The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni – reread for an assignment

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership FableThe Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

[Second read 2018] I am in a year-plus long Certified Public Manager class and this is the assigned reading for the second track. Second assignment, and second book I’d read before. Makes it easier! So…I like to say, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, that I need to see a movie the second time before I see it the first. (I picked up a collection of time travel stories to intersperse with my other readings…maybe it’ll help.) I needed to read this book the second time before the first. I was much less annoyed with the fable format this time around. And I added more margin notes and 3M post-it flags to the ones I had in my original copy. I think part of my bother is that I generally have high functioning teams and while I’ve been part of some that weren’t, I have positioned myself – and educated myself – so that much of what Lencioni talks about sounds foreign.

One thought for this go-around: I’d prefer the definite article in the title be dropped. These are Five Dysfunctions. not The Five. There are more.

[Original review – 2015] This is my second assigned reading for a year-long management seminar. Less intellectually offensive than the first (a Ken Blanchard classic), it still suffers from trying to be the smartest book in the room. The subject is yet another one that is intuitively obvious to me, but that’s because I’ve been building teams for 30 years.

In case it’s not clear, I’m not a fan of these “fable” formats, but this was easy to read. The too-pat setups were there, but done well enough as to mostly overlook how obvious they are. Lenconi is selling a product, so can’t see the problems with his “this is the way it is” presentation, but as with most of these self-help business books, there are nuggets to mine and toss in the mental toolbox. I liked it better than most I’ve read (obvious in retrospect because my critical notations were fewer than similar books.)

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Away with Words: An Irreverent Tour Through the World of Pun CompetitionsAway with Words: An Irreverent Tour Through the World of Pun Competitions by Joseph Berkowitz

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Bill Watterson, in his Calvin and Hobbes strip, gave Calvin magazines on gum chewing to mock the niche magazine industry (An exchange…Hobbes: “I can’t believe there’s a magazine for gum chewers.” Calvin: “Heck, there must be at least a dozen such magazines. … Each appeals to a different faction. ‘Chewing is high gloss, literate and sophisticated. ‘Gum Action’ goes for the gonzo chewers. ‘Chewers Illustrated’ aims at the vintage gum collectors, and so on. … Each one encourages you to think you belong to an elite clique, so advertisers and appeal to your ego and get you to cultivate an image that sets you apart from the crowd. It’s the divide and conquer trick.” {excited face}. H: “I wonder what happened to the melting pot.” C: “There’s no money in it.”) Obscure? I read Joshua Foer’s book Moonwalking with Einstein, in part about extreme memory competitions. Talk about obscure…

And then there’s this…about pun competitions.

I am an inveterate punster (yes, I could have said in vertebrate…), so when I saw this, I had to read it. It was painful. I love a well-crafted story leading up to a beautiful groaner of a pun. These competitions are about rapid fire punning to random categories. The champs groan them out and the audience response clap-o-meter determines who wins them. Berkowitz litters his narrative with examples.


I’ll stick to my Feghoots.

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So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading by Sara Nelson

So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate ReadingSo Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading by Sara Nelson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was nice, quick read on a three hour flight from Fort Lauderdale to Dallas on Monday, even with a fever starting to bake my brain. A List, with life fillers, candid and sometimes vulnerable. Ms. Nelson read many things I wouldn’t, gave me a few suggestions for things I want to check out, didn’t read some things, didn’t finish some (more on that…) Some of her quest was a touch of regret, touch of nostalgia, touch even of guilt, as well as desire to read some things that had been avoided, ignored, and set aside.

With respect to nostalgia, she says

It’s always dangerous to reread the pivotal books of your youth. Like discovering poetry or journals you wrote as a teenager, revisiting your adolescent feelings about books can be at best embarrassing and often excruciating.

I might be the oddball, but I only have a few “pivotal” books, and only one author is embarrassing. Okay, I’ll admit it here…Ayn Rand…but like most intelligent adults, I outgrew her (sorry, certain political party.) I rather still like Herbert, Tolkien, Chalker, Asimov. Even Jay Williams doesn’t embarrass me. I’ll sometimes run across and download books from Open Library for the Nostalgic Re-Read. None embarrass me.

On not finishing books, and James McBride’s Miracle at St. Anna

It’s an amalgam of history, myth, and politics—and it just doesn’t work. I kept trying, because I liked McBride so much. I didn’t know him personally, but his memoir was so powerful and rich that I, along with 1.3 million other readers, felt as if I did. Saturday: an hour in bed telling myself that lots of great books start off slow (The Corrections, anyone?) and that I owed it to him to keep trying. So after a perfect winter lunch of soup and bread, I tried again. By page 60, I still hadn’t latched on to any of the characters. By page 70, my mind wandered to the words of that song in A Chorus Line: “I feel nothing.”
So I did something I have only in my maturity learned how to do: I stopped reading. Right there, on page 71, right after the hero, a brain-damaged soldier, encounters the little boy who will change his life. I might pick it up again, I told myself. And I might. But I doubt it.

Some seven years ago, I was bemoaning to a friend both my inability to slog through yet another atrocious Heinlein novel and my doggedly trying to finish a leadership book by Kouzes and Posner. His wisdom is still a challenge for me: “If I’ve gotten enough out of a book, I’ll stop reading.” I struggle with that, even if the book has little value to offer. Or, in the case of Heinlein, “Why keep reading crap?” “Because I’m stubborn.” “But it’s crap.”

He was right. But I still have a hard time not finishing a book. Sometimes, I have a hard time starting a book. Ms. Nelson relates

I’m like an animal off its feed. I can’t get into a novel to save my life. Biographies bore me. I’ve left so many open books, belly down, on the green bedroom rug that the whole place is starting to look like an aerial view of a town full of Swiss chalets. I’m out of sorts. I’m off my game. I’m irregular.

Boy, do I know that feeling! I call it “reader’s block”. Turns out, a week later (this was more or less a weekly diary), she used the same term.

She’s honest when a popular book doesn’t cut it.

Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace, a 1996 novel that may have been inspired by the same historical crime. When I read that much-praised book, I felt as though I were reading about issues and symbols rather than people. I was not a fan.

“Issues and symbols rather than people”…yeah…sometimes.

I really liked her part on the great opening lines of novels that grab you…one she noted grabbed me (and I’m going to find the book): The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint by Brady Udall. The opening lines? “If I could tell you only one thing about my life it would be this: when I was seven years old the mailman ran over my head. As formative events go, nothing else comes close.” How could that not grab your attention?

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When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect TimingWhen: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read Dan Pink’s Drive before I read his A Whole New Mind, which was a better order because Drive was better written and had a more accurate message than Mind. Okay, a message that resonated better. When is as good as Drive, if not as much a paradigm shifter. But it is still a think prompter. Continue reading