September 21, 2010 at 5:55pm
Look, we have to find lots of ways to help our organizations -- sometimes one person or one team at a time -- move toward the future. Innovation lies not only in cutting edge workplaces, but finding openings within the majority of them, which are not.
One of these openings is with the hidden leaders of organizations that know in their bones that things could be better in many ways, including trust. They know when their group trust levels could be more than they are. Instead of waiting for the leader, other members, or someone from HR to initiate and facilitate change, members can begin the change process themselves. They do this by opening up the conversation about what their relationships with one another could be and should be. The Team Trust Survey is a free instrument teams and leaders can use to begin a transformation of trust levels with one another.
This could be a starting point toward "cracking the code" of past hierarchical mindsets. Or for some groups, a tipping point toward a significantly new way of working together. This is not a lavish hack, it's a quiet one. It's not super intellectual, based on brain chemistry or a morality play. It's based on my personal experiences as a consultant and professional dreamer about the possibilities for people, teams, and organizations.
You can immediately download a copy of the survey by clicking this link.
If you would like to access the full survey website, click here. The survey is a stand alone document. The website contains supporting materials, including video tutorials on:
• how to take and score the survey
• interpreting survey results
• how to introduce the survey and trust-building work to a team.
These tutorials are also available on this hack, embedded in the Materials section, below.
The team trust survey website is new as of September, 2010 and is likely to be tweaked as I learn more about what works best for people using the survey and website. At the moment I am also developing a free workbook as an additional download from the site. The workbook will augment the survey by helping walk a team members through discussions of their' ratings, co-create their plan to increase trust levels, and engage in follow-up exercises.
I. Team development is about relationships, not just individual styles. Traditional "team-building" too often focuses on individual temperament and style. And too often this play-it-safe approach misses the real and vital issues that teams need to address. Trust in teams is based on many factors, including:
- The way team members give feedback to one another and their capacity for ask for feedback and make use of it;
- The capacity of the group to bring up and talk constructively about their tough issues and perceptions, and other 'undiscussables', such as one another's performance, ethical issues, leadership, or responsibility;
- The degree to which people affirm one another's talents and express meaningful appreciation
- Typical decision-making patterns and how the leader's role typically operates
- The extent of real collaboration in the group, over and above cooperation or coordination
- The degree to which people are capable of vulnerable disclosure and people provide support and assistance to one another
As a consequence of taking too narrow an approach, some or all of these aspects of experience may remain unaddressed or completely undiscussable -- meaning they are only talked about in the background, not directly with those who can do something to change the situation. How team members view these areas can stimulate a much deeper conversation and can offer a rich opportunity to jointly define a developmental pathway and meaningful personal and interpersonal change -- if the process is based on group choice and self-determination.
II. The energy for team development lies underneath a "default" culture of fear and cynicism. The conditioning of the past is still with us. People continue to be concerned about any environment in which too much disclosure could work against them. An older workplace culture, based on environments in which messengers "get shot" and where no one wants to be labelled as "not a team player," may be less prevalent than it once were. But if that culture is more buried than it used to be, it still isn't very far underground. The fears of repercussions and cynicism associated with this default culture still erupt easily enough under conditions of stress and change, causing mistrust of any effort that could make people suddenly more open and therefore vulnerable. The bottom line is that this keeps team trust and performance at middling levels. Conscious team development is shunned except for fix-it strategies when mistrust becomes too obvious, but this misses the potentials for growth, creativity, and innovation that higher trust levels can bring. We need to find better ways to release the energy for change that is already there, and to do this in ways that do not always have to come from the top or outside the group, but can come from anyone at any level who is willing to start the conversation about team trust.
The Team Trust Survey is a free discussion tool that any member or the leader of a team can introduce to a group as a way to liberate the energy for change. Team members download the survey, rate it, and then gather to share their results with one another. The goal is initially two-fold: to develop general agreement on one of five overall trust level ratings, and to develop a shared path forward.
The process of developing these agreements naturally takes the group into a discussion of the behaviors that will most foster trust -- or undermine it -- in the group. It is also likely to bring up the issues unique to the team that may be keeping trust levels plateaued. As the behaviors and the issues are revealed and addressed by members, the group becomes more conscious of the its possibilities.
Each of the five levels is characterized by certain patterns in behavior and relationships that contain the seeds of improvement. The survey document, as well as supporting materials on the Team Trust Survey website, provide guidance to any member interested in initiating change. In particular, video tutorials help change initiators and team members
• take and score the survey
• interpret the survey results
• introduce and engage the team in trust development efforts.
The tutorials and support materials summarize improvement steps for each level:
• for disintegrating teams, structure and resolution of obvious performance and conduct issues
• for low-functioning teams, the restoration of respectful relationships
• for traditional teams, a sense of conscious self-determination and vision
• for high-functioning teams, practice in open, vulnerable communications, especially asking for feedback
• for "ideal," very high-trust groups, mastering full team self-leadership
But the survey is also only a framework, a container within which the group must itself decide whether, in fact, these are the most important development tasks, and how to accomplish them, drawing on the wisdom of the team itself. This is no cookie cutter approach.
The outcome of the survey at one level is simply a set of conversations and a plan to move forward. Perhaps this means:
- two members need to work out their conflict on behalf of the team's overall performance.
- everyone needs to work on at least one ground rule for improved communications based on their self-observations and feedback from others.
- the leader needs to come to terms with decision-making behaviors that get in everyone's way
These are only examples. The discussion results in a plan that responds to the felt needs and perceptions of group members and will be unique. Whatever this plan, however, the deeper outcomes are learning, consciousness, interpersonal respect and openness. These are subjective qualities, and they are foundations for improved performance outcomes.
Amy Edmondson, Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School, has shown that where people feel free to be themselves, where mistakes and problems are discussable, the result is much faster team learning, which in turn means adaptation and innovation thrive. When teams become safe enough for members to talk directly to each other across the team table about each other (rather than behind their backs) whatever issues the team faces can addressed and resolved more rapidly. But more than this, when teams become safer in this way, they are truly free to create a vision of what the team could be -- and what the organization and its relationships could be, as well.
As co-author of Driving Fear Out of the Workplace and The Courageous Messenger, it became clear to me that teams could be deeply challenged by their "undiscussables," but even when team members mastered some of the skills needed for higher trust, the old-style hierarchical models in their guts still held people back. The siloed view of people, including the focus on individual styles in otherwise well-intended, programmatic, super-expensive team development efforts, does little to support the combined talents and synergies that define a team from the inside out. This definition best comes from team members' sense of mutual ownership for the team's growth and change.
Because the Team Trust Survey is:
- freely available on the internet for anyone
- can be introduced to a team by anyone
- serves as a catalyst to help people own and define their collective future
- is an informally initiated option, not a demand
- relies on the interior energy of the group
it can be a bridge to a self-determined future from a hierarchically determined past.
This defines the most important "practical impact" of the survey. To use Stanley Herman's view of the organizational iceberg (click the link or see the image below), it comes literally from "below the water-line." It belongs to anyone and everyone as a way to help teams move the current culture forward.
The keys to starting the process are knowledge and choice: someone learns of the survey, explores it and decides to introduce it. This could come through anyone on the team, leader or member alike. If an organization wanted to test the survey, all it really has to do is share the fact that it is available and be encouraging about its use. There are, in addition, some behaviors by leadership that can be helpful:
- Reassurance regarding the value and benefits of team development; clear statements of support
- Reassurance that use of the survey is entirely voluntary to a team
- Let people know that if they want to use the survey, but would like outside assistance or resources that those resources are available
- Demonstrations of interest by management or executive groups, including their own use of the survey within their own teams
- Couple the survey to other forms of training and development, e.g., management and leadership training programs, while maintaining its voluntary nature
- Encourage team sharing (again voluntary) in larger venues, such as a company meeting, regarding how the survey was used and what results it yielded
- Any request for personal leadership feedback by a company or team leader or member based on the survey, as part of its introduction
Building the Team Trust Survey and associated website has been supported by many friends and colleagues. Among these I would point to consultant Mary Allison for her feedback on the scales, and internet social scientist, Joe McCarthy, for both his sage advice about making the survey free and helping with the website design.
Additionally, I would like to thank Theresa Lawrence, Strategic Marketing Director at Ultimate Software (rated as one of the best places to work). Theresa kindly offered to include the survey with Ultimate Software's own broad marketing efforts. As a result, the survey has been downloaded about 3,000 times from my own sites and through Ultimate Software. Without this support, I might never have figured out it would be a good idea to develop a dedicated website -- just now created -- for the survey!
And thanks to all of you who post your comments here, too, as a way to help this idea grow and prosper.