The post before last was about finding balance in your life, based on information from the book Breaking the Trust Barrier, by JV Venable. If you recall, Venable was a commander and demonstration leader of the Thunderbirds, the USAF’s elite demonstration team. In addition to balance, the author addresses building teams – and the commander of a team whose slightest mistake can cause death and disaster knows something about building strong, tight, effective, high-functioning teams!
Critical characteristics of a high-functioning team
There are three key components to a great team:
Trust: The willingness to put yourself or your team at risk with the belief that another will follow through with a task, in a role, or with a mission.
Loyalty: Cohesion within a relationship – the kind that can be built only on the foundation of commitment. It is fostered by a leader’s willingness to go the distance to support his/her team without the expectation that they will respond in kind.
Commitment: The demonstrated will to deliver for the people around you.
Building a Team
No matter how willing people are to work together, deep feelings like trust, loyalty, and commitment take time to develop. Steven Covey compares trust to a bank account – it takes a long time and a lot of deposits to build up, but it can be emptied in a heartbeat with one foolish decision.
How best to get a team up to high levels of performance, i.e., high levels of trust, loyalty, and commitment? Venable uses a technique he compares to drafting, the practice that enables vehicles to move into an aerodynamically advantageous position so they both (or all) go faster than any of them can move separately.
Drafting involves shepherding new hires through a process to smooth their way politically and socially, provide them with the tools they need to be successful, and help bring them along as part of the team. This helps turbocharge the onboarding process to help teams gel faster and better than ones left alone to spontaneously form.
The Lead Role
A leader takes a special role in team building, in that they must be the example for everyone else to follow. Leading can be a tough job. It’s not your mission to do everything for your people, nor to tell them how, why, or what to do. Rather, it’s to give them guidance, smooth out obstacles, and provide the needed skills and tools to get their job done.
The leader is also the keeper of team rituals, little ceremonies, traditions, and emblems that represent the team and distinguish them from other teams. These traditions can be powerful motivations for those who strive to join the team as well as those who are already in it.
In short, it’s the leader’s job to ensure that their team is trustworthy, loyal, and committed. If you don’t know how to accomplish that, you might want to read Venable’s methods and see if you can adapt them for your work environment.
Think about the points below. Are you demonstrating them as a leader?
- Be committed to those around you, co-workers, managers/sups, direct reports – ask them how you can serve them better
- Be loyal to get loyalty
- Commitment & Loyalty are the foundation to Trust. When others trust you, they will follow you.
- Find ways daily to demonstrate these leadership characteristics in small ways – be consistent!