The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

I bought this book titled “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni on Saturday. It was an extremely light book to read and I completed it within 3 hours. The book is written as a leadership fable, which means it is in a story form and easy to digest. The story follows how a new CEO observed how dysfunctional her team was and set out to change things. Naturally, at the end of the story, all was well.

But I am writing because the story seemed to reflect the way my workplace is now. Not the dysfunctional part, but the things that we do or are told to do are similar to what the CEO does to build her team. This means that my workplace had it all thought out and provided the resources and efforts required to make us less dysfunctional. So much so that if we are still dysfunctional, it would be our fault and not the organisation’s. And if you know where I work for, you would understand that there are many complaints about it. However, my opinion is that it is the people that made it this way and if we want to change the organisation, we should change from within.

The story starts off with a series of retreats being planned where they discuss personality types. In the fable, the Myers-Briggs personality model was discussed. People talk about one another’s personality and how they would like to be treated. Drawing a parallel to my workplace, we had sessions called the Command Effectiveness Programme where the boss bring us all together to chart the way ahead for the next year. In this programme, we go through a personality “test” called the Tetra Elements. Briefly speaking, the test groups us into one of the four elements and each elements have some specific personality and character. Each element have a special way of doing things and a preferred way of being approached. That the reactions you get from your colleagues are based on their personality and not what you think by standing in your own shoes.

I won’t go into detail of what the five dysfunctions are, but I will briefly talk about the few which had impacted me.

The first is “Absence of Trust”. Trust does not mean the belief that your colleague will do the things he need to do. Trust is a little less straightforward in this example, but what it means is that you do not feel comfortable enough to have constructive criticism and discussions with one another. Meetings are spent feeling bored because people keep to themselves. They do not trust each other well enough to voice out; nor do they trust each other well enough to know it will be appreciated or taken the right way.

When I first read the “Absence of Trust” chapter, I thought that it was quite an easy dysfunction and that it does not happen in the workplace. But upon further thought, this is the bedrock of how we have been conducting ourselves for the longest time. Most teams we form do not have “trust” in them. People still feel guarded and do not contribute. I reckon part of it is due to our Asian values and the other part is the structure; the rank that tells you he is your boss and hence he knows best.

As leaders we need to foster “trust”, but it is not an easy task. We need to build the culture and show that it is alright to have constructive criticism. That no criticism only leads to failure and not team success.

The next and final dysfunction that impacted me the most is “Absence of Accountability”. Without trust, we don’t criticise. We don’t exert accountability on people and make them responsible for their actions. This “Absence of Accountability” can happen because of two reasons. First, the person is someone you didn’t want to bother about. You do not feel close to the person to want to hold him accountable. You might be afraid that he will lash out and conflict will arise.

Secondly, it can happen because the person is someone who had contributed a lot but had that one little time where he didn’t perform well, but nobody held him accountable. It is difficult to criticise someone who had put their heart and soul into something. But if you do not hold him accountable for his misgivings, he might not be able to learn and overcome this weakness of his. It doesn’t matter what type of person he is; we have to hold everyone accountable. Thing is, to do it in a respectful way.

I am quite glad that I can rattle off 2 out of 5 dysfunctions easily to a certain depth. It might mean that I have slightly internalised the lessons. With the lessons on the five dysfunctions, I will try to build a team who will work for one another and bring us into greater heights.

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William Bernhardt’s Dark Eye

This is the second book I have read from author William Bernhardt, and it preceeds the first book I read titled “Strip Search“. It’s a continuation based on the criminal psychologist and the autistic guy.

This time, the book Dark Eye is about this very sick man who’s suffering because of an early child abuse. He believes that by killing girls and sacrificing them, he will usher in the end of the world and into paradise. He chooses girls properly, following the stories wrote by Edgar Allan Poe, and murders them in the way the stories said. One girl is caught because she dyes her hair, wears fake nails and makeup. She ends up like one of the stories where the person is buried alive, except she didn’t make it out alive like the story.

Another notable victim is a girl who works at a dirty bar giving lap dances and well, extra services.

Susan Pulaski, the crimial psychologist, was sacked due to a drinking problem, and now works instead under a contact based job for the police. Together with the Chief’s autistic son Darcy, she investigates the crime and tries to find out the motive behind, whilst struggling with her alcohol problem at the same time.

She eventually ends up getting kidnapped by the psycho, and had nude photos of her taken in lewd positions. Eventually she is rescued by Darcy who finds out a deliberate clue left by the psycho. The psycho had wanted to just teach Susan a lesson, and he considers Susan the perfect vessel to carry out his final act of “deliverance”.

Eventually as more and more girls go missing, the heat is on the police to do something, except that the police has no clues. With Susan’s brain and Darcy’s help, Susan eventually narrowed down the location of the psycho, and rescues 4 girls including her very own niece whose supposed to replace Susan as the vessel.

This book is an exciting book and it has made me look for William Bernhardt’s book when I go to the library. However I think I can only find Dark Eye and Strip Search that belongs to stories with Susan and Darcy. Older William Bernhardt’s books have a different protagonist, Ben who is a lawyer.

Note: Written on Jul 25, 2008

The Book Of Names

This novel’s central plot lies with this thing called “The Book Of Names”, and the religion behind it is closely linked to Madonna. Yes it’s Kabbala. Apparently, there are 36 special people in every generation, and the world will not end as long as these 36 people are alive. The thing is that the names of each generation’s 36 people have been written down since Adam’s time. It is through the good deeds that these 36 special people do that keeps the world from destruction.

The book has been found recently, but by evil hands. The Gnoseos, a group of people who wants to challenge God, has gotten it’s hands on the book of names, and is using the computer’s superior capabilities to find the names of each of the 36 people of this current generation, and the names are hidden in the book. At the start of the entire novel, The Gnoseos have killed 33 and only 3 remaining. They have to find the remaining 3 names and kill them to start the end of the world.

As more and more of the 36 are killed, the world falls into chaos. Natural disasters like wildfires start appearing. Think “The Day After Tomorrow” and you’ll be somewhat there. The mission now is to find out who the remaining 3 people are and save them.

David Shepard, a professor and the protagonist of the story, finds himself entangled in these whole issue when he realizes that the headaches he has gotten is giving him information. Everytime he has an headache, he writes down a name, and he finds out that these people are killed and did not die by natural causes. By talking to his priest, he starts a journey to find the remaining 3 names and save them, but when he does, he finds that the first non-dead name he comes out with is that of his step daughter.

Through the story, David has to evade the evil people, who have infiltrated many positions like ministers of a country or the ambassadors wife. He ends up having to find out the secret code to find out the names of the evil people from his diary, using the same method as how the evil people are finding the 36 names.

This book is pretty nice and exciting and it’s currently quite difficult to find it on the bookshelves because people are reserving it. The authors are Jill Gregory and Karen Tintori. When you search in the NLB website, search for Karen Tintori. I’ve tried searching for “The books of names” but it comes out everything OTHER than what I want.

Note: Written on Jul 25, 2008

The 10,000 hour rule

In the book Outliers by Malcom Gladwell, he states the 10,000 hour rule; that is, to become successful in any enterprise, you have to practise for 10,000 hours.

He cites studies of violinists and divides the people who are capable of becoming world class musicians, and the people who are good enough to become music school teachers. The difference is in the number of hours one plays.

Please forget about talent for a moment. Talent, undoubtedly, plays a part, but after you average it out, it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practise to become really good at something. For example, a saleperson has to practise his sales pitch to clients many many times before he can deliver the pitch smoothly. However it takes more practise to learn the art of the close, as well as to recognize the customers body language and do the proper pitch.

The book also gave an example on a guy called Bill Joy (if I remember correctly) and Bill Gates. Both were forunate to have he change to practise their computer programming skills so much during their university and teenage years respectively that when it is their turn to step up and program, they are more than good enough. Which is why the first guy is the founder of sun microsystems, and the other, as everyone knows, Microsoft.

Even Steve Jobs had practise assembling and designing his own computers.

I once read a quote from Bruce Lee that goes like this: I do not fear the man who practises 10,000 kicks one time each, but one kick 10,000 times.

Practise indeed makes perfect. If anyone doubts the examples because they are written, then I shall provide my own example. I obtained good results in programming aspects of my modules in NUS for just one simple reason.

I started making my own websites when i was 13. I learnt HTML, then CSS. Both are not programming, but it led me to learn PHP, and by the time I took my own programming module, I had already built a tuition website with a database of tutors. Although I did not practise 10,000 hours, it gave me a great headstart. If I had spent 10,000 hours on it, I might have been much better.

A little bit of practise goes a long way. Hence work hard and practise your trade for 10,000 hours so you will be good at it.

The 21 success secrets of self made millionaires

This book is written by Brian Tracy, a man whom I only know after watching numerous videos about him in the Advisors Alliance Internship Program that I attended in 2008. He’s a great motivational speaker, and makes much sense. He is also good at the art of selling, be it in insurance or real estate or anything that requires one to sell to another.

In this small little book that anyone can finish in about an hour or a little above the hour, he highlights 21 attributes or things for one person to start achieving the success he desires. Although this book is titled as though it is to become rich, but it actually teaches you principles of success, which would eventually lead to you being successful and perhaps being rich.

I just want to share and summarize the 21 success secrets, as well as give some input.

1) Dream big dreams
It’s something like begin with a vision in mind. With dreams, you explore every possibility and you can visualize the goal and the ending you want in mind. The question Brian Tracy asks us is “What is the one thing would you dare to dream if you knew you could not fail?” One must think that once can achieve his dreams before he will achieve it.

2) Develop a clear sense of direction
One thing mentioned was that successful people think about their goals most of the time. They think about it when they are on the mrt; they think about it whilst bathing and so on. They form concepts and ideas. The few steps involved in developing a clear sense of direction are:
-Deciding what we want exactly
-Writing down the goals
-Setting deadlines
-Making a list of everything you can think of to achieve your goal
-Organizing lists into plan of action
-Take action immediately

3) See yourself as self-employed
By doing this, you take responsibility of your life. You do not blame anyone else for your circumstance but yourself. You recognize that you are the one responsible for your own life and you can do anything to change it. Instead of waiting for things to happen, the self-employed person in you will make things happen.

4) Do what you love to do
This is about having a continuous stream of energy and excitement when you do what you love to do, and it also helps in allowing you to keep thinking of your goals and thinking about how to achieve it. What you love to do is usually where your natural strengths and abilities are to do the job and achieve the results desired.

5) Commit to excellence
Aim to be the best in whatever you do. Become extremely competent in your field. Everyone at the top 10% started being in the bottom 10%.

6) Work longer and harder
Well I guess this doesn’t seem appealing, but I guess before you eventually succeed and take some rest, one has to put in more effort than his peers to be one step ahead of them?

7) Dedicate yourself to lifelong learning
This is about developing your mind like how you’ll train for muscles. Working on it mentally instead of physically. One of the steps is to read more. Don’t read fiction I guess, read the non fiction books that teach you things that can help you in your goal. For me I’m reading investment books to get more knowledge of stocks. The alternative is to listen to the audio on the way to work, be in on the mrt or bus or in your car. But I guess you have to have the audio book in the first place. A good place to see is the library, and rip the files into mp3 if you want to use your mp3 player.

8) Pay yourself first
This is more about money. This theory has been talked about for a very long time, and it is about spending based on a budget you set, since the money you pay yourself is already untouchable. Then you’ll save more and become richer.

10) Learn every detail of your business
This is about becoming an expert in your chosen field so you can do your work better.

10) Dedicate yourself to serving others
If you have a business, ask how can you serve customers what they need? What do they really want?

11) Be absolutely honest with yourself and others
This is a lesson on integrity. Never compromise your integrity because all businesses are based on trust.

12) Determine your highest priorities and concentrate on them single-mindedly
Do I need to say more? It is the path to success when you put in effort and not have anything else distracting you.

13) Develop a reputation for speed and dependability

14) Be prepared to climb from peak to peak
Develop a long time perspective and plan many years into the future. Ignore the daily fluctuations of life. Have an uptrend over the many years. (Sounds like the stock market)

15) Practice self-discipline in all things
I guess I need not explain

16) Unlock your inborn creativity
Come up with something newer, better, faster, cheaper or easier to accomplish a result.

17) Get around the right people
The people you hang out with influences you. Someone will help you or hinder you, and that someone will be near you to influence you. If people around you are highly energetic people who take positive action, chances are you’ll be a little like that too.

18) Take excellent care of your physical health
Nothing much to say, but you can definitely have both health and success.

19) Be decisive and action oriented
Keep trying and eventually you will find the right way.

20) Never allow failure to be an option
Keep going forward and even if you fail, you continue until you get the success that you want.

21) Pass the “Persistence Test”
I guess this is to keep going on even if its tough and continue. Never give up.

These are the 21 success secrets that are not so secret after all. It is easy to say, but hard to follow.

Steve Berry’s The Romanov Prophecy

This is the 4th Steve Berry’s novel that I have read, the first being “The Third Secret”, the second being “The Templar Legacy” and “The Venetian Betrayal”.

As usual, Steve Berry’s novels have some bit of a history tale behind, and this time it has something to do with olden Russia. In the period during 1918-1919 the royal family of Russia, headed by Tsar Nicholas II, was massacred during the Communists revolution. Basically the actual mystery of the story is that they have never found two of the bones of the royal family, leading to theories that they may have been alive, and this forms the basis for the plot.

Basically the story is about Russia after communism and how they had elected to get the Tsar back. This is not factual in reality. The story is about how a black lawyer got hired to find any discriminatory evidence about a particular candidate’s right to become Tsar. The thing is that this candidate is the closest to the Romanov family, and is the closest to become the Tsar, if and only if the descendents of Nicholas II have all died.

The lawyer founds some disturbing messages left by Lenin and wonders if the actual imperial family have not been wiped out. Those in favor of the candidate decided to kill the lawyer, because they wanted the candidate elected as he is a perfect puppet for them to manipulate.

Through his journey he discovers how the person in charge of the execution supposedly felt guilty and how he arranged for the two children to be saved and sent to different places, eventually settling in the United States. The lawyer, along with a circus performer friend he met, went through the journey finding clues and people who have been waiting for them to come.

Soon they found the descendents of Nicholas II and a small fight ensued with the killers come into the picture. Eventually the rightful Tsar took his place.

The most interesting part is its mysteries and how they pieced together pieces of the mystery, as well as how Rasputin’s supposed prophecy came true. I don’t know how true it is, but Rasputin is quite a “powerful” character in history, even though he is a normal person from Siberia. The Tsar and the Tsarina treats him well and even in history books it seemed that he didn’t die easily. If I remember my secondary school works, Rasputin didn’t die when fed poisoned wine and food, and eventually ran off and got shot and dumped in a river. But nobody did ever confirm his death. Quite mystical I would say.

Overall it’s a pretty interesting book but it got a little boring at the start. The history is always interesting.

P.S. @ 19th Jan 2010..I wrote this on 25th July 2008!

Alex Berenson’s The Faithful Spy

I borrowed this book from the library on impulse. I just saw the red book standing out, particularly since it’s one of the newer looking books there, and then I just picked it. It sounds interesting though, with things about a CIA spy in Al Qaeda. After reading a few detective and history novels, I thought it would be a refreshing change, and it is.

The writer, Alex Berenson won the EDGAR Award for this book.

Basically, this story is about a CIA spy named John Wells who successfully infiltrated into Al Qaeda and slowly progressed up the ranks in the many years he was in Afghanistan. Since he has not contacted CIA for a very long time, they are unsure if he has changed to the “dark side”, and whether he is working as a double agent.

One day John Wells was sent back to America by Al Qaeda because Al Qaeda wants to launch a terrorist attack on America. Feeling that it is his fault for not getting intelligence on 9/11, John decides to make it up by foiling whatever big plan Al Qaeda has for America.

When he gets back he is doubted by his CIA minders, although one of his female minders strongly believed in him, and has romantic feelings for him. The CIA let’s him loose to see what he will do, and with the female’s help he escapes and starts to plan to welcome the Al Qaeda representative.

In a nutshell, he has to do things to gain trust from the representative, and only manages to discover the terrorist problem in the very last minute, but he also manages to foil the attacks. How he does it would be a question that you have to read the book to answer. 🙂

Update: This post is written on July 30th last year! I actually saved it as a draft and forgot about it.