May 20 2010
Trust and Communication – The Keys to Successful Teams
Today, with business competition, customer expectations, new technology, and many other developments, it is more critical than ever to build teamwork in your organization. The many challenges that your organization faces, the more critical it becomes that teamwork is effective. The key elements to successful teamwork are trust, communication and effective leadership; a focus on common goals with a collective responsibility for success (or failure). However, without trust and communication the team will have difficulty functioning effectively.
The whole process of organizational teamwork must begin with a company leadership team that creates a business strategy and a focus on the critical goals of the enterprise. Next there is the process of communicating the vision, values and mission of the organization to a team, or teams that will be responsible for planning and executing the mission and building trust in the teams and within the teams to carry out their assigned responsibilities. Marketing plans, as well as other operational plans, will succeed only with team-based planning and execution.
When recruiting for senior executive positions, hiring managers and executive search consultants will look for clear examples of your ability to build, lead and manage teams. So what does it take to create success through teamwork?
Five Key Elements to Managing Teams
As explained by Patrick Lencioni in “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”, senior executives, middle management and assigned team leaders, must foster and expect that team member activities include the following characteristics:
1. Trust among team members
Building trust takes time. If trust is lacking it must be the responsibility of the team leader to focus first on building trust, i.e. getting team members to open up (among the team) and expose their weaknesses and fears to each other. In some cases, a team building exercise can be utilized. In certain business cases, due to time pressures, the leader may have to take responsibility for building trust or change the team to achieve the necessary level of trust for team success. Until everyone is willing to trust the other members of the team, progress towards team success will be limited.
2. Prepare to engage in debate around ideas.
Disagreements can lead to conflict, but conflict can be good. If ideas are not presented and debated, the team will miss opportunities to find the best solutions to problems. Respect for the thoughts and ideas of the other team members will be developed through healthy debate.
3. Learn to commit to decisions and plans of action.
Team results will only come about as a result of team commitment to team decisions, this includes agreeing on the specifics of action plans. If some team members are not consistent with their commitments, the team will not succeed.
4. Hold one another accountable against their plans.
Team members must be prepared to check among themselves to assure progress and overcome obstacles to progress. Ad hoc meetings may be necessary to coordinate actions between departments or groups to assure progress.
5. Focus on achieving collective results.
The vision and/or mission of the team must be accepted by all the team members and critical goals viewed as the collective responsibility of the team. If a return to profitability is a critical goal of an executive team, priorities and time commitments must be pulled from elsewhere. Focusing on results that in any way does not support the critical goal(s) of the team will lead to team failure.
Mr. Lencioni’s diagnosis is helpful in understanding team dynamics. Yet, a straight forward prescription for building successful teams is to A. Build attitudes of trust among team members, B. Communicate openly among team members, and C. Focus on common goals that are related to a clear purpose. The purpose, of course, must be based on the business vision, values and mission of the company or, at the very least, the specific mission assigned the team by company management.