How to build a strong team

The value of good teamwork shouldn’t be underestimated. As a leader, creating a strong team should be one of your top priorities. Having people working together well is the foundation and one of the best competitive advantages a company can have.

It should therefore be an intentional strategic objective for leaders to create a team where there is trust, courage, synergy and the ability to work well together is.

Patrick Lencioni, author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, outlines the 5 characteristics that leaders should strive for in order to have a cohesive team. While it will remain a constant challenge for leaders to master these behaviours, it should remain an ongoing strategic objective for effective teamwork. If each is maximised, the team will reach it’s full potential, firing on all cylinders;

  1. Trust
    Trust is the basis for healthy work relationships. Without it, people are guarded, withhold information and focussed on protecting themselves. People in teams need to trust one another if they are to work together to achieve goals. Teams that lack trust won’t be as effective in their dynamic synergy. Teams that trust each other encourage innovation, creativity and confidence in making decisions. On the other end of the spectrum, a team that does not have trust in one another is more focussed on blame, avoiding accountability, keeping ideas to themselves rather than sharing etc. Trust is essential for people to feel psychologically safe in their work environments.

  2. Conflict
    One of the biggest challenges we need to overcome is the idea that conflict is bad and should be avoided. It can be healthy and necessary in some situations in order to breakthrough and move forward in a positive way. For teams built on a foundation of trust, people feel safe to be honest and share their ideas and opinions even if they don’t align with other people on the team. This can lead to constructive conflict, where people are freely able to air their thoughts and ideas and give valuable feedback without any negative repercussions. Teams where people are scared of conflict can stifle creativity, feedback and innovation. Good leaders need to encourage and facilitate some degree of conflict and ensure this is managed in a healthy and productive manner and team members still feel safe and secure for being ‘disagreeable’.
  1. Commitment
    Lencioni draws a distinction between commitment and consensus. Reaching consensus means compromise, which lacks buy-in from everyone. Commitment on the other hand comes with a certain clarity of purpose. This is where the facilitative leaders can really shine. Think of a situation where there is some conflict, a brainstorm that leads to tension with conflicting ideas and opinions on how to proceed. A facilitative leader recognises this high-tension situation and rather than diffusing it, they encourage the conflict and allow it to play out so all ideas can be heard and then a course of action decided on. Even though one course of action is selected in the end, each person in the team understands why it was selected and can support the idea – both within the team and when communicating it outside of the team. This situation of course can only be effective as there is a foundation of trust, where people feel psychologically safe and secure to share their conflicting ideas.  
  1. Accountability
    Considered one of the more difficult things to master, accountability is also important in creating a team operating to it’s full potential. Good leaders can model accountability in order to encourage their team to embrace it. Admitting mistakes and showing that they are necessary for growth is essential. Likewise, team members who admit accountability when mistakes are made are less likely to blame others, which only serves to build on the trust within the team. If people can make mistakes, can be accountable and still be supported by others in the team, even more rapport and trust flows.
  1. Results
    Achieving results is the reason the team exists in the first place. Once all the other 4 behaviours are thriving, then each team member is focussed on working towards the shared goals of the team. The shared goals outweigh the importance of the individual goals.

In the words of Lencioni; “While you are leading this team, you are having a bigger impact on people’s lives than you may ever have. You change the way they go home at night, the way they treat their families, their friends and strangers on a bus. You affect their self-esteem, and that’s going to carry over throughout their life. So, let’s not wait until we retire to realise the impact we can have on people’s lives. Your ability to build a good team and help people feel part of that team might very well be the most altruistic thing you ever do”.

How is the teamwork in your organisation? Could it be better? I’d love to help you in 2024. If you would like to hear how I can help, get in touch today.

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