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Building team relationships sounds wonderful as a starting point for creating a high-performance team, but in reality, it doesn’t work. Building “relationship trust” doesn’t directly translate to “execution trust” or what I now refer to as “credibility”—the most essential quality for high-performance execution.
A team of 30 managers in three different functional teams had so much conflict between them that each team met prior to our session to plan how they were going to attack the other two teams. The source of their problems wasn’t interpersonal differences, it was poor communication, lack of clarity on expectations for execution and an inability to solve problems together. No amount of ropes courses or group dinners was going to improve these relationships.
In order to build relationships based on credibility, people have to understand and agree on expectations, have a process for communicating and addressing challenges together and engage in a clear system of supportive accountability that focuses on solutions for being successful rather than blame for failure.
There is a clear process for building relationships in a way that is meaningful, insightful, inspiring and has accountability for lasting relationship improvement and growth.
Building Relationships For Expanding Awareness, Compassion And Respect
The first step in building relationships is helping people to build the “human factor.”
• We all make mistakes, even with good intentions.
• We have all overcome adversity in our lives by demonstrating perseverance, learning and commitment.
• We all need others to optimize our individual and collective success.
• We all have diverse backgrounds, experiences, skills, strengths and weaknesses that contribute to a beautiful and unique canvas for creativity, innovation, problem-solving and personal growth.
While style inventories are very insightful for getting a better understanding of each person’s tendencies for responding to each other and to pressure, there are many other questions that can be asked to build an even greater awareness and appreciation for each other’s differences.
Ten Key Questions For Building Human Appreciation And Respect
1. How many brothers and sisters did you grow up with, and how did that shape your communication and behaviors with others?
2. Did you grow up in an urban center, a suburb or a rural setting, and what did you learn about teamwork or survival in that setting?
3. Were you part of a sports team, music group or any kind of club you might have considered a team? If yes, what values or challenges did you learn from that experience? If no, did you operate more as a loner or find people to connect with for studying, playing or socializing?
4. What were the most important values you learned from your parents or guardians?
5. What situation was super challenging that you eventually overcame?
6. What is one hobby or unique gift that you have that most people don’t know about?
7. Was there ever a time you helped someone else who was very challenged? If yes, how did it make you feel to be of service to someone else? If no, did someone help you when you were challenged? How did that make them feel, and how did it make you feel?
8. What is one way you are misperceived by others? What do you do that creates that misperception?
9. What are two ways you are an obstacle to your team’s success?
10. What are two ways you contribute to your team’s success?
Understanding Roles, Responsibilities, Connections And Expectations
It’s very hard to build trust if everyone has different expectations of each other related to roles, rights, inclusion and hand-offs. Doing team-building exercises can be fun, but when you get back to the workplace, you still haven’t figured out how to coordinate and communicate under the specific conditions of your work requirements.
Creating a process for understanding each other’s roles can be done to build greater respect and connection. Have each person on your team complete and share the following information:
1. Your top three to five priorities
2. The three to five constraints or challenges to achieving your priorities
3. Your strengths that contribute to your success
4. Your opportunities for improvement that could be obstacles to your success
5. Your three improvement goals for minimizing your obstacles
6. The support you need from others to be successful and a rating of current effectiveness based on a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high)
This is not just a sharing process but a question-and-answer process that includes:
• Making sure everyone is on the same page about priorities and goals
• Making sure everyone is on the same page about areas for improvement, both personally and within the team
• Creating a safe space to share vulnerably and authentically
• Making sure everyone is aware of the support each person needs to be successful
Being Of Service To Something Greater Than Ourselves
Ultimately, we all become ego-driven and focused on our individual success when we don’t have a mission larger than ourselves to focus on. In that lower-level state, we are more likely to be self-centered on our wins and to blame others for mistakes or failures.
Being of service to something greater than ourselves starts with creating a future ideal picture of success that clarifies what success would look like for achieving our outcomes, for ideal teamwork that is currently not being demonstrated and for providing value in a way that can’t be achieved by any one person alone. In other words, it’s a descriptive picture of what success would look like in behavioral terms that we would all be accountable for achieving as a unified team.
From that description, the team can create team habits (a process of behaviors) for agreed-upon criteria for sharing information, problem-solving, communicating openly, making inclusive decisions and participating in effective team meetings to remove obstacles that get in the way of the collective success of the team.
Check out Mark Samuel’s book
Check out Making Yourself Indispensable: The Power of Personal Accountability by Mark Samuel to get a jump start on your personal development journey as it relates to business and leadership.
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This article was first published as a Forbes Coaches Council Post.