5 Steps For Building A Cohesive Leadership Team

5 Steps For Building A Cohesive Leadership Team

Here are 5 steps for building a cohesive team

Photo by shutter_m/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by shutter_m/iStock / Getty Images

1. Build Trust.Members of a truly cohesive team must trust one another.Many people think of trust in a predictive sense; if you can come to know how a person will behave in a given situation, you can trust him or her. As laudable as that might be, it’s not the kind of trust that lies at the foundation of building a great team.

The kind of trust that is necessary to build a great team is what I call vulnerability-based trust. This is what happens when members get to a point where they are completely comfortable being transparent, honest and naked with one another, where they say and genuinely mean things like, “I screwed up,” “I need help,” “Your idea is better than mine,” and even, “I’m sorry.”

At the heart of vulnerability lies the willingness of people to abandon their pride and their fear, to sacrifice their egos for the collective good of the team. While this can be a little threatening and uncomfortable at first, ultimately it becomes liberating for people who are tired of spending time and energy overthinking their actions and managing interpersonal politics at work.

As important as it is for all members of a leadership team to commit to being vulnerable, that is not going to happen if the leader of the team, whether that person is the CEO, department head, pastor or school principal, does not go first. If the team leader is reluctant to acknowledge his or her mistakes or fails to admit to a weakness that is evident to everyone else, there is little hope that other members of the team are going to take that step themselves.

Photo by raywoo/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by raywoo/iStock / Getty Images

 2.Master Conflict.Contrary to popular wisdom and behaviour, conflict is not a bad thing for a team. In fact, the fear of conflict is almost always a sign of problems.Even when teams understand the importance of conflict, it is frequently difficult to get them to engage in it. That’s how powerful our cultural aversion is to discomfort. In order to break through that aversion, there are a few things that a team leader can do.

One of the best ways for leaders to raise the level of healthy conflict on a team is by mining for conflict during meetings. This happens when they suspect that unearthed disagreement is lurking in the room and gently demand that people come clean.

Another tool for increasing conflict is something I refer to as real-time permission. The idea here is that people need to get immediate feedback, the positive kind, when they start to try out this approach to conflict. And no matter how minor the nature of that initial conflict might seem, it is going to be uncomfortable.

Photo by Paul Bradbury/OJO Images / Getty Images

Photo by Paul Bradbury/OJO Images / Getty Images

3.Achieve Commitment.The reason conflict is so important is that a team cannot achieve commitment without it. People will not actively commit to a decision if they have not had the opportunity to provide input, ask questions, and understand the rationale behind it. Another way to say this is, “If people don’t weigh in, they can’t buy in.”

Most leaders have learned the art of passive agreement: going to a meeting, smiling and nodding their heads when a decision is made that they don’t agree with. They then go back to their offices and do as little as possible to support that idea. The impact of this is often embarrassing and costly for the organization.

The only way to prevent passive sabotage is for leaders to demand conflict from their team members and to let them know that they are going to be held accountable for doing whatever the team ultimately decides.

Photo by mindscanner/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by mindscanner/iStock / Getty Images

4.Embrace Accountability.Even well-intentioned team members need to be held accountable if a team is going to stick to its decisions and accomplish its goals.Peer-to-peer accountability is the primary and most effective source of accountability on a leadership team.

When team members know that their colleagues are truly committed to something, they can confront one another about issues without fearing defensiveness or backlash. After all, they’re merely helping someone get back on track or seeking clarity about something that doesn’t seem right. And the person being questioned about her behavior or performance will be willing to admit that she has inadvertently lost her way — after all, she’s vulnerable — and adjust her behavior accordingly.

Photo by IvelinRadkov/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by IvelinRadkov/iStock / Getty Images

5. Focus on Results.The ultimate point of building greater trust, conflict, commitment and accountability is one thing: the achievement of results. What would members of an executive team be focused on if not the results of their organization? Well, for one, the results of their department. Too many leaders seem to have a greater affinity for and loyalty to the department they lead rather than the team they’re a member of and the organization they are supposed to be collectively serving.

The only way for a leader to establish this collective mentality on a team is by ensuring that all members place a higher priority on the team they’re a member of, than the team they lead in their departments. A good way to go about this is simply to ask them which team is their first priority. Many well-intentioned executives will admit that in spite of their commitment to the team that they’re a member of, the team they lead is their first priority. This is absolutely natural, common, and understandable. And dangerous.

When members of a leadership team feel a stronger sense of commitment and loyalty to the team they lead than the one they’re a member of, then the team they’re a member of becomes like the U.S. Congress or the United Nations: it’s just a place where people come together to lobby for their constituents. Teams that lead healthy organizations reject this model and come to terms with the difficult, but critical, requirement that executives must put the needs of the higher team ahead of the needs of their departments. That is the only way that good decisions can be made about how best to serve the entire organization and maximize its performance 

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