When building an aligned team that performs brilliantly, there is no avoiding the importance of trust and conflict. As you read this article, I would like you to ask two questions consistently;
do we demonstrate that we trust each other
do we have the right amount of conflict?
If the answer is 'no', I have three options at the end for you.
Trust and conflict go hand-in-hand. You can't have a healthy amount of one without a healthy amount of the other, and together they form a strong foundation for the alignment and performance
of your team.
At the heart of so many conversations about team development and leadership lies the question of how to develop trust, and while the topic is complex, the reality for you, if you are a leader, is that you must go first.
When individuals feel trusted, they are more likely to live up to the expectation that has been set. We can develop that sense of trust by being honest about what we are good at and what we aren't.
When we demonstrate through our actions and decisions that the things that we say are important actually are, then our team will follow the same path.
You must create opportunities for people to get to know each other, develop clear boundaries of accountability and be unrelenting in the requirement for people to deliver on their promises to each other.
On this foundation, good conflict will be built.
Having been around teams in a coaching, leading or advisory role for twenty years, one thing is for sure about conflict. People are scared of it.
Those outside commercial organizations think they are robust, challenging environments, but most aren't. In most organizations and their constituent teams, any modicum of conflict is swept under the carpet. It is squashed, hidden, and ignored for fear that it will get in the way of the job getting done.
The opposite is actually true. The right amount of discord speeds up processes, and non more so than in meetings. When we participate in meetings, and a decision is being made that we don't think is correct, we do one of two things. The first is that we challenge, with care and respect, the decision that is made. We tell people that we believe that this is the wrong thing to do. We tell them what we think we should do instead, and we tell them why, and we do it in the belief that they will see the good intention behind our challenge.
Although it might not even occur to us at the time, we also know that our challenge will not be seen as a personal attack, nor will it be held against us in the future.
The second thing that can happen is a sign of deep trust. It is what Patrick Lencioni, the renowned team development expert, calls 'disagree and commit’.
When we truly trust our colleagues, and they are taking a decision we disagree with but one that comes from their expertise, we are more willing to air our disagreement and commitment in the same sentence. When we have the trust in our colleagues to say ''this is not what I would do, but I know you are the one who is accountable for it, so I will completely support your decision', the game changes for performance and culture within our team.
If you are the leader of the team, you must take any opportunity to model this and make it your mission to promote and recognize this show of trust and conflict when it happens.
If you have read this asking the two questions I initially framed and you don't feel today you have the right trust or conflict in your team, here are your three options.
Do nothing. That is your prerogative, and inaction is a choice