Steps to building a successful team: Part 1

The first step is to build trust.

Throughout life we often find ourselves having to work with individuals who come from a variety of backgrounds and bring a variety of skill sets with them. Teams are formed to organize or develop a community event, an employee picnic or to create a small business. In addition, there are many types of teams that we may be a part of such as, a Tribal Council or Board, a Child Welfare Committee or a professional development team. No matter what we choose to do in life we will have to work in a team environment. However, teams develop certain behaviors over time which could impede a team from reaching their full potential. Issues that may prevent a team from reaching their goals include a lack of communication, inability to trust each other, ego or lack of commitment.

According to Patrick Lencioni, founder and president of The Table Group, who has worked with many organizations to provide training in the area of executive team development and organizational health, there are five dysfunctions of a team: absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability and inattention to results. However, it is important to also think of these five areas from a strengthen based approach; they must trust each other, they engage in unfiltered conflict around ideas, they commit to decisions and plans of action, they hold one another accountable for delivering against those plans and they focus on the achievement of collective results. Since each of these behaviors are interrelated, it is important to work on them together as oppose to approaching each issue in a silo. Patrick Lencioni has developed guidelines that may assist in you in developing cohesiveness in your organizational team.

The first step is to address the absence of trust. This dysfunction may be seen when team members conceal their weakness from each other. Individuals may not be inclined to offer assistance or feedback in areas that are beyond their scope of work. Another, example that the team lacks trust in when team members begin to hold grudges with each other. Since these are just a few symptoms of what a lack of trust looks like in a team, here are a few examples of a team with trust does look like. When a team member feels comfortable enough to speak up and share their ideas, no matter how far-fetched the idea may be. That individual would feel comfortable enough to share that idea and trust their team enough that they would be able to provide constructive feedback as a team. In order for a team to build trust they must first be willing to be open and honest with each other and to be themselves. To open themselves up to share their weakness or vulnerabilities. Through this process each team member is working towards and being accepted by their peers. Please stay tuned for the next article on fear of conflict. To learn more about Government and Public Policy please contact Emily Proctor, Michigan State University Extension educator with questions or comments at (231)-439-8927 or

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