Team Building 101

Let’s talk about true team building, because I am convinced that
the only sustainable advantage any organization has is a high-performing team.

Everything else can be copied—everything.

At the core of every successful organization is a high-functioning team. Without such a team, organizations often get stuck in unproductive patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving that dramatically affect performance and well-being.

A high-performing team does not miraculously spring into being; it requires continued team building. I am not talking about the kind of team building where you go climb ropes for the weekend and sing “Kumbaya,” however. I mean no disrespect, but experience has taught me that those types of approaches simply don’t work. Everyone may return to work on Monday feeling refreshed and energized, but they quickly fall back into the same old grooves, and the dysfunctional patterns continue as before.

True Team Building

I am talking about the kind of team building that fundamentally changes behavior and attitudes. This kind of team building creates a deep sense of trust, the ability to engage in constructive conflict, true commitment to the organization and the decisions the team makes, accountability that comes from within each team member rather than imposed from above, and, finally, the results the team desires.

I am a big fan of Patrick Lencioni’s best-selling book Five Dysfunctions of a Team, and my experience bears out his conclusions. Lencioni discusses what dysfunctional teams lack. Applying these same ideas in reverse, great teams are capable of:

    • Building trust: Members of great teams trust one another on a fundamental, emotional level, and they are comfortable being open with each other about their weaknesses, mistakes, fears, and behavior.
    • Mastering conflict: Team members who trust one another are not afraid to engage in passionate dialogue about issues and decisions that are key to the organization’s success. They do not hesitate to disagree with, challenge, and question one another, all in the spirit of finding the best answers, discovering the truth, and making great decisions.
    • Developing commitment: Teams that engage in unfiltered, constructive conflict can achieve genuine buy-in for important decisions, even when members of the team initially disagree. That’s because they make sure that all opinions and ideas are put on the table and considered, so team members know that no stone has been left unturned. That helps ensure that every team member will commit to the decision or course of action the group ultimately decides on.
    • Embracing accountability: Teams that commit to decisions and standards of performance do not hesitate to hold themselves and one another accountable for adhering to those decisions and standards. What’s more, they don’t rely on the team leader as the primary source of accountability; they go directly to their peers.
  • Achieving results: Team members who trust one another, engage in constructive conflict, commit to decisions, and hold themselves and one another accountable, are very likely to set aside their individual needs and agendas and focus on what is best for the team. They can resist the temptation to place their departments, career aspirations, or ego-driven status ahead of the collective results that define team success.

In the next blog post I’ll discuss the third of the tools or methods your organization has available to it to create alignment, with my thoughts on Leadership Development 101. In the meantime, I look forward to hearing from you.

I invite you to schedule a free consultation (612-600-6261; paul.smaby@integraladvisors.com). We can begin the process of charting an exciting and meaningful course for your organization as you leverage the talents of your management team and meet the needs of your employees and customers.