What makes a high-performing team? It’s not intelligence. It’s not seniority.
Google recently discovered that the highest performing teams are the ones with two characteristics:
Individuals are able to sacrifice something they want for the good of the team.
Each person feels safe to speak what’s on their mind.
Hidden underneath all of this is the foundation that makes it all possible: trust.
If a team lacks trust, everything else is impossible.
Think about your team. Think about each person on your team. Do you trust them?
Here’s the thing, “trust” isn’t one thing. It’s actually a conglomerate of three things. So, answering this question is likely challenging. Therefore, I’ll ask you the question in a different way:
Think about your team. Think about each person on your team. Do you:
Trust that they can do the job they were hired to do?
Trust that they want to do the job they were hired to do?
Trust that they have the time to do the job they were hired to do?
Now, the question is easier to answer.
The secret to high-performing teams is that the members trust each other. And that means that they can each answer yes to all three questions for each other team member.
Trust doesn’t “just happen” naturally.
It’s a mistake to think this trust will “just happen.” It is true that, over time, co-workers get to know each other, and that often that leads to increased trust at some level. Yet, in order for a team to have true trust, you have to work at it. At Stride Consulting, the leadership team spends between four and eight hours every quarter on building trust. We use a combination of tactics.
We ask questions that require vulnerability. At the start of each quarterly strategy meeting, we take about an hour and go around the room and share something about ourselves such as how we grew up or how we handled disagreements with our parents as a child.
We spend time socializing.
We hold each other accountable for being brutally honest with one another.
Every time one single person joins or leaves the team, you have a new team.
If you have a team of six and you add one new person, you have a new team and the trust level of the entire team goes down. And then, you must spend time building that trust back up.
What if a team lacks trust?
How do you know if your team trusts each other? At our quarterly meetings, we each write a number on a piece of paper, 1–10, on how much we feel the group trusts each other. The answers are anonymous and we average the answers and track the average over time.
You can use this method or any other, but regardless of how you track it, it’s important to know if your team trusts each other. If the team lacks trust, the most productive thing to do is to discuss it as a team and then use the tactics above to attempt to increase trust. If trust doesn’t increase, the team really ought to change.
That is, one or more people should leave the team. It doesn’t mean the person has to be fired, although that’s an option if performance is bad. Yet, it’s often the case that a perfectly high performing person lacks team trust for one reason or another and would be happier and more productive on another team.