3 Practices of a Team

Building Trust at Work

The Core Practice of Connecting with Others

Without trust, individual and team performance suffers. Building Trust is a process and the following three practices can facilitate this skillset:

1. Use a Common Language for Trust Conversations. This language solution is articulated in "The Thin Book of Trust", Charles Feltman, © 2009, and includes:

Sincerity = I mean what I say, say what I mean, and act accordingly

Reliability = You can count on me to deliver what I promise

Competence = I know I can do this and I don’t know if I can do that

Care = We're in this together

2. Understanding our Relationship Habits. We need to become aware of our relationship habits when working with others in order to become competent at choosing the appropriate strategy for the situation, such as being collaborative rather than competing in a team setting. In most organizations, the technical competence of leaders is a given but, what is constantly is being assessed, is whether or not the leader has Emotional Intelligence - a skillset that allows him/her to connect with others.  Over the last 25 years, research is indicating that the "smartest person in the room is not the best leader".  After all, we manage resources and lead people.

3. Accepting Individual Differences and Listening to Worldviews. This core practice can be difficult to implement without the right cultural climate. For example, a company may say that it wants employees who are passionate about their work.  However, employees know that they need to suppress their emotions as soon as they walk through the front door because passionate expressions can be interpreted as emotional outbursts.

Solving Problems through Conflict

A Core Practice for Solving Problems

We hire people to use good judgment in solving problems with others, which means that we often need leaders to manage the conflict that it getting in the way of success.  One effective practice in managing conflict is to begin by asking the right questions before taking action. Here is an effective checklist that help frame a conflict situation so we can address it with the appropriate strategy:

1. What is the level of stress? For example, if the stress is overwhelming, the problem can’t be easily addressed because the stressed parties will not be listening and/or actively engaged. Therefore, it’s often best to avoid and postpone the problem-solving effort until the situation is calmer. If the stress is not overwhelming, there should be enough emotional space to proceed.

2. Is the problem simple or complex? If the problem is simple, there is no need to spend too many resources on solving it. Simple problems can often be delegated to the most competent person and/or interested party for solution. However, if the problem is complex, executive teams and leaders should spend  their time solving the problem and/or, at least, make sure that the problem is being fully vented and properly defined before looking at solutions and setting a course of action. After all, working on the wrong problem is disastrous in terms of time, money, and morale.

3. How much time do we have to solve the problem? Saying, “I needed this done yesterday” is irrelevant and demotivating. To create commitment with a sense of urgency, first we need to determine a realistic timeframe based on the resources and talents available to solve the problem. For example, it’s extremely useful to know that a hurricane will be landing on shore 2-3 days in advance as compared to not knowing that you are at the epic-center of a 6.0 earthquake until the quake begins. With advanced notice, we have the time to warn people and plan for safety, shelter, food, utility system repairs, etc., whereas we have to roll with the earthquake and live with its damage. Therefore, creating a sense of urgency by reacting to a situation without setting the timeframe for action is far less productive than stating a timeframe for action and analyzing what options work within that time frame.

4. How important is the outcome to each party? The answer often depends on whether or not the problem is simple or complex. For example, if we want to set up a simple, private lunch meeting with a client and it is important to the client that it is near their location, the simple solution is to accommodate the client. However, if we need to plan an emergency Board of Directors’ meeting for 9 people whereby privacy is paramount, logistics are complex and may require inputs from others who may be effected by the meeting's parameters, we must seek out the interests of key stakeholders before deciding what to do.

5. How important is the relationship among the people who have to solve the problem? For example, people can be avid competitors and still have a high regard for the long term relationship, such as competitors in Silicon Valley and/or numerous other industry leaders working together to protect common interests, etc. On the other hand, there are many transactional businesses whereby employers treat the relationship as expendable. Therefore, the logical extension of the original question is "Do I need to maintain this relationship beyond this immediate problem?" If so, the need to build the relationship maybe just as important as gaining position.

Building Commitment

A Core Practice based on Direct Communication

Without clear communications, it’s almost impossible to gain commitment when solving complex problems. An insightful practice from "The Thin Book of Trust" is the Cycle of Commitment. Practicing these five steps can reduce the barriers to effective communication and grow commitment. Here’s a recap:

1. Who is the customer/requestor? We often communicate through other people to get things done, which can open the door of miscommunications through the messenger – e.g., the messenger carelessly passes on the information, hides information to gain personal power, and/or interprets the message differently than the primary requestor, etc. If the person expected to perform does not know who the requestor is, they can’t even go to the right person for clarification or more information so they often guess at what needs to done, which leads to poor performance.

2. Who do we want to perform the task? In many cases, the requestor has a specific person in mind when making a request because they believe that he/she is the right person. In those circumstances where that requested person is unavailable, it’s important to discuss why the replacement is qualified to fulfill the request and come to an agreement that the replacement will meet the requirements. In other words, the requestor and performer need to have a clear understanding and agreement on what needs to be done (commitment) before action is taken.

3. What action is being requested? This question pinpoints one of the largest barriers to effective communication because people often "soften" their requests because they believe that direct requests are "impolite" and/or are "unsure about the impact of multi-cultural differences". Here are two examples of indirect requests.

  • "I want this client to be happy ..." (But what does "happy" mean?)
  • "Give the customer what he wants ..." (But at what costs?)

In these situations, a "direct" request would be more effective and could look like this:

  • This client would be happy if we would deliver her product by next Wednesday morning at her office. Let's make make her happy.
  • This client wants a 15% discount on our service and I am authorizing this discount. Please make sure the final billings reflects the 15% discount.

4. What are the conditions of satisfaction? How do you know when the action taken has been done to the client's satisfaction? Don’t guess or assume! Clarify. Defining and clarifying expectations lead us to commitment because we know what is expected.

5. What is the timeframe? "I need this ASAP" or "I needed this yesterday" is useless and jeopardizes commitment because the request does not consider other commitments and/or the resources required to accomplish the task satisfactorily. Without clarification, these type of requests work against commitment because they set up a "not good enough" situation.