Teamwork is a critical employment skill. Yet, many workers – and entire teams – often lack the ability to work successfully in a team environment. With COVID resulting in many working from home and away from their normal team environments, teamwork skills are becoming even more difficult to master.
Patrick Lencioni is famous for his work on teams, most notably his enduring book, The Five Disfunctions of a Team. Despite the provocative title, Lencioni really talks about the BEHAVIORS of high performing teams, boiling it down to Trust, Healthy Conflict, Commitment, Accountability, and Results.
Trust is the fundamental behavior that must be present for a team to function well. Without it, team members will not be honest with one another, share their struggles, or disclose their weaknesses. As a result, the team will not perform at its highest capacity. So, how do we as leaders build trust within our teams?
The first step is talking with one another. Have regular conversations and occasionally even debates– in meetings, between meetings, before meetings, after meetings, in person, on the phone, in text messages. Ongoing communication is the key to building relationships and beginning to trust one another enough to become a true team.
Sandra Slucher and Shalene Gupta, in their book, The Power of Trust, outline four key elements to building and maintaining trust. Competence, Motive, Means, and Impact.
Of course, every organization needs competent people capable of delivering results, but “competence alone is never enough,” Sucher says. Your colleagues and your customers alike want to understand your motives: why you do what you do, and whose interests you are serving. In the trust context, the term ‘means’ not only refers to one’s actions, but teams are also interested in whether their colleagues take “a fair path to get there.” This includes both demonstrating equitable practices and honestly communicating with colleagues, constituents, customers, and the like.
To build trust you must be consistent. You must be willing to listen to alternative viewpoints and, yes, even change your mind when new facts are brought to bear.
Finally, remember this timeless advice:
Criticize your colleagues in private but praise them in public.
And I would advise doing that last part – praising each other – sincerely and often.
This is the first in a series of posts about teams and team building. Next up, healthy conflict. And stay tuned for some exciting news about a new team building option we'll be announcing in 2022.