Leaders might fantasise about leading an ideal dream team that integrates, performs and produces more than individuals are able to on their own. Effective teamwork involves working together to produce a synchronized outcome and there is a common belief that combined efforts surpass individual efforts. This belief is the fundamental reason teams exist in companies. However, is that the reality?
Teams are set up to ensure that optimal productivity and efficiency occurs – this is the concept commonly known as “many hands make light work”. In addition having many people focusing on the same challenge results in new outcomes. The latter may be regarded as an organisational beneficial outcome; however for an individual the emphasis is on goal achievement, belonging, communicating and collaborating which leads to personal development and growth.
From this scenario we can see that both a company and an individual engage in the same activity, but for completely different reasons. The leader has the mammoth task of meeting the expectations set by the company, the team and the individual. This is often a task that appears to be impossible to execute by juggling demands, expectations and outcomes all in one process and the caveat lies in how a leader seamlessly manages this process. The obvious things to focus on are team vision, goals, roles and responsibilities which cover all the standard processes. However, what about human concepts such as trust, optimism, and learning? I would like us to focus on the most complex activity which is the one that is crucial in a relationship but certainly the most difficult one to instil, manage and maintain. Trust!
Trust means that we can depend on each other’s commitments being honoured on time and at the standard expected and we assume that we share the same or similar norms which support a collective goal. To achieve the collective goal we have to contribute equally to achieve the goal with each team member’s contribution, skill and competency needed. Herein lies the first challenge because how do we as individuals determine equal contribution in a team? What criteria do we use to discern skills, knowledge and engagement? Is that not a subjective component determined by each individual? Secondly at whose standard of expectation? Again, unless there are predefined standards this is open to interpretation. We frequently assume that ours or everybody else’s standards is common knowledge. This fatal assumption is costly and leads to disappointment which can end with distrust towards another.
Again the answer lies in the term trust, which means we will perform a certain task or activity as and when required. Trust is made up of two critical components which are:
• Time – Completing an activity in the agreed time
• Quality – Performing a task or activity to the anticipated standard.
Both components matter equally, but the time component is the easier to measure. In contrast quality has a larger variable component to it because your standard of delivery and mine might not be similar. What if excellence for me means mediocracy for you? Not meeting each other’s preconceived standards is where the most trust is broken.
As leaders do we explain to our team what the team standard of excellence looks and feels likes? Do we tell them what it takes to achieve it or is it left to trial and error? Without that clarity you are at risk of breaking your team’s trust, as they are unlikely to understand what is expected of them.