One of our favourite team models outlines five important building blocks for team greatness. Our model draws inspiration from the brilliant work of Patrick Lencioni described in his book, “Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team”. In our model, we place Relationships at the very base of the pyramid. Successful teams make time to develop positive relationships very early on in their formation, and continue to do so regularly as they go about their work. They have fun together, laugh together and play together. This can take the form of meeting icebreakers, team lunches or a well planned team building event. To quote Plato: “You can learn more about a person in an hour of play than in a lifetime of conversation.”
The second base layer on our performance pyramid is Trust. Trust is highly correlated with positive relationships. Although some people initially grant trust quite freely, it will wither or grow based on day to day behaviours. If we are deliberate, we can create opportunities to place “deposits” into the bank account of trust that we have with each of our colleagues and partners. These regular deposits show that our intentions are good, and so is our ability to commit, follow through and execute. Trust allows us to take risks without undue fear of failure or blame. The development of team trust can be accelerated with dramatic activities such the High Ropes Course events that we often use for our “Building Trust” programs.
Stepping up the pyramid we come to Communication. The type of open communication that can happen in a high trust environment encourages people to contribute their best ideas. It allows them to disagree openly when they see something that no one else sees. This is the productive type of conflict that Lencioni describes, and it is one of the critical pieces of group problem solving and innovation.
Fourth in our model is Commitment. A person`s level of buy-in increases as they feel heard, feel they fully understand an issue and believe the plan reflects, at least in part, their ideas. Commitment to the team itself is also important. We commit to each other when we care about each other, and this comes back to the strength of the relationships we have developed.
The peak of the pyramid is Accountability; both for result and for behaviours. There can be no accountability for results without clear targets and a way to evaluate progress. Similarly, there can be no accountability for behaviours without clear agree-upon group norms and regular reflection. The team needs to practice accountability together. People must evaluate results and behaviours, reflect on their own actions, report on them and actually change (or continue) them based on what’s working and what’s not.