The Essential Ingredient for Teams to Perform at Their Peak
Sam Obitz – May 2017
What came to your mind first? Great leadership, cohesion, exceptional communication or perhaps respect for one another? Certainly, all of those components are required for a team to perform optimally, but none of those things are possible without TRUST.
Without a foundation of trust to build on, not one of your team’s accomplishments will ever be as great as they could be with it. Exceptional teams begin with this and build outward.
It all starts at the top of the organization, so the members of the team must first trust their leader. Any organization without trust in their leader will under perform (and often outright fail) regardless of the amount of skill and expertise on the team itself.
So, you may ask, how does a leader gain the trust of those on their team? There is more than one way to gain the trust of those around you. However, there are many factors that tend to be present in most situations where the leader has a high level of trust.
At the top of that list would be authenticity. You have to know who you are and what you stand for, or people will see right through you. In addition, you cannot preach one thing, do another, and expect people to fall for it for long. This is called ‘walking your talk’ and there is no quicker way to engender respect than living your life this way. I have seen instances where coaches or leaders have blinked just once, which led to their downfall as well as their team’s. As soon as you blink, you open the door for everyone else on your team to start cutting corners as well.
Also high on the list would be what I call heart or compassion. As the great coach John Wooden was fond of saying, “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” People will go to the end of the Earth for you and each other when they feel valued and cared for.
Being consistent and fair is another key component in gaining the trust of others. People mistakenly think this means I believe leaders have to treat everyone on the team the same. What this means to me is that you treat everyone the way they deserve to be treated. Ideally, everything would be earned and all people would be held accountable for their actions. A subset of this would the necessity to be straight with everyone and not dance around things. People may not always like it when you tell them the truth, but they will gain your respect when you do and lose it quickly when you don’t. A side benefit of telling it like it is, is that it prevents further pain down the road.
Once the leader has established that he or she is trustworthy, the next step is getting the team members to trust each other. I’m going to hit on two key components here. The first is a shared vision for the team. It is imperative that everyone on the team strives to reach the same goal through an agreed upon process. Once team members know what their responsibilities are and how their task affects other members on the team, who are relying on them, bonds will begin to be forged.
The second component is the one that I believe separates the good from the truly exceptional, getting to know your teammates on a deeper human level. I cannot stress this enough! When you form bonds with people, you naturally view what is good about them through a magnifying glass and what’s bad about them through reverse binoculars (which has the effect of making things appear tiny). This causes team members to give each other the benefit of the doubt when things go poorly, the net effect of which is reduced or removed animosity among teammates. This results in more energy and focus for the team to put towards its shared goals.
Once you develop a foundation of trust, you will be able to be a better leader, develop cohesion, and have exceptional communication and respect for one another. It will also make all other things you want to do easier to accomplish as well.
Remember, ‘It takes time to build trust, mere seconds to break it, and forever to repair it.”