An organization is only as good as its teamwork. While it’s tempting to blame individuals for dysfunction, neglecting to take the steps to build a cohesive team is often the root cause behind a team’s failing, or even simply lackluster, performance. A helpful toolkit we use at APLS Group for understanding foundational behaviors for team success is the The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team®. The following are key ideas to help teams grow and thrive:
1. Trust is the foundation of a team that works well together, and trust is built upon the ability to be vulnerable with another person. Brené Brown has popularized the power of vulnerability with over 9 million views of her TED Talk, and if your team members don’t already know her work, it can be helpful to introduce them to the empowering idea that there is strength in vulnerability. When team members are able to be authentic with one another — when they can be transparent about their weaknesses as well as their strengths — the trust they build will allow them to take risks, innovate and achieve more together than they ever could alone. Self-awareness is the first step in this process of trust building. The DiSC behavior assessment APLS Group uses can help team members gain insight into their own work styles (and their limitations), as well as the work styles of their fellow team members.
2. Successful teams embrace healthy conflict. It’s a mistake to see conflict as only destructive. Conflict can bring about needed transformation if it’s handled respectfully with appreciation for difference. Vulnerability-based trust allows team members to have confidence that others will listen and respect their point of view, even if they don’t agree with it. Healthy debate is welcomed and celebrated because new ideas and solutions are generated when different perspectives and experiences are shared. In fact, multiple perspectives are necessary for having a fuller picture of reality; individuals offer their partial view, but collectively a team offers a more complete rendering of a problem and its possible solutions.
Learning to embrace conflict is a skill that can be developed. The Everything DiSC Productive Conflict tool we use at APLS Group can help individuals understand their own potentially destructive conflict behaviors and learn techniques for managing their responses, as well as responding positively to others.
3. Effective team members demonstrate commitment to one another and the process. They trust each another, believe in the power of healthy conflict and commit to giving their best effort even when the outcome is uncertain or there has been initial disagreement. They know that have been listened to, they respect their colleagues’ opinions and they move forward with good intentions. Individuals will show their commitment differently, depending upon their personality-based workstyle. Some will want to take charge and forge ahead while others will focus on building relationships and team spirit. Each plays a vital role, and it’s important to recognize that team members’ “buy-in” will manifest according to their individual personalities and strengths.
4. Great teams believe in accountability. Team members look to themselves to see where they are falling short, perhaps in effort or attitude, and commit to improvement. They also are willing to call out their peers who are behaving in ways that might hurt the team. Calling out others is often much harder than looking to one’s own behavior because it can cause so much interpersonal discomfort. With teams operating on a foundation of trust, however, this peer pressure can be a helpful tool. Team members won’t want to let each other down. APLS Group can help your organization’s team members learn to give feedback constructively to build a culture of peer-to-peer accountability.
5. Successful teams focus on collective results, and members do their part to help the team accomplish its goals. You might assume results are driving efforts, but often individuals focus on their own goals without paying enough attention to the bigger picture. Teams must continually assess their progress and refine their methods to ensure that they are getting the results they want.
As Andrew Carnegie said, “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” Organizations can achieve “uncommon results” if they fully commit to the value of team building through intentional behaviors. Trust, healthy conflict, commitment, accountability and results…all of these are crucial components for optimal team performance.