Trust, Teams and Performance
We all participate in teams in some aspect of our job or personal life. We all understand that the function of a team is to accomplish the results or achieve the goal that it sets out to achieve. It sounds simple, a little pre-planning, find the right people with the right skills, define the goal and let the rest take care of itself. Why then in sports, do we so often see that the best teams 'on paper' fail to achieve their goal of winning the championship? Why then in business, do we so often find teams that fail to achieve what they set out to do when they have the right people and resources?
The missing ingredient is often the trust amongst team members and trust between team leaders as well as individuals on the team. The failure of teams to trust one another on a fundamental, emotional level means people are afraid to engage in passionate dialogue around issues. When people trust each other they can be completely open with one another and they don't hesitate to disagree or challenge and question others. By doing, so they are able to find better answers, discover different alternatives and solutions and make better decisions. Yes, teams must have the expertise at the table but if that expertise is unwilling to share or unable to accept differing opinions, then the team performance will suffer.
Think about the teams you have been a part of that have not performed as well as you believe they should have; what was missing? In sports, they talk about needing buy-in from the players to the coach's system – a failure to get buy-in means that the players say they will follow the system but their performance does not reflect this. Players often do not have buy-in simply because they have not developed a high enough level of trust in the coach and the system. In our work environments, the same thing holds true.
As teams work toward goals, all team members decide whether they will participate fully in the team process by either sharing ideas and offering suggestions or by choosing to remain quiet and only responding when asked or not at all. This fear of conflict leads to veiled discussion and guarded comments. It is not difficult to understand that as decisions are made within the team those who have contributed will work hard to achieve the desired result while those who failed to participate will not feel accountable to meeting the goal. This lack of accountability stems from a failure to build trust at the time the group formed. Then in turn, the lack of trust results in the failure to utilize the collective talents of the team which leads to less than desired performance.
It doesn't have to be this way. There are simple frameworks for rules of engagement within teams. These rules dramatically improve trust among team members as they help identify different communication styles and personal motivators, conflict styles as well as establishing a common language for achieving business objectives. Simply stated, if I trust you I will share my thoughts, fears and ideas and I will accept your comments and criticisms as part of the exploration process. Once team members are able to move past self interest and self preservation, the team can focus on results.