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Critically critique your team's teamwork

We have known since the 1940s that teamwork is critical to perform work effectively according to the Human Resource Journal. It became apparent when the owners of a coal mine in England decided to introduce new technology which they hoped would increase productivity. It didn’t. The problem? It had the unintended consequence of breaking up groups of people who previously had worked together to get the job done. With the new technology, they had to work alone. Management didn’t see increased productivity. What they did see was increased absenteeism and turnover, as well as an increase in wildcat strikes. In short, it was a management disaster.

We’ve learned a lot since then about the importance of people working together and the significance of relationships at work. Moreover, we have learned how critical it is to develop effective commitment. That is, people who become emotionally attached to a group of people work well beyond what is typical for them. They make sacrifices for the group. They are committed to each other and the work of the group.

What is the secret? What do we have to do to develop this level of performance? It’s clear— create and maintain high levels of trust.

How do you create and maintain high levels of trust? The research on this is also clear. To build trust, we must be trustworthy. To do that, first we must take on only those duties we have the skills and abilities to perform. That is, don’t take on work we can’t do.  Second, operate at all times with integrity. This is an area where we can’t unring  the bell. Once we’ve acted in a manner that betrays others, it’s known we will betray and the question becomes under what circumstances will we betray others.

Third, act with benevolence—kindness.

How are we doing on trust? Awful. Multiple studies and surveys have shown that trust is simply plunging. A 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer survey of 31,800 adults from 26 countries found they believed only 19 percent of business leaders and 14 percent of government officials could be trusted to “make ethical and moral decisions.” If you want to build teams, significantly increase trust. Without it, there is little hope that highly effective teams will develop.

About the Author

Lee Elliott
Executive Director, Wonderful Life Project

After serving over 30 years in Human Resources, Lee has spend the last several years directing research that is focused on improving the well-being of people.


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