Team Excellence Third Ingredient - Trust
High performing teams do not just happen. They are planned and built in a way that optimizes performance. Numerous ingredients go in to making up a high performing team. I will outline several of these factors in separate articles in order to emphasize the particular item and highlight how to get it.
Building a team with high trust is no small task. It takes a plan, cooperation, time, and a lot of work to accomplish. The first thing to realize is that a team does not start trusting by accident. You must invest in the team by allowing the members to interact and learn in a safe atmosphere. A group that is thrown together for an immediate and critical deliverable is likely to fail because the proper investment and nurturing was not accomplished.
In 1965, Bruce Tuckman described four stages that every team goes through. They are Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. A critical time for any team is when it is forming. This is when the team is trying to figure out its role and goals. Members are not sure of their status or contribution at this point, and personal bonding is a key element to the eventual success of the team. It is advisable for the group to go offsite for some initial teambuilding activities. Many leaders avoid this step because often team building activities involve a kind of game atmosphere that does not feel like "work." In fact, team building is real work that may be fun at the moment, but it is deadly serious business that can result in millions of dollars of profit if done well or millions of dollars in damage control if not done at all.
During the storming phase, there is some kind of power struggle where members vie for position and influence. It is up to the team leader to help the team move quickly through this awkward time. Usually the storming stage is short simply because it is painful. People want to get out of the rut of consternation and move on to getting the work done.
It is in the norming phase that the team decides the degree of effectiveness it will ultimately enjoy. If individual and team behaviors are agreed upon with conviction, the team will immediately begin to perform with excellence. Included in this phase is identifying the individual skills brought to the team by the diversity of talent in the group, the goals of the team, the ground rules of expected behavior, and the consequences of failing to comply with team expectations.
The two most basic things required for any team to become a high performing unit are (1 a common goal, and 2) trust. If these building blocks are in place, all of the rest of the team dynamics (like excellent communication) will sort themselves out. If either of these is missing, the team will sputter and struggle to meet expectations. A key rule fostered by most teams that is most often compromised is to treat each member with respect. There is a kind of disease that sets in most teams where members subtly undermine each other.
For teams to go through the four stages of development efficiently, they need time away from work to interface and interact. This is usually done with a trained facilitator do that emotions do not spiral out of control during the inevitable storming phase. If you want to foster high performing teams, provide time and resources to help the group move through the four stages.