The best team doesn’t always have the most talent

Teams without trust lead to poor performance

How many times have you seen sporting events in which the team with the most talent did not win?  I have seen this situation in nearly every sport.  The team that everyone assumed would win because their talent was superior to everyone else did not win.  Conversely, the best “team” can win even when its talent is possibly less than anyone else.  This past October, there was a celebration in Kansas City for the baseball World Series Champion Royals.  One of the players spoke at the event and said the Royals did not have the best pitcher in the league, they did not have the best overall player in the league, they did not have the best rookie in the league, or the best defense in the league.  But, he said, the Royals had the best, most cohesive “team” in the league and that’s why they are the world champions.

It is well known that trust is a key element in team success.  If you cannot trust your teammates, you tend to feel that you have to do key tasks yourself.  And, if everyone feels that same lack of trust, the members do not believe in others and, eventually, that lack of trust results in unexpectedly poor performance of the team.  Imagine a situation in which a team of high performers was chosen to execute a highly complex and important activity for the company.  If the members fail to trust each other, members attempt to work individually, not believing that others are capable of doing the job adequately.  If everyone starts working individually, communication fails, the best ideas are not openly discussed, and the overall quantity and quality of work is inadequate.  And, along the way, the team members end up working longer and harder to overcome the poor performance of the team.  So, you can see that trust is essential for a high-performing team.

What does trust look like on a high-performing team?  Below are a few attributes that come to mind:

  1. In a trusting team environment, everyone believes that each teammate is capable of doing work to the same level of quality, quantity, and timeliness as the individual.  Thus, members can each focus on doing their best work with their piece of the effort without feeling the need to double-check everyone else.
  2. In a trusting team environment, everyone believes that the sum total of the team’s work is better than anything any individual could do alone.
  3. In a trusting team environment, the work is shared.  Thus, no one individual must shoulder an inordinate burden of the work.
  4. In a trusting team environment, no one must be told what to do.  Members naturally see the gaps and jump in to ensure the success of the team.
  5. In a trusting team environment, members believe that every other member is motivated to seek the very best for the team and its individual members — not seek individual attention, glory, or recognition.
  6. In a trusting team environment, members believe in each other, celebrate successes together, and share equally in the challenges faces and the victories that come.  In other words, team members win together as a team or they lose together as a team.  No one stands alone either way.

Indeed, trust is critical and must be nurtured, grown, sought, and encouraged.  Are we intentionally growing trust on our teams?  Can you identify teams that perform less than anticipated as a result of mistrust?  Consider how you and your teams can do this more and better.  Have a fantastic day!

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