When Patrick Lencioni set out to write about the attributes and behaviors that determine if a team will be functional (that is accomplish the results it set out to achieve) , he described five key attributes in terms of a pyramid with results at the pinnacle. As he stated in Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, the foundation of the pyramid was trust.
Effective teamwork is, Lencioni asserts, “the one sustainable competitive advantage that is largely untapped.”
When people set aside individual needs for the good of the whole, they get a lot more done well in less time, at less cost. Not only that, effective teamwork also gives people a sense of connection and belonging.
But many teams and organizations, if not most, never get to the level of high performance. Participants are reluctant to set aside their own agendas and focus on achieving the team’s goals. And in most cases, the trouble stems from a lack of trust.
Teams must trust one another, Lencioni says, on a fundamental emotional level so they are comfortable being open with one another about their weaknesses, mistakes, fears and behaviors. If people fundamentally trust one another, they are not afraid to engage in passionate dialogue around issues and key decisions that are critical to the organization’s success. This “unfiltered debate” ensures that all ideas and objections are put on the table and worked through so the team can arrive at a genuine commitment to the decision. Genuine commitment enables team members to hold one another accountable for follow through and to put achieving the results ahead of individual agendas.
So, trust is essential to having open and honest dialogue and debate, which leads to better decisions, better commitment, and better follow through: i.e., competitive advantage. It is that simple.
Does it work?
In There is Nothing as Fast as the Speed of Trust Stephen Covey cites a study showing that high trust organizations outperform low trust organizations by nearly 300%. Covey describes a lack of trust in an organization as a tax that reduces the value of every interaction. People waste time worrying about their image. People don’t hear the message clearly enough because they are factoring in assumptions about intentions. They often take things the wrong way — wasting time and talent. People who are unafraid to admit truth about themselves have no need to engage in political behaviors that waste so much time.