Cultivate team commitment with answers to deep questions.
Trust takes time, but sometimes you need to get everyone working together quickly. You can accelerate team commitment by focusing on critical leadership behaviors that answer key questions your team is asking.
- Start with Shared Purpose
- Be Real and Transparent
- Care for Your Team and Have Their Back
- Practice Celebration and Accountability
Does any of this sound familiar?
Your business quadrupled in the past year and new people are everywhere. Or, you just went through a big restructure, and suddenly you’re leading a team of people who don’t know you or one another. Or maybe you’ve been assigned to an urgent project and you find yourself leading a new project team full of players who don’t know one another.
However you got there, one fact is true: to succeed you need to build a team that’s able to work well together and get results–and you need to do it fast.
Creating real trust and the psychological safety that leads to great performance takes time. There’s no substitute for the confidence your team will get from working together, learning one another’s strengths, and experiencing reliability. But you can speed up the process and improve team commitment to outcomes and one another by focusing on these four activities.
Each activity answers critical questions your new team is asking. Strong, clear answers everyone can see in action create a firm foundation for results and trust.
1. Start with shared purpose.
The driving question for any team is “Why are we here?” The unifying focus for any team is their shared reason for existence. What is the motivating story behind the work you do? How are people better off because of your team’s effort?
You cannot over-communicate your team’s shared purpose. This is the drumbeat that moves through all the work you’ll do together. It is the answer to every decision you’ll make. Don’t stop with a surface answer to this question. Keep asking why until you get to the foundation of the difference you make. Then communicate it five times, five different ways–and then do it again.
2. Be real and transparent.
The next questions your new team members are asking are “What’s going on?” and “Can I trust you?”
One of your most powerful leadership strategies to address both questions is transparent communication. In the absence of information, people fill in the blank with many explanations. These explanations are often far worse than the truth.
Be a leader people can count on to tell the truth–especially if it’s uncomfortable or unpleasant. Your vulnerability and authenticity help people know they can rely on you. That you won’t hold back or play games with them. Equally important is a very clear picture of what success looks like. What are you doing together? How does each person successfully contribute to that outcome?
As events unfold, the mantra “Here’s what I know. Here’s what we don’t know. And here’s how you’ll know when I know” will be a critical part of your leadership communication.
3. Care for your team and have their back.
The next question they’re asking is “Do I matter to you–not just the company?” They want to know that you have their back, to believe you’d walk through fire for them, and to take the proverbial bullet coming from above. Your team’s commitment to one another and their work is a mirror of your commitment to the team. There are several ways you can show your team that you support them.
Advocate for them and their ideas. Provide visibility for the work they do. Be the same person with your team as you are with your boss (or their boss). And one of the most important ways to let your team know you care is to take responsibility for their mistakes. When they screw up, don’t throw them under the bus and blame them when your boss asks what’s happening. Take responsibility as the team’s leader and address it within the team.
4. Practice celebration and accountability.
The last question you want to answer as fast as possible is “Do you value my work?” Your team’s commitment depends on yours.
The answer to this question comes through both celebration and accountability. As you start your work together, intentionally create small wins and celebrate them. Let everyone know that success matters. Encourage the team to celebrate one another and the wins as they happen.
And practice accountability. Quickly. Accountability tells everyone that their work matters. Ignoring poor performance or behavior tells your top performers that you don’t value their work. Equip your team with the I.N.S.P.I.R.E. Method for effective performance conversations. Build a culture where you keep your commitments to one another and don’t let time go by without addressing it when things aren’t working.
Your Turn to Cultivate Team Commitment
You can’t answer these questions in a team meeting or through PowerPoint slides. Your team has to see you live the answers every day. You’ll quickly build trust and commitment as your team learns they can rely on you and, by extension, one another.
We’d love to hear from you: What’s the best way you’ve seen leaders quickly build a team’s trust and commitment?