About the author

Patrick Lencioni is the founder of The Table Group, a management consulting firm focused on organizational health. He is a best-selling author, whom The Wall Street Journal hales as “one of the most in demand speakers in America.” Pat’s work has been featured in Harvard Business Review, Inc., Fortune, Fast Company, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and Business Week.

“If you could get all the people in the organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.”

There is a common perception that conflict, misalignment on objectives, lack of listening, opposing interests, and (passive-) aggressive behaviours are what you often face from your counterpart at the negotiation table. In fact, the same issues are also not uncommon within the negotiation team itself, with potentially even more serious repercussions.

All teams are potentially dysfunctional because they are made up of people. Imperfect people. However, facing dysfunction and focusing on teamwork is particularly critical when negotiating. The causes of dysfunction are both identifiable and curable, but making a team functional and cohesive requires awareness, courage and discipline.

The first step toward alignment and reducing politics, stepping on each other’s toes and confusion within your negotiation team is to understand that there are five common Dysfunctions to contend with.

#1: Absence of Trust

Trust is the foundation of a healthy team dynamic. Lack of clarity about individual strengths & weaknesses and fear of being vulnerable with the team prevents the building of trust.

Symptoms: invulnerability; unwillingness to admit mistakes, weaknesses or need for help

Remedy / Role of a Coach: use psychometrics to reveal personalities and Competency Review to assess individual and team negotiation capability; go first in sharing more private self, be vulnerable; create a “safe space” and promote mutual trust.

#2: Fear of Conflict

Teams lacking in trust are incapable of engaging in unfiltered, passionate debate about key issues. The desire to preserve artificial harmony stifles the occurrence of productive debate and sharing of perspectives.

Symptoms: artificial harmony; backchannel comments; impaired Preparation; inferior decisions

Remedy / Role of a Coach: promote engaging debate around ideas in Preparation sessions; be an unbiased facilitator in resolving internal conflict

#3: Lack of Commitment

Lack of direction, clarity or buy-in prevents team members from making decisions they can commit to.

Symptoms: ambiguity, unclear goals; contradictory behaviours, damaged credibility and erosion of value at the negotiation table, when the stakes are high

Remedy / Role of a Coach: promote clarity and consensus; rate buy-in from each team member on a scale of 1-10; ensure commitment to a plan of action

#4: Avoidance of Accountability

The need to avoid interpersonal discomfort means that individuals hesitate to call their peers on behaviors that are counterproductive to common good and hold each other accountable for performance.

Symptoms: low standards; pointing fingers when deals fall apart

Remedy / Role of a Coach: focus on the collective outcome; clarify roles & responsibilities; hold each other accountable; agree on consequences for non-compliance

#5: Inattention to Results

When individual goals are not aligned with those of the team and there is lack of accountability, the pursuit of individual goals (e.g. status, recognition, career development, ego, etc.) erodes focus on collective goals. If a team has lost sight of the need for common achievement, the deal ultimately suffers.

Symptoms: individual status and ego drivers; compromised deal value, credibility and trust of the counterpart; lack of deal implementation

Remedy / Role of a Coach: align individual and collective goals; measure individual and collective results; create feedback & learning culture; confront difficult issues; celebrate small & big successes

The Rewards

Your negotiation success depends on your ability to act as a competent, functional and cohesive team. Functional teams are aligned, competent, effective, make higher quality decisions and accomplish more in less time and with less distraction and frustration. 

A cohesive negotiation team

  • Is bonded and great to be a part of
  • Leverages diversity by tapping into individual skills and perspectives of all members
  • Makes better and faster decisions
  • Avoids wasting time and energy on politics, confusion and destructive internal conflict
  • Avoids wasiting time talking about the wrong issues and continuously revising the same topics due to lack of buy-in
  • Is disciplined in their roles & responsibilities at the negotiation table
  • Instils trust in their negotiation counterpart by being aligned and following through
  • Gets deals done. Together.

By embracing everyone’s differences and imperfections, members of functional negotiation teams overcome the natural tendencies that make teamwork in a negotiation so elusive. The rewards of a cohesive negotiation team are plentiful, but they require rigorous discipline, persistence and a really great Negotiation Coach.



(Adapted for negotiation teams by Victoria Plaksin from an article by Patrick Lencioni, summarising 5 Dysfunctions of a Team)

"Imagine a world where the men in business not only come home with more value in the deal, but with a new sense of trust and respect as a society?"

Fabian Courtaux, Trusted Negotiator