How to get the best from your team

There are a number of crucial elements required to create high performing teams.  I have worked with many different types of teams in different contexts over the past 30 years and have picked up a few strategies that might help.  The foundational element needed to create an effective team is that often elusive characteristic of TRUST!  Despite what people say trust is earned.  But there are some simple steps to take in order to earn it.  One key is in the start up process of a team, where you take the time to understand the four areas of your team member’s understanding of trust.  Of course in an ideal world we would always start off with optimum strategies, however it is never too late to start implementing trust-building strategies.  You see everybody has a different interpretation of what builds trust, for some it is reliability (do what you said you would when you said you would), for others it is openness (being transparent to feel free to share information and opions with team members), for others it is acceptance (that I know if I share something about our work, no matter how negative it might be, that I as a person am respected and safe from personal attack), and for others it is directness (not brutal bluntness, but feeling free to directly give and receive feedback) (Dr. Ralph Colby).  So when you understand how your team members perceive and express TRUST, then it will help you and the whole team to know how to flex your styles to build this crucial foundation for a high performing team.  

So how does one turn this theory into practice?  What I have done which has worked extremely well is simply to explain these four elements of trust and then ask my team members to write down the one or two elements that they most resonate with.  Once everyone has written something, I get them to share their responses and am amazed of the different perspectives in the room.  Then I get them to share what strategies they think need to take place for them to work best with each other.  Finally, I promote discussion on how this will assist the team to increase its effectiveness.  I am sure that you can use your imagination and apply these elements in contextual ways that will best suit your team’s needs, and help them to develop practical strategies for greater effectiveness.  But please, do not underestimate the importance of building this foundational component within your team!  It may mean as a leader, if you have been late on deadlines or following through and you have a number of members in your team who measure trust through reliability, that you need to pick up your game in this area.  So think about how you as a leader need to build greater trust.  Furthermore, think about what needs to happen between team members and coach each individual member to take responsibilty for their part in the success of building trust.  Over time, it will contribute to greater performance from your team.  

David Allan (Executive Coach)

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