“Samantha* is here to help us work together as a team,” Al beamed.
Samantha gazed on plastic smiles and quiet, nodding heads. She knew their performance had been dismal. She needed to find out if they trusted each other or were just being polite.
Following appropriate niceties, Samantha went for the breakthrough exercise. “For our first activity, I want you to go around the room and tell each other what you don’t like about each other.”
Margaret found it easy to open her can of pent up frustration. “Tom, every time we discuss Project South you won’t speak up until after the meeting. How is that supposed to help? Besides, you’re such a gossip!”
Following Margaret’s lead John calmly jabbed, “While that’s true about Tom, Margaret – what about when you dropped the ball last year? I’m still waiting to hear you admit you were wrong.”
Tom spoke quietly but with intensity, “What drives me crazy is how quickly everyone jumps to conclusions around here. You don’t know my motives or the intentions of someone else.” She ended by firing to no one in particular, “Who made you God?”
It wasn’t long until Laura could take it no longer. With tears, she called the other project manager out. “Todd, you hold grudges like no one I’ve ever worked with. Even after I apologized last Friday, you still haven’t let it go.”
What Samantha had hoped would be a team building exercise had driven this dysfunctional team from simply not being able to work together to actively disliking each other.
Without trust, what team?
Building trust takes effort. Shared experiences, follow-through, knowing team members and their unique story are required. Team leaders must set boundaries regarding what is NOT permitted as well as what is expected.
What happens when trust is missing? You can forget teamwork and all the benefits. Untrusting team members…
- Conceal weaknesses and mistakes
- Hesitate to ask for help
- Withhold constructive feedback
- Fail to offer help outside their turf
- Jump to conclusions and make assumptions
- Hold grudges
How well is your team doing?
With trust, what a team!
Trust is the foundation on which self-managed teams and leaders succeed. Patrick Lencioni talks about two types of trust “predictive trust” and “vulnerability trust.” Predictive trust is based on past performance. You trust someone because of history. But when you and your team are transparent and honest with one another vulnerability is established.
What about your team, what if people…
- Gave credit where credit is due?
- Got to know each other?
- Let go of grudges?
- Admit mistakes?
- Provide information more readily?
- Reduced the gossip?
- Understood each other’s workplace styles?
Obviously, it’s not an overnight journey. But what if you start these behaviors? What would happen to your team?
Back to Our Dysfunctional Team
When the box lunch that Al had arranged finally arrived, everyone grabbed at the food, eating alone while they checked email or Facebook. Afterward they filled out their personality assessments and left with less trust than before. Accusation had erupted instead of vulnerability.
What if Samantha had opened the team building exercise by asking Al to share one of his biggest mistakes since starting the company? Or what if he talked about his weakness and what the team could do to help? What if John let go of “whatever” happened last year and moved on?
The process doesn’t have to be complicated but it must be intentional.
Start by admitting your weaknesses, not others’ mistakes. Your own vulnerability – whether you are the team leader or not – will give others the courage they need to be authentic.
What happens when someone owns his or her mistake? Building trust starts with vulnerability. Soon you’ll see the trust-filled behaviors listed above blooming in place of your previous dysfunction. And with that movement comes even greater results.
Here’s to your next level,
PS: The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team™ is a result of the partnership between Wiley Workplace Learning Solutions and best-selling author Patrick Lencioni. The assessment is based on his best-selling book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and powered by Everything DiSC Workplace. Next Level Executive Coaching, LLC is an independent Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team Authorized Partner.
Click here for a Five Behaviors Sample Report.
*All names are fictitious, while based on a true story.