Professional development

How to build a strong work team

Lack of trust is one of the main reasons why groups fail to function together well to achieve their objectives

You’re part of a team in your job but things are not working well. The boss might make an effort to define objectives, or even praise employees. Even so, as time goes on, nothing changes. This happens in steering committees, group projects, sports and even in families. The reason is simple (at least in theory it is): the cart has been put before the horse. Objectives are set, rules are made, meetings are scheduled but the most important elements of building a strong team are forgotten. Let’s take a look at Patrick Lencioni’s model to see what causes teams to fall apart:

In any work team, there are going to be differences of opinion

Lack of trust. The importance of trust cannot be overstated. If people feel like they have to protect themselves and hide their vulnerabilities because they don’t trust their colleagues, it is very hard to reach any goal. Trust happens when you get to know the other person and appreciate the wealth that comes with diversity. If this foundation doesn’t exist, a team will not get very far and members will become exhausted both professionally and personally.

Fear of conflict. In any work team, there are going to be differences of opinion and it is perfectly normal that not everyone agrees 100% of the time on all decisions. Conflict is a part of life, and, if it is not properly dealt with, a fake sense of harmony can emerge. Everyone says yes to everything, but then they back down from their commitments. Managing conflict requires strong skills in other areas beyond communication. It is about getting over the fear of saying “no” and having the confidence to take on more difficult conversations.

Lack of commitment. If conflict cannot be handled, it is difficult to set goals everyone can agree on. Since everything is vague and no one knows exactly what is expected of them, people are not going to do their best work. They either wait or get stuck. Because of this, objectives must be clearly defined and mutual expectations communicated with care.

Avoiding responsibilities. If there is no clarity, there is no responsibility. It's that simple. We all need some incentive to push ourselves. If there is no incentive because of low standards, anything goes or people are passing the buck, it’s likely there is little motivation. What is needed is a shared ambition backed up energetically, with each member of the team assuming their responsibility and pushing one another to work harder (this requires trust and proper conflict management skills).

If there is no clarity, there is no responsibility

Not paying attention to results. When people put their own careers, status or department before the greater good of the team, it is hard to reach goals. Collective goals involve constant negotiation and being generous toward colleagues, something that does not happen if a person puts themselves first.

When a team is weak and fails to reach objectives, one must analyze if there is trust, if conflict can be resolved, if expectations are clear, if team members assume their responsibility and whether or not people are putting the collective group success above their own. This is the only way to build the foundations needed to strengthen a team, reach objectives and ensure team members feel fulfilled and proud to belong to the group.

English version by Laura Rodríguez.

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