While reading The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, I was struck by how important the first dysfunction (“Absence of Trust”) is. At first glance it seems straightforward, but it’s not. It’s not one of those touchy-feely issues. And it doesn’t have anything to do with trust falls. It’s a foundational issue that’s commonly ignored as fluffy team-building bs.
Here’s why you’re thinking about trust all wrong:
#1. It Creates an Environment
Trust within a team is important because it creates an environment where all team members can voice their true opinions without fear of the team attacking them. While an environment of trust seems important on it’s own, it’s really not. Not until you connect it to the next two reasons.
#2. It Creates (Good) Conflict
Once you have an environment where team members are stating their true opinions (mind you, this is a team of experts, thus expert opinions) you’re going to have disagreement and conflict. This is good because you’re getting all the expert opinions on the table. The alternative of course, is silence. And when there’s silence, the decision is made based on the highest paid person’s opinion. When all team members have voiced their opinions, they have been heard and their positions considered, they have been made part of the decision-making process.
When meetings have no conflict, it’s not that the meeting attendees don’t have disagreeable opinions, it’s just that they don’t voice them. So when the meeting is over and no one has voiced their opinion and everyone leaves, don’t think you have consensus or buy in, you don’t, in fact you likely have the opposite. The book calls this “artificial harmony.”
#3 It Creates Buy In
Straight from the book:
“When people don’t unload their opinions and feel like they’ve been listened to, they won’t really get on board. Even if people are generally willing to commit, they aren’t going to because they need to weigh in before they can really buy in.”
Don’t read this wrong, it’s not about consensus, that never happens. It’s about honest discussion and then making a decision that all will commit to. And the commitment is key, it’s about protecting that decision once it’s made and not letting it falter.
“People aren’t going to hold each other accountable if they haven’t clearly bought into the same plan because they’re just going to say, ‘I never agreed with that anyway.'”
And you can clearly see how a lack of buy in changes how accountable people are.
Can you believe we got all the way to here based on a discussion about trust?
If you haven’t yet, give The Five Dysfunctions of a Team a read.