As Patrick Lencioni puts it in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, “teamwork comes down to mastering a set of behaviours that are at once theoretically uncomplicated, but extremely difficult to put into practice day after day.”
I’ve written before about how leaders can help teams develop trust. A lot of it sounds simple on paper, but without team members putting in the work themselves, it won’t get results. In this post I’ll explore some of the challenges team members face relating to building trust, and how you can overcome them.
Working remotely can be highly effective, but it does require some specific skills, especially when it comes to communication. I myself have run into problems with this. When pitching a project virtually, I was surprised by how much more difficult it was to read the room. Just being unable to see people’s body language can really make you second-guess things!
The only way to overcome this is with practice. Building good in-person communication makes it easier to get over the awkwardness of talking remotely and trust people are paying attention. Also, try to establish ways of chatting casually; this won’t happen automatically, as it does in most offices.
Putting the individual above the team
There are many ways someone could act as though they, individually, are more important than the team. Maybe they have trouble delegating tasks, assuming only they can do them. Perhaps they never offer to help out, even when they have time. Or they might nitpick and ‘correct’ others’ work, thinking only their approach is viable.
This ignores the fundamental fact that a good team accomplishes more together than they ever could separately. That’s the whole reason people work together!
When coaching individual clients, I often focus on teaching them to trust themselves. When you second-guess every tiny decision, you don’t get much done. The same applies in teams – you must learn to trust others’ abilities as well as your own, to give and take as needed. Everyone has different strengths, bolstering each other’s weaknesses, and holding yourself aloof from that hurts you and the team.
Collaboration vs competition
Some people view the workplace as a competition – and some workplaces encourage this culture. Personally, I find it limiting. When you treat jobs like a zero-sum game, as “if you succeed then I fail”, you’re inhibiting innovation, collaboration and growth.
A strong team must do away with this mindset. Naturally, everyone will develop their own skill set and pursue opportunities relevant to themselves. But this doesn’t mean you have to stab each other in the back or hold each other down – that will only limit your team’s effectiveness. And if you’re pursuing promotion, don’t you want to be able to point to the great things you’ve contributed to, and trust your colleagues and managers to back you up?
Uneven distribution of work
Every team dreads dealing with that one person who puts in minimal effort, but has no trouble taking credit for the team’s achievements. In this case, other team members should (collectively) use established channels to bring attention to the issue. This is much better than trying to speak to the person one-on-one, which risks becoming a fraught personal conversation. It should be handled neutrally, by someone in a management role.
If official channels don’t exist, ask about setting them up – again, collectively. It’s vital that everyone has clear goals and is held accountable.
Making time for everyone
It’s difficult to build trust with people when you don’t know them, or have shared experiences. This is why making time for each other is so important. But if you don’t put some thought into how you do this, it can easily become exclusionary.
Getting together for weeknight drinks at a bar, for instance, is a common way teams spend time together. But imagine you’re hard of hearing, tee-total, have ASD and find that environment overstimulating, are pregnant, are a parent or carer… Suddenly it’s less fun! That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, rather that you should also make time for other types of socialising – a laidback picnic lunch, perhaps.