Want exceptional team performance? Then make this your top priority

How often do you put your heart and soul in your work only to realize that your team, as a whole, is not up to the challenge?

You’re confused. You’ve got the brains and expertise you need and everyone is focused on the goal. But somehow, the results are still disappointing.

So you organize more meetings, you dive into more details, hoping to solve the issue. But at the end of the day, all your efforts are barely moving the dial.

You feel the pressure building up. And you wake up in the middle of the night worried that this situation will impact your credibility in the organization.

Does this sound familiar? Well, you are not alone.

Are you aware that your team is not the exception? In fact, research indicates that as few as 10% of the thousands of teams surveyed around the world perceive themselves as highly performing. Surprising isn’t?

There are teams where people are friendly, and have fun together. However, they miss their goals as a team on a regular basis. Others follow rigorous processes, use excellent tools, yet people are overworked, feel isolated and suspicious. Again, team performance does not deliver the expected results.

Somehow, something is lacking.

Irritated and stressed, do you sometimes wonder how you could contribute to improving the situation? Maybe you looked around, read books, attended seminars, consulted with experts. Are you overwhelmed with the number of models of team performance? And unclear as to where to start?

Let me sum it up for you. At the end of the day, there is only one common denominator. Only one ingredient that is absolutely essential to create high performance and sustain it over time.

It is rooted in the very basic need of humans for safety.

Simply put: it all starts with trust. To inspire trust, and foster trust between team members.

Why this single ingredient is essential for teams to highly perform

The underlying assumption of teamwork is that it suffices to bring together a few talented and well-intentioned people for them to work efficiently as a team. However, nothing could be further from the truth, at least in the long run.

Human beings are too complex, and so is life.

If everything proceeds exactly as planned, the pressure on the team could be limited, and therefore the performance could be fine. However, as soon as the going gets tough, human nature surfaces. And unless there is a sufficient level of trust between team members, individual objectives will likely prime over team objectives.

And that’s when team performance goes down the drain.

When faced with a particularly difficult challenge, consider these two scenarios:

As you can readily see, trust is essential to high and sustainable team performance.

And in the world of teams, it can make the difference between a potential success or an assured failure.

And like in everything about life, it all starts with you. How you are able to earn the trust of others.

What you bring to the team is more important than you might think

Share your knowledge and expertise generously, so you support the whole team in attaining its objectives.

Speak and write with simple words, aiming for clarity. Demonstrating expertise is not about showing off the specialized vocabulary you master. It is how useful your expertise is to the team as others truly understand what you are explaining. This is particularly important if your team members do not hold the same expertise as you.

It is also about how confident you are when expressing your thoughts. If you are an expert and do not demonstrate conviction when you speak, others will fail to believe in you. Your opinions must make sense from a rational standpoint, but must also be congruent with the image people hold of an expert. Conviction, confidence. Not hesitation, not fear, at least on the surface.

In work setting, it is also particularly important to make swift decisions, if it is your role to do so. If you overanalyze, you could paralyze your team. It is hard to trust someone, as expert as one can be, who can’t make a decision when it’s time. Paralysis is detrimental to trust. The team needs to have confidence that it can make progress at a reasonable — if not high — speed.

But you still have to leave your ego at home

Earning trust is not only about what you bring to the team, but also how wellyou do it.

Express your opinions strongly, however, hold on to them loosely. Be open to others’ opinions without criticizing. If you know better, act respectfully and help them better understand your point. Make neophytes feel safe with you.

Listen deeply to others. Team performance is not only about you. It is how successfully you all connect and help each other. So, do not only pay attention to words people say, but also observe how they talk and how they move. It will provide a wealth of information that you can use to connect at a deeper level, where trust resides. Acknowledge their position and objectives before trying to convince them of anything. And then bridge the gap, respectfully.

Manage your emotions. It is quite detrimental to you if people do not know what to expect from you. As much of an expert you could be, if you have a reputation of shifting mood easily, of having bursts now and then, your credibility will suffer greatly.

Keep this top of mind, or go back to square one (or worse)

One more thing to earn trust in a sustainable manner.

Be reliable.

Respect your commitments. Make it a priority. You can be the top expert in your field, have great presence, connect with others deeply, it doesn’t matter. If you are not dependable, your credibility will take a major hit. And you may not be able to recover from it. Ever.

However, realistically, things happen. Sometimes, it is just not possible to deliver on your promises. If this is the case, then be upfront right away. Give a chance to others to adjust to this new reality. Advising them at the last minute does not provide them with enough room to review their plan and course correct. You then put them in a tough situation, and your reputation could suffer from it.

To regain trust after losing it is really hard, if not impossible.

From being a trustworthy team member to thriving as top positive influencer

To be successful as a team member, your first duty is to earn trust. To sum it up, it’s all about your expertise, your presence, and how reliable you are.

However, that doesn’t guarantee that all team members trust each other. You have your responsibility as to what you contribute and how you behave, but others are also accountable for themselves.

So what else can you do?

You could be a trustworthy team member, or you could thrive as a top positive influencer. While you do everything in your power to be trustworthy, are you also helping your team members to foster trust?

Consider to, for example:

Encourage others to share their expertise, their opinions, and take an active part in team discussions.

At the conclusion of a meeting, summarize the decisions taken, and the actions planned to ensure alignment. Follow-up at the next meeting. It will help everyone be reliable.

Discourage destructive behaviours. If a decision is made by the team, do not engage in a hall conversation as to how bad the decision is. Once a team has made a decision, high performance requires that everyone align and act — and speak — accordingly.

Discourage gossips. It could be detrimental to other team members, and to the overall trust between team members. Encourage empathy instead.

Help the team engage and remain accountable for its commitments. When operational challenges arise, the focus on team objectives might shift. If everyone contributes to issue resolution, as opposed as to watching a team member drown, the team will be much stronger and more deeply connected.

Ready to be part of a top performing team?

Imagine the relief if you felt safe with your team.

Imagine what together you could accomplish if you knew for a fact that you could count on each other, no matter what.

Whatever the challenge, you know that you are not alone, and neither are your colleagues. You face adversity together, bringing the best of your respective passion, expertise and resources.

What a difference it would make in the quality of your interactions, the efficiency of your collaboration, and the power of your discussions.

So take a few minutes to reflect on the most impactful actions you could take. Where should you start to earn more trust and foster trust within your team? Then make it a priority

With a strong foundation in trust, to bring on more efficient processes, greater tools, better structures, would be icing on a cake.

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