Success is not just about meeting targets

We both know success in a team or in an organisation is about much more than just meeting—or even exceeding—targets.

A leader I was working with recently took on a team that was meeting targets, but there were other visible signs the team wasn’t really a team. These include:

  • little trust
  • people didn’t enjoy coming to work
  • high turnover
  • virtually no innovation

I’ve also seen ‘nice’ teams, which sounds like a great thing, but often means the leader did everything, the team don’t challenge themselves and each other, and again, there is little innovation

The lack of trust is the Achilles’ heel of every team. People don’t feel safe to challenge ideas and one another, and are likely to be wary of sharing and self-protecting.

All that to say, ‘making’ a team can be a very tricky endeavour for any leader. But all the more important for that.

So how do we create trust, aka a culture of openness, in our team when we see these signs?

There is no quick fix, but small incremental changes can take a team to a place of openness and trust that benefits everyone: the bottom line and the team’s sense of wellbeing and fulfillment.

Here’s how you can start down the road of building trust within your team:

  1. First, seek to understand – get curious about why things are the way they are right now, how are people thinking and why, what is possible, and what has been tried before, both within the team and by team members in their previous roles? Try to understand what gets your team inspired and motivated. Ask questions and listen to the answers.
  2. Start talking about the culture you want in the team – instigate discussions about specific team behaviour: how does the team want to work, what’s important to them, what is above and below the line in terms of behaviours? This makes everyone an active participant in building a culture, and leads to that sense of safety you are looking to foster.
  3. Lead by example – Understanding and engaging people in conversations are great to start building trust, but leading by example is key and solidifies the previous steps. It shows your team it is safe to challenge ideas. Ask the team challenging questions like “what’s wrong with this idea?”, “where are the holes” and “what can we learn from this problem/mistake?”. These are fantastic ways to role model safe ways to challenge each other.
  4. Give positive feedback for the behaviours you want to encourage – When team members suggest improvements and innovation or challenge one another’s ideas, give positive feedback and encouragement. Try to include the impact the behavior has. “Thanks for suggesting that change. That’s exactly how I want us to be thinking because it helps us constantly lift our game”

These are small steps that can help you start building trust in your team. Give them a try and let me know how it goes.

I love sharing easy-to-implement leadership tips and tools. But I also know from experience that sometimes tools are not enough, and an external voice and guidance – preferably from an expert – are just what you need. If that’s the case for you, I’m here to help you with that too. Get in touch and together we can work out some solutions for your team problems.

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