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Trust, Respect and Support

Developing trust among team members is at once difficult and essential to becoming a High Performance Team. Team members need to be taught from the start that building trust between the team members is critically important to the team's ultimate success.

As the team forms, it is normal that the level of trust to be at a low level. Several members, or all team members may have worked together before. Or they may know each other by casual acquaintance or interaction. But trust has something to do with loyalties, and at the outset the team will not have developed team loyalty. Rather, each team member's loyalties will be to his or her own organization or manager. As the days and weeks of team building proceed, loyalties will naturally build toward fellow team members. This is often a process of two steps forward, one step back. During the first few days, it is common for one or more team members to respond negatively about the need for the team, its composition, the coaches, the task before them, or whether this is the most important thing they could be spending their time working on. As a result, several team members are likely to call back to their functional area or manager with negative reports. As these complaints are relayed back to the team coach, and they certainly will be, the coach needs to bring the complaints before the team for consideration as an issue. It is best not to name names. This will send a message to the complainers that they are on the verge of being discovered. Invariably the complainers will change their tune, rather than risk a negative reaction from their fellow team members.

Team members need to be coached to learn that it is important to trust one another. It is not possible, or desirable, for one team member to do all the work for the team. Although, someone will almost always try. New members need to learn that to get the job done they have to rely on others to do their part. The analog to this principle is that each team member needs to be trustworthy. Team members need to learn that others are counting on them to do what they said they would do. But personal or business problems outside the team come up that affect individual team members' ability to accomplish their agreed tasks. As soon as it becomes clear to a team member that his or her task cannot be completed in time, the team member needs to let the other team members know about the cause of the problem and ask for help. This practice goes a long way to convincing fellow team members that one is trustworthy.

When a call for help comes from a fellow team member, the others should carefully examine their own responsibilities and available skills or time to see if they can help. It's in the best interest of team members to support each other, especially when the team's performance is judged and rewarded as a whole. The time might come when the team member who has been asked for help, needs help himself. If help cannot be offered, the team should pull together and determine how to be revise the plan or bring in additional resources to get the plan back on track.

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