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Dysfunctional Teams

Trust in the work place, just how critical is it to team building?

Many moons ago, we explored the concept of trust in the work place – and in recent weeks we’ve had cause to dust off and brush up on one of our favourite models of team effectiveness, which also raised the issue of the trust in the workplace, developed by Patrick Lencioni.

According to Lencioni, all teams have the potential to be dysfunctional, so to improve the functioning of a team, we need to understand the type and level of dysfunction that they exhibit.  Lencioni suggested 5 dysfunctions of a team:

  • Absence of Trust
  • Fear of Conflict
  • Lack of Commitment
  • Avoidance of Accountability
  • Inattention to Results

As the title of our article suggests, trust is the key element of this model – focus your efforts here and you’ll naturally improve the other four.  We’ve found a little graphic, with trust at the bottom to demonstrate its foundational role.

Lencioni's Pyramid

Trust evaporates when team members are not genuinely open with one another about their mistakes, weaknesses or need for help.  It’s impossible to build a foundation for trust without this authenticity and vulnerability.

“It’s not enough to keep your word; others have to be aware that you are doing it. And here is where it gets sticky. Like beauty, behavioural integrity is in the eye of the beholder. Consistently keeping promises and living by your stated principles are difficult tasks. Being seen as consistently doing these things is harder still.”

– Professor Tony Simons, Cornell University Professor of Management & Organisational Behaviour

So how do you go about building trust through authenticity and vulnerability in the workplace – isn’t that a little scary in fact?

In this instance, we think it’s a good thing that trust isn’t simply a switch that be thrown from on to off.  It’s not something that can simply happen overnight.  It takes time and repeated examples of the same behaviour/skill/outcome for us to build trust, but there are a few key concepts we can build on to get there quicker.

We’ll look at integrity, inclusion and humility here, but if you’d like to know more there are a couple of reads we recommend.  Ken Blanchard’s Trust Works: Building Lasting Relationships is a great foundational book, but if you’re in a rush Diana Gabriels’s 4 Components may be of more interest.

Who watches the watchers?  Building Integrity.

Whether we like it or not, we’re being watched. Our everyday words and deeds are simply there for everyone to see, so we need to be mindful of our actions and our words to ensure they’re building a coherent picture of our behavioural integrity.

Take the Blame and Share the Credit.  Humility.

Nothing breaks trust like a manager or colleague, who at the first sign of something going wrong, points the finger at others.  Who wants that person in their team?

So by contrast, someone keen to build trust will assume responsibility for mistakes, offering to learn from the situation and support others to avoid similar mistakes in the future.  Showing this level of humility repeatedly, will foster trust far earlier and better than the finger pointer.

Know it, but not all of it.  Inclusion.

Being good at what you do is a key component of building trust.  After all, how many people who are a terrible at doing X do you trust to do X?

Exactly.

But it’s important to position your skill and knowledge with a little humility and to acknowledge you might not know it all.  Learning when to ask questions and showing an interest in learning more is a great way to allow others to feel they’re involved in your development.  Inclusion, like intimacy is a key foundation to trust.

As Professor Tony Simons has hinted at, trust is a wonderfully fluid concept that we each experience and exhibit in different ways. There are however, several behavioural steps that we can take to foster and nurture trust within a group of people.

A critical step is to be the first person to be vulnerable. Nobody else will feel safe owning up to mistakes and taking about things they find difficult unless someone starts that trend. How about you? What could you do today or tomorrow to show a bit of your human vulnerability to the team?

If you want to read more on this subject, there’s a great deal of overlap between building trust with colleagues and building trust with clients.  We’ve written more on the latter here…