In teams and team development there’s a much talked of though often neglected dynamic around trust. If you’ve ever read about Patrick Lencioni’s “5 Dysfunctions of a Team” then you’ll be familiar with trust being the bedrock of a well functioning team. The fear of being vulnerable prevents the building of trust hence it is the first of Lencioni’s 5 dysfunctions. Diagnostically it’s bang on the money. So many times I’ve seen that fear of vulnerability and lack of trust play out in teams, creating interference, ineffectiveness and entropy.
So it’s not really surprising that there’s a constant stream of articles, blog posts and sound bites saying how important trust in teams really is. I agree wholeheartedly, yet without trust I’d suggest you aren’t actually a team. Using the language of Katzenbach and Smith, I’d offer that without trust you are either a working group, pseudo-team or a potential team. Real teams create positive performance impacts. Without trust and vulnerability that performance is dysfunctional and impeded. Without trust you aren’t a team, yet.
Beyond trust – belief
So beyond trust, when we are talking about real teams, I think there is a much less talked of factor which is belief. That is belief in each other and each others potential. Let me step back to trust to explain…
In my work and observation with teams I know how trust in character and trust in competence makes a team work. Trust is defined by our experience and understanding of others. Yet people, especially leaders are brilliantly flawed. There are character elements and competence elements where we can trust people to not be ideal. You can trust me not to be competent in certain things. Mostly I’m very happy with that. But to trust that I will never be competent in something could be an issue. I need you to trust in my potential not just your fixed experiences and understanding of me to date.
I’ve seen teams break and fragment not because trust was an issue but because belief in each others potential was absent. They weren’t dysfunctional by Lencioni’s standards but they couldn’t invest fully in each others future.
I’ve seen teams perform highly and work through great challenges because they had trust and belief in each other. They weren’t stuck with the fixity of the past but were motivated by the potential of the future, and they accepted those brilliant flaws.
In essence I’m saying that you only have a team when you have trust in each other. Beyond trust, you only have a great team that can endure when you have belief in each other.
There’s an interesting quote from John Stuart Mill, a philosopher, economist and liberalist who lived during the 19th century. The following is an excerpt from his essay “Considerations on Representative Government“:
To me, those words “One person with a belief, is a social power equal to ninety-nine who only have interests“seem very apt in the context of teams and leadership as a whole. It also seems very apt in a world of Social Media.
What could your belief create for others?
[This post was posted on LinkedIn here]