Emerging Leaders Get It. Do You? - Improve Team Performance

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Lencioni’s well-know model for team performance, called The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team model, is based on the idea that to achieve results, a team needs to build a strong foundation, starting with trust.  Solid trust leads to the ability to manage conflict, which leads to greater commitment from team members. Committed team members, who trust each other, and can navigate conflict, find it easier to hold each other accountable (the fourth tier.)

As business leaders, we’re told we need laser-focus on getting results. That's why we're in business and why we get paid.  Often when the results aren't there, leaders focus on accountability. Makes sense, right? Why the heck aren't people doing what they need to do to meet their goals?

The problem with stopping at accountability is that people and teams are pretty complex.  It isn't a matter of just telling people "Go do this" or "Go do that better."  Inevitably, when talking with executives who are frustrated with accountability, the executives ask something like, "I just wonder if people care. Are they committed to the company?"  And so it goes...

Figuring out why people aren’t committed usually leads us to discover that communication among team members, and maybe even with the leader, isn't stellar. In fact, even if the team seems to be easy-going and harmonious on the surface, if we listen closely enough, we'll pick up on the need to shore up things up. Often there's a hotbed of unresolved conflict. A cornucopia of lost opportunities for excellence. I'm not just talking about "in your face" conflict filled with drama. I'm talking about the ability of team members to have clear communication - even disagreements - with the goal of generating great ideas, tackling problems, and generating creative solutions.  Getting in front of conflict and moving through it makes the business better.

This takes courage - and a willingness to embrace and navigate conflict. It comes naturally to some folks, and to others, not so much. And < ahem > if you watch the news these days, there are PLENTY of examples of people on all sides of the aisle embracing conflict. Just not navigating it without leave a trail of damaged relationships and reputations. But before we can address more effective conflict management, we still need to get to the root of performance.

What IS IT that these emerging leaders understood so naturally about getting the most out of teams? They know what doesn’t work.

They know that focusing only on results might work temporarily, but it doesn't get to the root of performance issues.

They know that telling people they just need to “be more accountable” also doesn’t work in the long run if that’s all you are doing. It assumes that OTHERS are the problem. More often than not, it's the culture, lack of training, the processes, or an unfortunate combination of people in that particular system that needs to be addressed. Not JUST the individuals.

They know what DOES work and they CRAVE it themselves: Building trust through open, frequent, authentic communication.  Here's where we can all, leader or not, take some steps to make teams, any teams we're part of, be more impactful, successful, and, darn it, more enjoyable.


Practice Self-Awareness:  What are you honestly doing well and what do you need to work on?

Here’s a quick start for your self-assessment.  On a scale of 1-5, with 1 being strongly disagree and 5 being strongly agree, rate the following:

  1. The amount of time I spend talking about results with the team is effective.

  2. I hold people accountable and it shows in our results.

  3. I look beyond results and accountability to find the root cause of performance opportunities.

  4. I communicate effectively - and others would agree.

  5. The team communicates effectively among members.

  6. Team members trust me and I trust them.

  7. Team members trust each other.

What insights about your own leadership can you glean from your answers? What's one thing you can thing you can start doing today to begin improving your team’s performance?

Liz WilsonComment