Managing Teams

4 Overlooked Steps That Will Strengthen Any Team

build-trust-team

Have you ever wondered why the team you are on isn’t gelling?

Leaders throw people together on teams, but rarely give them time to connect. The key to a great team is to make the effort to build the ROCC of Trust.

  1. First, make sure your team members know their strengths and those of their teammates.

In our work with teams around the world, we have found that it is critical for team members to identify their strengths. Our go-to tool is Gallup’s StrengthsFinder 2.0. Knowing one’s strengths builds the courage and self-confidence that make it easier to reach out to others. Also, knowing one’s strengths also makes it easier to acknowledge one’s weakness, because by definition someone can’t excel at everything. The humility that comes from this makes it more likely that teammates will want to help one another. Self-awareness of strengths also makes someone more authentic, because the actions taken from learning one’s strengths will be more focused.

The courage, humility, and authenticity that build from strengths development will lead to team members being much more likely to find effective ways of communicating with one another. It also will lead to building trust within the team as each team member learns what the other brings to the team. Knowing each other’s strengths eliminates many misunderstandings and miscommunications.

It’s also a great way to build one’s personal brand, as we use Strengths results to help our clients and business school students in crafting their resumes, elevator pitches, and other career development and self-marketing efforts.

  1. Then, give your team time to get to know each other.

It is not enough for team members to know their strengths, however, for them to be truly effective, and for mutual trust to cement. When teams have opportunities to “flex their muscles,” e.g., build their strengths by finding ways to help one another on each other’s individual projects and tasks, they build mutual trust regarding Competence and Compassion. While learning how to help one another in pairs or subsets of the team, they can learn to identify ways to combine their strengths for the collective purpose and goals of the whole team.

In our coaching and consulting with executive teams, one really effective tool we use is to assign “homework” which consists of team members having coffee or lunch with one another each week, and then emailing us the results of their meetings in terms of how they’ve found ways to communicate, resolve conflicts, or help one another. We then aggregate their emails into a repository of strength combinations, best practices, and topics for discussion at our next team development session.

There really is no substitute for informal interactions at places away from the workplace to break down the barriers that erupt all too easily in committees, task forces, and other formal work meetings and groups.

  1. Practice, coach, rinse and repeat.

Many times team leaders are in such a hurry that they don’t allow a team to really work on building trust. They hurry them along without allowing the space to learn how to resolve conflicts and improve their communication. Whether you hire a coach or consultant who is adept at creating useful pauses to build team capacity, remember that unless you give your team time to practice using their newly-identified strengths on behalf of the team, they will forget what they are, or worse, view the team development as just another waste of their time. Their practicing needs to be supervised by a coach, who can help team members when they inevitably stumble, or when they are unsure of what to do next. Initially, that coach is either you or someone you hire to help you. You will know that you’ve succeeded when they start coaching one another.

  1. Finally, celebrate team successes.

We are so busy getting things done, that we don’t take the time to celebrate team success when it happens. Celebrations remind the team that their efforts are worthwhile and that they are building something positive for your organization. Praise them for what they are doing, and give them the time to have fun based their achievements.

Teams are not created overnight. The time you take now to invest in your team will reap rewards that go far beyond one group of people. They will not only excel in their work, but they will also build a culture of trust as their efforts and results will motivate other teams in your organization to follow their example. A team that knows its strengths will serve as an exemplar for other teams looking to become great themselves.

About the Author

Aneil Mishra is the Tom Arthur Distinguished Professor of Leadership at East Carolina University.  He works with executive teams and organizations around the world in the areas of trust, leadership development, and entrepreneurship, and publishes widely on these topics. His most recent book is Becoming a Trustworthy Leader. Learn more at trustiseverything.com or @drmish