Team building is now recognized as not just an important, but an integral aspect of leadership. Strong leaders build strong teams; strong teams are fueled by strong relationships. Unleashing Leaders recognizes this need, and integrates elements of team building into almost every aspect of the work we do with clients. We can train any team in a concept or skill, but without the ability to work together we undermine our ability to achieve our goals.
A great way to start looking at the strength of your team is to use Patrick Lencioni’s work from his book, “The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team.” In this book, he examines the major pitfalls that teams can find themselves in, and how to overcome them. We prefer to focus on the positive aspects of team building we are striving towards, so we will frame the 5 Functions here as positive goals we work to achieve.
Note that Lencioni puts these functions in a pyramid model. It’s important to know that they build on one another. The foundation of the pyramid is trust. Teams that don’t trust each other will never find sustained success, let alone excellence. Lencioni identifies trust as the ability to be vulnerable with our team members. This does not need to be the sharing of deep childhood trauma! This is a level of vulnerability to admit when we are wrong, or when we don’t know what to do in a situation. Being able to go to our team and trust that they will have our back when we invariably make mistakes is the foundation of building strong teams. At Unleashing Leaders, we work with teams to build trust through personal connection and create courage.
Teams that have the foundation element of trust can begin to engage in conflict. Now this conflict comes with a huge asterisk, and that is the conflict needs to be healthy and productive. We tend to think about conflict as a negative, but it is a vital element of teams. What can make conflict negative is when we make it about people, and not about ideas. When we start engaging in personal attacks, our effectiveness as a team plummets. Teams that trust each other understand that everyone is looking out for the best interest of the team, and when we disagree we can have that open debate in a way that is about the ideas. Healthy and productive conflict can open up new ideas that no one on the team had before. We support teams in building a dialogue that is candid AND respectful, so we can be as open as we need to be without eroding our trust.
Teams that have taken the time to build trusting relationships and can engage in healthy and productive conflict are then able to make commitments to one another about the actions they will take. Commitment does not always mean agreement. There are absolutely times that a team will not find consensus, and need to move forward with next steps anyway. In this case, we need to disagree and commit. What’s important is, as a team we all trust that each team member has the best interest of the other team members and the team as a whole in mind. We’ve had the conflict about different ways of going about doing the work, we’ve made a decision, and even if that decision isn’t what I think is best, I will commit to doing my part in that work as well as I can. I’m still in 100%. To create this, we need to have clarity on the results we want, and buy-in from the whole team that it is the direction we want to go.
Teams that have built trusting relationships, engaged in healthy and productive conflict, and made commitments to one another, can then begin to hold each other accountable for those commitments. Think about the pyramid model that Lencioni chose. How much more difficult would it be to hold someone accountable if you didn’t trust them? If you couldn’t engage in healthy conflict? Being able to hold others accountable, and to be open to being held accountable ourselves, relies on the earlier functions we’ve discussed. At Unleashing Leaders, we work with teams on methods of follow through and feedback to be able to have successful accountability conversations.
- Attention to Results
Teams that have built trust, engaged in healthy and productive conflict, made commitments, and held each other accountable to commitments, will start to get positive results! Sometimes, teams can start to focus on individual status and goals to the neglect of the team goals. High-quality team results will be achieved faster and more sustainably when we focus on a common goal and create alignment with all our team actions. Unleashing Leaders knows that any strong and unleashed team has 3 elements: clarity, alignment, and engagement. We can use the 5 Functions to help create that engagement while building clarity and alignment along the way.
For more information on how Unleashing Leaders can help unleash your team, please contact us here.
Written by: Jason Roberts, Change Agent @ Unleashing Leaders