8 essential elements for trusting teams

February 25, 2007

When a gifted team dedicates itself to unselfish trust and combines instinct with boldness and effort, it is ready to climb.” Patanjali

trust_fall.gifOne of the most telling predictors of a team’s success is the extent to which it builds trust among team members. Whether teams are large or small, virtual or under the same roof, trusting teams have inherent advantages not found in teams with a low level of trust.

What makes a trusting team? Following are 8 essential elements that set apart teams that possess a strong trust factor.

Social Exchanges

Social exchanges are critical in the early stages of team building, and continue to be important throughout the team’s existence. Discussions of family, weekend activities, and personal interests help team members understand the values and priorities of one another and build strong personal bonds. Team members who have worked together before make a point to included newer team mates in social exchanges to avoid the chance of creating cliques of socially-familiar members within the team. While bonding socially, trusting teams are careful to not allow social cohesion to be a substitute for progress on the team’s objectives.

Showing Enthusiasm

Trusting teams demonstrate enthusiasm about their projects and members make a point to overtly encourage team mates. Teams may refer to themselves as “family,” “posse,” or other nicknames used to signify the uniqueness and unity of the group. Language of enthusiasm might include phrases such as, “this is getting exciting!” or “I’m really pumped about our progress.” A favorite phrased I hear team members use is, “You rock!” By using somewhat informal vocabulary, team members reinforce that their enthusiasm for team mates includes a personal aspect as well as professions. Trusting teams “keep it real.” At the same time, trusting teams are keen to channel their enthusiasm toward accomplishing the team’s tasks.

Using Technology

Trusting teams use technology to enhance communication and solve problems, and do not allow technology to become an impediment to teamwork. Technology is a huge topic, so let’s touch on three of the more important aspects of using technology for teamwork: e-mail communication; scheduling; and file management. Read the rest of this entry »


Learn, share, coach… repeat previous steps

February 23, 2007

Working in a collaborative environment offers a tremendous opportunity for personal development that goes well beyond accomplishing the objectives of the team. Managers, team leaders and other team members routinely share with each other what they have learned and coach colleagues on matters of knowledge, skills, process, and performance.

This pattern of learning, sharing and coaching allows us to recycle and recalibrate our own approaches for teamwork and productivity.

In the insightful post Learning Through Business Development, Ann Michael recognizes the presence of such a cycle in her consulting business.

Spending time getting to know the people, issues, and opportunities within a company is the only way I know to identify real needs and determine if the skills I offer (or represent through partners) can effectively address them.

I might talk with people in organizations several times before a potential engagement is even identified. I’ve always enjoyed this part of consulting.

But, it didn’t occur to me until recently just how valuable business development activities are as a learning experience. By building relationships and listening to leaders describe their companies and their aspirations, I become more knowledgeable and gain a broad and diverse view of my industry.

Similar to Ann’s experience as a consultant, team members must invest the time to get to know one another and to identify issues and opportunities for growth. Only then can we determine how best to support one another through knowledge sharing and coaching.

But it doesn’t end there!

By learning about other team members, we gain more information and insights to add to our resources for sharing and coaching. The experience of sharing and coaching, and the feedback we receive, adds even more to our learning.

And on it goes…

Related posts:

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How policies and rules impact teams

August 22, 2006

I like what Mark Horstman has to say about setting standards for ourselves and our teams. In a recent post, he argues that corporate dress codes are an ineffective way to manage attire, and that teams, team leaders and managers are better suited to the task. I especially agree that teams are well served by having higher standards than the organization as a whole.

Dress codes don’t enforce or encourage appropriate attire.

Managers do.

Spend some time this week noticing your team’s attire, and give them each some feedback on it. (Different feedback to those who have different goals, perhaps). It’s okay – no, it’s GOOD – if maybe your team’s standard is a little higher than the organization’s. Your directs might complain a little…but they’ll like being part of your team if it shows AND it means something.

Dress codes are micro-managing. Dress codes deliver the message that managers do not trust employees to makes decisions for themselves about what to wear. They say more about the insecurities of the organization’s leaders than anything else, as do policies about facial hair or the length of toilet breaks – both of which I have been exposed to by companies before. Invariably, these policies are counter-productive because employees spend more time trying to push the limits of the rules and less time on the organization’s objectives.

wooden rulerWhen I was in grade school, mini-skirts were in fashion (I’m dating myself with this one). At the beginning of one year, the school issued a new policy that girl’s skirts could be no more than 4 inches above the knee. Guess what happened. Entire classes spent 10 or 15 minutes each morning while teachers measured the hem-length of female students. The highlight of each day for students became guessing who would get sent home to change.

After a few weeks, the policy was quietly abandoned as a total failure because it had little impact on skirt length and distracted from lessons. Policies about boy’s hair length and holey jeans met similar fates. What did not fade away, however, is the feeling that school administrators had little or no trust in their students to make choices for themselves.

When it comes to how people conduct the personal aspects of the lives – like what they wear, what they read or listen to, who the befriend – it is usually best to avoid blanket policies and to deal with problems if and when they arise. The more you can let team members know they are trusted to make personal and business decisions, the stronger the team will become.

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How to provide effective praise

August 3, 2006

I came home to a nice treat tonight in the form of this link. As I read Joshua Fattore’s short post, I realized that he provided an excellent model for how to give praise.

Team leaders, indeed all team members, will want to learn the art of providing praise and then practice it often. At the risk being overly self-serving, allow me to point out why this is such a good model.

Elements of Effective Praise

  1. Clearly State the Compliment: “I really like this guy at Stronger Teams.”
  2. Specifically Identify the Behavior or Performance: “Some really good insights on team building and relationship building.”
  3. Acknowledge the Effect of the Behavior or Performance: “I know some people who SHOULD read this” (presumably to learn).

All praise is good, when it is sincere. However, the most effective praise provides the receiver with enough information to repeat the praise-worthy behavior.

Imagine if Joshua had stopped at item 1, “I like this guy”. Clearly, I would have appreciated the compliment and link. However, I would not have learned much about why the praise was given.

The real value of praise comes from items 2 and 3. In this example, they tell me that there is value for others when posts provide insights on team building and relationship building. Armed with this information, I can use the feedback to guide future behavior.

If I were on Joshua’s team, I would know what he liked, why he liked it, and what effect it had on him and the team. Do you provide teammates enough praise and with enough information to reinforce the behavior or performance?

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