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Mike Figliuolo


Building the Bonds of a High-Performing Team

Four deliberate steps you can take

Published: Monday, May 21, 2018 - 12:03

You think you’re well on the way toward building and leading a high-performing team. You’ve got a clear vision and mission, and a nice set of prioritized initiatives. You have all the right people. But what starts differentiating a regular team from a high-performing team is chemistry and trust between the members of that team. These intangibles are some of the most critical elements of building that team. They’re also some of the most elusive ones to capture.

When building chemistry between the members of your team, you need to understand that it’s about personalities and shared beliefs.

Hiring for fit

Make sure everyone on your team is involved in the hiring interview process. Candidates will show different sides of themselves to different people. Sometimes those sides can be unattractive detractors from what you’re trying to build. I’ve had a couple of experiences like this in my past.

When I was a consultant, we were hiring a new consultant for the team. That person interviewed very well with the other members of the consulting staff. At the end of the interview process, we all got together in the team room, and we talked about this candidate.

All of us were excited about hiring him. Then we stopped and we asked our front desk receptionist what she thought of him. She said, “He was incredibly rude. He spoke down to me and acted like I didn’t matter.” That individual did not get an offer of employment from us. He’s probably still wondering why he didn’t get an offer because he knew he did a great job interviewing with the rest of the consultants.

When we looked at the situation, we asked, “Do we want a person on our team who will be disrespectful of somebody else we work with?” The answer was clear.

Assess the personalities

To assess what people are like, you can use some standard tools out there like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Personalysis, and other evaluation tools to help people understand each other’s personalities, styles, and preferences. Don’t just do it for job candidates; sit down and do these assessments with the entire team.

It’s not critical for people to have the same personalities. Actually, it’s quite detrimental. What matters here is helping team members understand and respect each others’ personalities and how they like to work with others.

If you have some conflicting personalities—which you will, because high-performing teams tend to attract strong personalities—step back and help these team members identify shared beliefs or shared values, and build up from there. Some people may have shared experiences, or they may have a shared background or geography that they’re from. Help them find some point of commonality.

Build the trust

Once you’ve figured out the team’s chemistry and you have people with the right fit, you need to start building trust between the members of that team. Trust is about shared experiences and predictability.

Shared experiences show people how others perform and react during stressful situations. Sometimes it’s helpful for you to manufacture these challenging situations. You may look at putting team members on a big project together. Perhaps set a large financial goal for the team. You can identify a large metric for them to hit. Consider having some off-site meetings or training sessions where people can share their experiences and build stories together so they feel like they accomplished something with one another.

The impact of this type of stress bonding is that people start feeling like they can rely upon one another to achieve the goal. They start feeling responsible for each other’s well-being and looking out for each other. They also get a better understanding of how other people behave during stressful situations, which then makes those individuals more predictable.

Past behavior serves as predictor of future behavior

The second element of trust is predictability. People want to know how their colleagues are going to react in a certain situation. When someone becomes predictable, they become trustworthy. When they tell me they’re going to do something, and I’ve seen them behave in a manner that’s consistent with the declared behavior in the past, I am much more likely to trust what they’re telling me they’re going to do. That past behavior serves as a predictor of future behavior. That’s what I’m basing my trust on with that individual.

If I understand that person’s values on top of having predictability for their behavior, it will create a strong bond between me and that other team member. I start believing what the person tells me she’s going to do because it’s consistent with her beliefs and past performance.

Build the team

Your job as the team leader is to build the team and strengthen the relationships. During the recruiting and hiring process, assess who’s going to be a good fit. Focus on getting the right chemistry between team members. Create situations where they learn to trust one another because of shared experiences. Help them become more predictable to one another. If you build your team this way, it’s going to gel quickly and start functioning as a team instead of as a group of individuals.

First published on the thoughtLEADERS blog.


About The Author

Mike Figliuolo’s picture

Mike Figliuolo

Mike Figliuolo is the author of The Elegant Pitch and One Piece of Paper. He's the co-author of Lead Inside the Box. He's also the managing director of thoughtLEADERS, LLC—a leadership development training firm. He regularly writes about leadership on the thoughtLEADERS Blog.