Team building magic, part 4

Drake Editorial Team

This is part 4 of a 5 part article courtesy of Drake International.

Five Steps to Building Your High Performance Teams


Step 1: Create a “Charter of Agreements”

A Charter of Agreements is the glue that holds a team together. It outlines behaviours that are acceptable and unacceptable as the team works together. Consider creating agreements around common pressure points including:

  • How often will meetings happen?
  • How long will they be and what if someone is late?
  • Is full attendance a requirement or is it acceptable to skip meetings?
  • Is bad news as valued as good news?
  • Do the members of the team hold themselves and each other accountable for keeping commitments?
  • What happens if an agreement is broken?
  • Are there people on the team who are treated differently than others?
  • What are the roles in team meetings?
  • How will the team deliver feedback to one another and how often?

Remember that while it is important to set agreements, in order for them to become the norm in behaviour, they must be practiced and enforced consistently.


Step 2: Building Trust 

Trust isn’t something that occurs naturally in teams - each member of the team must build it with every action. The best model we know for measuring trust is the trust account. Based on the work of Steven Covey from the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the trust account works like a bank account. Inabankaccount,therearewithdrawalsanddeposits. The obvious goal is to have more deposits in the trust account than withdrawals otherwise the account is overdrawn. When the trust account is flush with deposits there is high trust and when it is flush with withdrawals, there is low trust.

One great thing about the trust account is that an inadvertent withdrawal by one team member is not a deal breaker in the relationship. A subsequent deposit can overcome a withdrawal. For example, someone who breaks a promise can offset the withdrawal by acknowledging their mistake and apologizing for it. Within high trust relationships, a withdrawal is just a minor speed bump, not a deal breaker in the relationship.


Step 3: Be Proactive

Proactivity is about taking actions that move the task and relationship forward. Proactive people don’t wait for others to do something or for the circumstances to change. They take actions themselves to achieve goals and build relationships. They stay focused on the desired result even in the face of challenge, always making things happen. Proactive people take personal responsibility for their situations and understand that they always have choices. Reactive people blame their circumstances on others, make excuses and often withdraw or give up in the face of challenging situations. Reactivity is often found in language. Using words like “There’s nothing I can do” and “If only” are announcements that reactivity is present. 

Magical teams exhibit high levels of proactivity. 

Using powerful questions like: “If we could do something - what would we do?” or “How can we overcome that roadblock...?” This helps teams flex their proactive muscles.


Step 4: Generating Feedback

Giving honest, open and timely feedback in the spirit of continuous improvement is the lifeblood of working well together. Without feedback on how we’re performing, and the impact we’re having, we’ll continue to play the same game and produce the same result. 

It is critically important for leaders to give individuals feedback on their performance and vice versa. However, as a leader, you must have consistently demonstrated your ability to accept and act on feedback to be able to guide change. Leaders who are defensive around receiving feedback or unwilling to make changes in themselves are seen as hypocrites when they deliver feedback to others. 

People tend to complain about the things they can change to people who can’t do anything about it. If conversations are beginning to happen behind closed doors or around the “water cooler”, this is an announcement that there is a breakdown in your team feedback mechanism. Address it right away, before it drains energy from the team.


Step 5: Healthy Conflict

As uncomfortable as conflict can seem for some, healthy conflict is very much a part of team building magic. Healthy conflict is a sign that the team is working to find the best way to achieve its goal with team members fighting for a cause they believe in.


If your team is embroiled in destructive, unhealthy conflict, here is a simple model to get the team back on track:

  1. Reconnect to the team’s goals - what are we here to accomplish?
  2. Understand all perspectives in the situation.
  3. Together, identify solutions to achieve the desired result.

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