Avoiding the Number one Enemy of Team Vitality

Avoiding the Number one Enemy of Team Vitality

We have all been on teams that lack vitality.  Its no fun.  When a team lacks vitality, it sucks the energy out of the room.  People don’t want to participate and they become demotivated.  There is only one thing worse and that is when you are the leader that is causing the problem – and you don’t know it.  Let’s explore together one of the top reasons teams struggle to be productive.

Dan Rockwell (of Leadership Freak) writes about eight enemies of team vitality.  The top of the list is distrust.  Webster defines distrust as “the feeling that someone or something cannot be relied upon or doubt the honesty or reliability of; regard with suspicion.”  When distrust develops on a team, it is hard to get anything done.

Distrust is the fly in the ointment that destroys everything.  When you feel like you can’t trust someone, you lose respect for them.  You don’t want to share what is on your mind less it be used against you.  When people don’t trust one another, they begin to work in silos.  They want to protect their “turf” and are less willing to negotiate solutions.  Information that is needed by the team is not shared freely.  Rather than pulling on the genius of each member of the team, each team member is doing their own thing.

Distrust may start with something small and seemingly insignificant.  Perhaps a person shares a confidential thought with someone they shouldn’t have spoken.  Or a team member misses a meeting and doesn’t apologize or explain.  Distrust usually starts small and grows.  When distrust becomes full blown, there is a total loss of productivity.  If left by itself, eventually you lose people.

How do you avoid distrust from stealing your team’s vitality?  You need to know what is important to the members of your team.  The underlying cause of distrust is that someone’s values are being trampled upon.  We all have things that are important to us, but they are not all the same.  Yes, there are common values we share.  No one wants to be talked badly to other people behind your back.  People don’t want to be lied to – they want the truth.  We should be people of integrity.  Those kind of issues should be dealt with if and when they come up immediately.

But the kind of distrust that steal team vitality often are not of that nature.  They are the kind of things that are more subtle and impact individuals on the team rather than the entire team.  This is because of a conflict in values between individuals, not the entire team.  Each person has a list of values – things that are important to them.  When they are violated, they can begin to mistrust you.  When this happens over and over again, the small violations become a big issue.  This happens on teams all the time with accumulating violations and distrust.

What is important to you may not be that important to me.  For instance, being highly accurate in giving facts (especially numbers) is not that important to me.  My brain doesn’t hold specific numbers well.  I have always simply approximated figures for decision making purposes.  This has served me well.  But for others this is a violation of importance.  To give information that is not factual is a kin to deception.  Accuracy and detail is important to them.  Now if I know this, I can be more careful in giving accurate figures so as to not violate this value and raise the bar of trust.

Let me give you another example.  Some people have a very high value of caring for other people.  They would never walk past a desk without stopping and saying hello.  They would find it rude if you didn’t smile when glancing across the room.  They go out of their way to make sure that someone’s birthday is remembered and celebrated “appropriately” with card, gift, and cake.  However, someone else on the team is focused on producing results and is using their limited resources to gain momentum and achieve success.  Their focus may cause them to forget a birthday or two or three…   Or they stay on a call rather than go to the lunchroom for a quick Happy Birthday sing-a-long.  It isn’t that they don’t care, but their value of care is trumped by their value to success.  Regardless, seeds of mistrust are sown without even being aware.

What is important to use motivates our behavior.  Our behavior is interpreted by our team.  When values are in line with each other the team is strong and maintains its vitality.  But too often our behaviors are interpreted through our own grid of values (what is important to me).

To avoid distrust on your team, we must become aware of what is important to our teammates.  We need to understand their motives (reasons for their behavior).  Understanding their behaviors and how they are connected to their motivation is the secret to team vitality.  We call this understanding Relational Intelligence®.

If you want your team to maintain and grow in its vitality, you will need to grow your Relational Intelligence.  There are many tools that can assist with this endeavor, but some are preferred over others and are more useful.  You will be most successful when you can grow not only your own Relational Intelligence, but also the Relational Intelligence of your team.

Do you know what you do that causes mistrust in other people on your team?  Is it when you suggest risky solutions?  When you come up with too many options to consider?  Is it when you insist on everyone being treated exactly the same?  Or when you get overly persuasive?  Or when you simply don’t say anything at all?  Knowing how you trigger distrust is critical to team vitality.

Bruce Terpstra
Bruce Terpstra

Our President, Dr. Bruce Terpstra, has 36 years of pastoral ministry experience. He is a veteran of 17 years in denominational leadership and developed more than 70 new churches in the New York metro area and has given oversight to almost 400 pastors. He holds a doctorate in Leadership Development and is also the founder of 3KeyCoaching and the author of Three Passions of the Soul.

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