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When I was in second grade, my father frequently told me, “You can’t put the roof on a house until the foundation is complete.” While I understood the physical concept, I didn’t fully understand what he meant until I was much older. Once I understood the analogy of the “foundation,” his words made sense. For a workplace team, a strong foundation is incredibly important.
Teams revolve around, and depend on, people. An effective team possesses five interpersonal attributes that enable them to efficiently reach their goals. These attributes are built upon a foundation of trust and respect—two elements that no amount of talent or skill can replace.
An effective team:
These attributes, in addition to each team member’s unique skill contribution—be it a talent for calming frustrated customers, deep research, a talent for troubleshooting problems technical and otherwise, etc.—help make your service desk team better at meeting their objectives.
I will address each of these attributes in future articles. For now, I will focus on the foundation on which these attributes are built: trust and respect.
How do team members develop trust? First and foremost, it is critical to understand that there are two different types of trust. First, there is predictive trust whereby team members come to know and trust in each other’s skills. Everyone must know his or her role AND understand how they fit within the rest of the team. For instance, what can you do so that others may do their jobs more effectively? And what do others need to do so that you can do your job more effectively? When you work with a team member and know he or she will deliver what they say they will, that is predictive trust.
While predictive trust is crucial, equally important is building vulnerability trust among everyone on the team. An example of vulnerability trust would be when Bob says to Susan, “It has been a while since I’ve worked on this software program. Can you help me?” When Bob admits that he may not have the knowledge, he is allowing himself to be vulnerable and trusting that Susan will not use that against him in the future. Building vulnerability trust among an entire team can take a long time, yet it is vital to the success of the team.
One of the tools I often use to help teams begin the process of building vulnerability trust is a personal history exercise like the one below. This works best if you have everyone in a meeting together. If you have a very large team (more than 20), smaller groups might work better. Each person will share their answers to the following:
Team members need to be able to trust that others on their team will do what they need to do to meet the team objectives. This is not something that you, an individual team member, has control over. The only thing you have control over is making sure you do your job, so that the other people on the team know they can count on, and trust, you. This is the first step in developing trust, both predictive and vulnerability, and the first step in building respect for your team members’ abilities and dedication to the goals of the team.
When team members trust and respect the rest of their team, a door opens to personal conversations. With that strong foundation, developing the five attributes of an effective team outlined above will become easier.
In my next article, I will begin discussing the five interpersonal elements that every successful team possesses. Until then, make it a great day.
Gregg Gregory is America's teambuilding mastermind, specializing in building winning cultures at every organizational level. A Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) with more than 35 years working at all levels within in corporate America, Gregg has delivered more than 2,000 keynotes and teambuilding trainings to more than 500 companies in the past 20 years. Named an HDI Top 25 Thought Leader in 2017, his expertise and articles have appeared in hundreds of business and trade publications, including SellingPower.com, Boardroom Magazine, and Drake Business Review. Follow Gregg and Teams Rock on Twitter @TeamsRock, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
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