Does your team trust each other? If not, what impact do you think that’s having on the bottom line?
This is a question that we have explored with teams ranging from publicly-traded companies to nonprofits. Regardless of the size of your team or the industry you work in, “trust is the foundation of real teamwork,” writes Patrick Lencioni in his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.
In the mid-1990s, Lencioni observed a business climate that was maniacally focused on growth with little attention paid to the fundamentals of team alignment and organizational effectiveness. As a result, Lencioni and his colleagues developed a simple online assessment that measures team effectiveness in five key areas.
Think about a time when you worked with a team member who you trusted. What was that experience like? Did you freely share information with her? Did you ask her for help? Admit mistakes? Now, think about a time when you worked with a team member who you didn’t trust. What was that experience like? Did you ask him for more data? Did you talk to others about his reliability? Did you try avoiding him altogether? Now multiply the results of these interactions by all of the possible team member combinations in your organization. You can quickly see how trust impacts speed, and how speed impacts results. We’re living in the age of Airbnb, Kickstarter, Etsy, and Uber – where trust is the fundamental economic driver. Yet, trusting our colleagues as much as we do total strangers is something that we have yet to master.
Teams that do not trust one another will be reluctant to have open, constructive conflict. You’ve seen this in action in the form of passive-aggressive behavior, circular conversations, veiled discussions, and guarded arguments. You’ve witnessed people nodding their head ‘yes’ in the room but shaking their head ‘no’ in the hall. Teams that trust one another freely engage in debate so that they can assess reality correctly before making a common commitment. Teams that lack trust also lack the ability to effectively uncover the root causes of issues that impact performance. Instead, they spend their time dealing with symptoms and side issues.
A team that can accurately assess reality will have a better chance of making clear commitments. A note of clarity here. Team commitment is not the same as consensus. When you are encouraged and inspired to share your ideas and know that you’ve been heard, you’re more likely to agree to the final decision even if it differs from your original input. As a result, you walk away motivated and feeling valued rather than resentful. Commitment requires weigh in before buy in.
If you manage a team of people, you understand that part of your role is to hold them accountable for delivering results. Holding your peer team members accountable, however, is harder. This is especially true when you haven’t built trust, participated in constructive debate about root causes, or felt that your opinions about what to do to move forward haven’t been heard. You’re much more likely to call your peers out when you’ve bought into the agreed upon direction to deliver results.
“What gets measured, gets done,” is a familiar maxim. If you are measured and incentivized based on individual effort, human nature follows that you are more likely to put your individual results over collective results. High-performing teams, however, understand that if the team loses, everyone loses. When you’re held accountable for team results, you’re much more likely to make the extra effort to help team members when they need support.
Teamwork isn’t easy. But high performing teams understand that team alignment is a competitive advantage.
Question: Are you achieving results or experiencing regrets toward team goals so far this year?
Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, subscribe to receive CEE News!