

How can commitment behaviours build team cohesion?

One of the main things that leaders must remember at this stage is that if they miss a deadline or fail to complete a task within an agreed timeline, then this can break the pre-established trust. Establishing clarity in decision-making and closure can ensure that honesty and openness remain secure.

Lencioni suggests a few effective tools for building commitment:

  • Encourage clarity around everything
  • Set and enforce clear deadlines
  • Document everything from meeting agendas to project objectives
  • Avoid vagueness and ambiguity in your approach


Accountability can be one of the most difficult behaviours for a team to master. It relies on team members feeling comfortable and confident enough to call one another out on actions and behaviours that seem counterproductive to the goals set out.

When teams lack accountability, it can set the team back in their success. Commitment, trust, and honesty can all fall apart at this stage if leaders don’t take the right approach.


Mature man looking at a digital tablet that a colleague is showing at work

Mature man looking at a digital tablet that a colleague is showing at work

How can accountability behaviours build team cohesion?

While most teams won’t ever reach a point where every member can hold others accountable, it’s important to foster this behaviour to ensure everyone remains on the same page about meeting goals and deadlines.

With trust, honesty, and clarity, it should be easier to hold everyone accountable for their role in the team’s success without hurting any feelings. Empathy is key at this stage.

Lencioni suggests that leaders do the following to establish accountability:

  • Addressing issues sensitively but directly, as they arise
  • Avoiding pointing blame at individuals
  • Taking time to find out why tasks aren’t being completed or deadlines are being missed


An inattention to the results often stems from team members naturally putting their own needs and goals first. Because of this, it can be difficult to overcome the final hurdle and achieve the team objectives.

Individual goals can include personal growth and a need for recognition, which can be difficult to set aside at this stage.

How can results behaviours build team cohesion?

Once the individuals begin to tackle this final dysfunctional behaviour, they have almost succeeded in creating a cohesive team dynamic. If the prior behaviours are functioning correctly, each team member should be entirely focused on how the entire team can stride towards hitting their goals.

Leaders can try the following to ensure the group is results-oriented:

  • Reminding the team of the bigger picture
  • Revisiting the ultimate reason why the team exists in the first place
  • Introducing rewards for achievement
  • Creating visuals to show how well the team is performing


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