Have you ever wondered what makes cohesive teams so successful?

A guest blog by Keith Ayers, CEO of Intégro Learning Company


In cohesive teams, the strengths of each individual are recognised and valued. Leaders are comfortable in acknowledging where they need help. There is commitment and accountability all round in working towards a shared vision.

There are many factors that contribute to a cohesive team’s success. But the foundation is always vulnerability-based trust.

What do we mean by vulnerability-based trust?

And why is it so important?

Well, let me tell you a story about Bill…


My story about Bill


I once worked for a manager named Bill. Bill was unfailingly positive and enthusiastic. He never had a down day.

But there was a problem.

He lacked empathy for the other members of his team.

On one occasion, a team member turned up at work, visibly upset and a little teary-eyed. Bill asked her what was wrong. She told him her cat had just died.

Bill’s response?

“It’s only a cat, get another one!”

You see, Bill saw himself as a strong leader. To the point where he saw showing any negative emotion as a weakness. He refused to appear vulnerable, even for a moment. He was afraid that if he did, people would see him as weak and lose respect for him.

But that meant that none of his staff felt comfortable sharing their problems or concerns with him. They knew Bill hated negativity. So when he asked them how things were going, they always responded that everything was fine.

This left Bill’s company with a few problems. Like inefficient systems, communication failures, and customer complaints. Problems that were never going to be resolved because Bill was not willing to be vulnerable.


Vulnerability is not a weakness


What Bill failed to understand is that vulnerability is not a weakness. On the contrary, vulnerability is a strength. Our willingness to be open with our vulnerability demonstrates courage and clarity of purpose. To wish to hide our vulnerability is to be fearful and disconnected.

Brené Brown, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Daring Greatly, How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead knows a little about vulnerability.

Her TED Talk, The power of vulnerability, has been watched over 29 million times.

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In Daring Greatly, Brené describes vulnerability as ”the source of hope, empathy, accountability and authenticity”.

Brené mentions the story of Clynton Bartholomeusz, the managing director of a large German corporation, as reported in Harvard Business Review. Clynton discovered that his directive leadership style was stifling the initiative and creativity of his senior managers.

Clynton could have worked in private to change his behaviour. But he did something courageous and unexpected.

At the next annual meeting, Clynton stood up in front of his team, acknowledged his failings and admitted that he didn’t have all the answers. He asked for his team’s help in leading the company.

The results were dramatic. Over the next six years, Clynton’s effectiveness as a leader surged, his team flourished, and his organisation successfully outperformed much larger competitors.


Vulnerability builds trust


The reason why vulnerability is such an important component of a successful team is that it enables the building of trust among team members.

Patrick Lencioni’s best-selling book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is the definitive text on building teams. In his book, Patrick identifies the absence of trust as the first of the five dysfunctions. In Patrick’s words:

“The first dysfunction is an absence of trust among team members. Essentially, this stems from their unwillingness to be vulnerable within the group. Team members who are not genuinely open with one another about their mistakes and weaknesses make it impossible to build a foundation for trust.”


Trust drives performance


Trust should not be thought of merely as a social virtue. Trust drives performance, and there’s plenty of evidence to back this up.

The Great Place to Work Institute compiles the 100 Best Companies to Work For in conjunction with Fortune. Trust comprises two-thirds of the criteria on which companies are selected. They found that the nominated companies “beat the average annualized returns of the S&P 500 by a factor of three.”

Similarly, the advocacy group Trust Across America found the most trustworthy companies have outperformed the S&P 500. And a 2015 study by Interaction Associates shows that high-trust companies “are more than 2½ times more likely to be high performing revenue organizations” than low-trust companies.


How teams behave when there’s no trust


In teams with no trust, team members will:

  • Hide their weaknesses and mistakes from each other
  • Hesitate to ask for help
  • Hesitate to offer help outside their own areas of responsibility
  • Jump to conclusions about the intentions of other team members
  • Fail to appreciate the skills and experiences of other team members

This behaviour is driven by two factors:

  • Lack of comfort with frank conversations
  • Inability to give and receive constructive feedback


How teams behave when there’s trust


In teams with trust, team members will:

  • Admit weaknesses and mistakes
  • Ask for help when they need it
  • Offer feedback and assistance
  • Appreciate each other’s skills and experiences
  • Focus on achieving collective goals

In these teams, members are often open with each other to the extent that they’re comfortable discussing their personal lives with each other. They’re able to admit when they’re wrong. They’re quick to apologise if they’ve said or done something inappropriate.

The foundation of this trust is the ability of team members to be vulnerable. Vulnerability lies at the heart of the feedback process, whether we’re giving or receiving it.

But vulnerability makes us uncomfortable.

So to become vulnerable, we need to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.


A simple exercise for building vulnerability-based trust


So how can we build vulnerability-based trust?

Unfortunately, this is not something that can be achieved overnight. It requires a sustained effort involving sharing experiences over time, understanding the personality styles of team members, and steadily building credibility.

One activity you can do with teams to start with is to share something with one another that they wouldn’t already know about them. This simple but effective exercise takes barely anytime at all and the participants can make this as personal as they choose.

Simply describing these innocuous experiences allows team members to see each other as human beings with life stories and interesting backgrounds. This opens the door to them relating to each other on a more personal basis, with greater empathy and understanding. This means it’s less likely they’ll make unfair and inaccurate assumptions about other team members.

Click here to read Mastering Conflict: The Second Behavior of a Cohesive Team


The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team solution


At Intégro, we offer a corporate training and assessment-driven solution that includes the nurturing of vulnerability-based trust.

Our solution is The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team.

The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team is based on the approach outlined in Patrick Lencioni’s best-selling book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, and is powered by Everything DiSC personal development assessment technology..

The objective of The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team is to develop the kind of teamwork which will foster a competitive advantage.

The five behaviours required to gain this competitive advantage are for team members to:

Trust one another

    • Engage in conflict around ideas
    • Commit to decisions
    • Hold one another accountable
    • Focus on achieving collective results

The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team approach has a proven track record and has been successfully used by leading companies across different industries including MicrosoftLee Memorial Health Systems, and Harris Farm Markets.

Want to learn more about how to earn the trust of your team and increase your bottom line?  Click Here

This blog originally featured on integro.com.au and is reposted with permission from Integro.

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