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Friday, October 03, 2008

Absence of Trust in Your Team is Costing You Money

You probably find it hard enough to accept that people in your team don't trust each other. I won't be surprised if you find the idea of losing money (or opportunities to earn more money) because of this as quite a stretch. But before you dismiss this post, see if you find any of the following familiar:

  • Employees don't tell their leader that the strategy is lame and that they have better ideas (they often have)
  • Some employees are overheard saying "I knew this would happen" when things go wrong.
  • A department head is heard saying she has no choice but to implement management decision and that if it is up to her, she would do otherwise.
  • No body's calling anyone's attention about mediocre performance.
  • Employees avoid dealing or working with some employees as much as they can help it.
  • Employees criticize strategies or complain about them in the wrong venues and to the wrong people.

How exactly are these costing you money, you might ask.If any of the above is happening in your team, there's a good chance that things are not done as quickly and as well as they should be. Convert the lost time and rework to currency and that's how much money you are losing. Think about the cost of lost opportunities when mediocrity of performance imminently lead to poor product or service quality. One more thing, if you are experiencing any of the above, there is a good chance that your employees are not happy at work and are considering leaving. How much does that convert to money? The loses could be so little that they are negligible. They can also be so big that it costs the business itself. You don't want to get there.

You probably have another question. You might be asking how can the things I mentioned be products of the absence of trust. Let me answer that with another question. How do you communicate with people you completely trust, say a best friend? the usual answer is, with all honesty. You don't worry about being wrong, you don't worry about the other person being upset if you say something critical because you know that the person won't be.

A trusting relationship between two or more people, opens up the communication channel to a surprising level of transparency and candor. When there is trust in the team, members don't need back channel politics to discuss issues. They can argue passionately with each other and yet not hurt the relationship. Because people are open in the way they communicate, issues are discussed, strategies go through wringer, performance related problems are addressed so that people become accountable for their action.

Patrick Lencioni in his book the Five dysfunctions of the team cite the Absence of Trust as the first of the dysfunctions. It is also the most critical as it leads to all the other dysfunctions such as fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability and inattention to results. He also so said that while the solution to overcoming these dysfunctions are simple, they are not easy, in fact they are difficult. They are however, doable.

I have facilitated a number of team building interventions basing from Lencioni's model and I can say that with the client's commitment to change and team building, the solution works. The course outline of my team building workshops can be found at the left column of my blog, if you are interested take a look at them or better yet, contact me. I'll be more than happy to help you build a more trusting relationship within your team.

How do we do it? We start by determining the client team climate using the five dysfunctions survey by Lencioni prior to the workshop. I also administer a personality inventory questionnaire to profile the participants. These would be used at the beginning of the workshop which lasts for two days.

The following activities involve familiarizing with each other by knowing their personal histories and their personality profiles. Building familiarity is an important first step in trust building. The participants also discuss what they can do to build trust in the team. This is a powerful exercise that help recognize what they need to do to make it happen. Some of the norms I got using this exercise include:

1. Be open to speak of what you can and cannot do or say your strengths and weaknesses
2. Engage in discussions whole heatedly without fear of being judged (without holding Back opinions )
3. If you have a problem with me go to me
4. When there are disagreements that need the leader's’ attention, both parties should ask the leader to participate

The rest of the session is spent covering each of the dysfunctions and coming up with norms to overcome them. The exercises and and the norms are all realistic, practical, useful and follow-up-able ;). After the session, I write a comprehensive report that include the highlights of the workshop, the inputs, forward agendas and action and follow up points. I also help in the follow-through if the client requires it.

If you are interested to know more, call me.

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