I want to share with you a survey I put together to help teams talk about their relationships with one another and take steps to improve them.
You can download it as a pdf here.
This material first came to mind about sixteen years ago. I happened to be working with the City Council for a small municipality. The Council members had problems talking to each other. In part they were legally bound by legislation that prevented subgroups from informal meetings, but primarily their problems had to do with mistrust. A reporter was in the room while I worked with the Council and the next day the headline in the town’s local newspaper read, “Council rates itself ‑1.” Not exactly what I had in mind, but I do think they benefited, like many teams will, from using some sort of framework to discuss perceptions of how well a team is getting along internally and working together.
While this is still an “unvalidated beta version of a discussion tool,” I have found the survey can bring to the surface feelings about “how well we are doing” in a reasonably safe manner. There’s a vocabulary here to the ratings — which range from teams that are +2, meaning they are operating with unusually high performance and trust, to teams that are ‑2, fundamentally falling apart. I encourage you to take the survey yourself and read through the rankings and suggestions. You can do this for any team that you participate in or lead or simply know about. I’d be grateful for your observations, questions, and feedback. Feel free to share it and use it with others, as long as you are not selling it for money or broadly using it for commercial purposes and as long as you attribute it properly.
I don’t think tools like this tell the whole story, of course. They really are just a place to begin a meaningful discussion. But I do like them if they lead to positive awareness of possibilities and action steps to improve things — to reach a vision of even better relationships, for example. That’s my hope — to create consciousness about who we are and where we are “as a team.” Looking over the survey, you’ll see my vision embedded in it. In great teams, I believe members:
â€¢ can work out their performance issues together
â€¢ develop deep dialogues about personal growth and development
â€¢ meaningfully take on the leadership of the group
â€¢ fully collaborate with one another by pooling resources
â€¢ handle tough relationship issues openly
â€¢ actively show appreciation for, support and affirm one another
I’ve found this often to be a very high standard, but not an unattainable one. And once people understand it, they can be intrigued with the profound possibilities for their own growth and for organizational change. They are often closer than they think to operating at a higher level. Any number of times in my career, I’ve seen one or two people take a group to the next step simply by offering their genuine and candid assessment of relationships and behaviors in the group — and by offering a positive vision. I believe this is because we fundamentally want high trust levels. We may be temporarily afraid or lack confidence in our ability to achieve them, but a most basic desire, a human thing, is the desire for trust. At a fundamental level, perhaps verging on a shared, spiritual understanding of individual and collective potentials, that can be a rich reservoir for any team to draw upon.
Aloha Dan, how generous you are sharing this with us! I watch your RSS feed religiously, and I have already downloaded your pdf — very anxious to read it.
Great teaming is and always will be a worthwhile discussion to have in the workplace, and I think it may be more important than ever right now: Jobs and roles are getting reinvented daily, with the generational shift now occurring as more and more boomers retire, or think about their own “second acts.” I strongly believe that creating a workplace of stronger, trusting teams may be the best means to the end results we are seeking.
Thank you, Rosa! I agree that the need for the discussion is both perennial and especially important now — and you bring up an excellent point, that structures such as job roles and well-defined work processes are often in great flux. Which means, of course, that it is the relationships more than ever that carry the weight of our ability to get things done. Thank you so much for dropping by and I hope you enjoy the survey very much! Best to you.
[…] Click here to read Dan’s post and to have access to the PDF survey. […]
Trust is such a key for me and for everyone I talk about in the workplace. I appreciate your work on putting this together, it is printing as I write this and I will take a closer look. I am reminded of the old statement: trust is a must or your game is a bust.
People tend to love inventories and questionnaires and I will look for an opportunity to use this and get you some feedback.
I will also write a short post on Slacker Manager as I am sure managers will want to know about this.
Thanks for your support, David. I very much appreciate the chance to get the word out. You are good!
I believe one of the key aspects to determining the strength of a team is highlighted by the levels of communication within the team.
Communication within a team really does have the power to influence whether or not the team is going to be a team.
And when I say â€œteamâ€, I don’t mean just by its name. I mean by its functionality and true definition.
As with everything else within the team, team communication goes through an evolutionary process. I believe there are three basic levels in the evolution of the communication of a team.
Exactly what the name implies. The communication process is ordinary to say the least: Not in terms of the amount of communication, but more in terms of its quality.
At this level, the content has very little to do with anything that is going to help the team get closer to their prescribed outcomes. There is very little communication and mostly nothing that will rock the boat of the team.
The communication at the ‘rubbish’ level is more socially orientated than purpose or performance orientated.
Individually and in combination, the team has to start finding things out about itself. Where is it heading? Why is it not getting there? What needs to be done? etc.
Once this is realised by the team, both individually and collectively, the communication process moves from the ‘rubbish’ level to a more formalised and structured process to gather and disseminate information.
However, this process is still done in a very safe manner.
The majority of information is passed through covert type questions and peripheral issue discussions. Very rarely does anyone make a direct comment or give their opinion, or take a stand in front of the team on behalf of the team or anyone within it.
Rarely, if at all, does any one comment directly to anyone what he or she thinks of their performance in carrying out their role in front of the team.
Views are not going to cause friction as the people who probably need to hear what has to be said, never will. When the team operates at this level, the information is being exchanged but the team a long way from where they really need to be. No one wants to say anything that is going to upset anyone.
This is where things that need to get said, start to get said. Opinions are aired, concepts discussed and arguments or heated discussions evolve. But the bottom line is that the things that need to be aired, discussed, heard and understood, are because of the introduction of â€˜realâ€™ communication within the team and for the team.
So — three levels of communication that every team has at one stage or another worked through.
What benefit does the advent of â€œrealâ€ communication provide to and for the team?
If people will not say what they feel and what they believe the team needs to hear; and if there is reluctance to openly communicate with each other, then the team will never benefit from the experience, insight and knowledge of the individuals within it.
If team members donâ€™t say what they feel, then the team is missing out in so many different ways that it is almost impossible to comprehend.
The greatest problem is that lack of communication within any team or group situation is usually a reflection of a lack of trust within the team.
And as we know from what we have been taught and have witnessed first hand, without the element of trust within the team, you have a team with no foundation.
And with no true foundation, you really do not have a team.
Now I know this all sounds like a huge conclusion derived from the meagre fact that a team does not openly communicate, but let me explain this in some further detail.
Without the presence of conflicting opinions, open discussions and opposing beliefs, there can appear to be (quite understandably, from the outside), a strong, united and harmonious team.
However, the reality is that nothing could be further from the truth.
With the absence of “real” communication the team actually is sitting on a false harmony.
And the reason there seems to be harmony is because no-one will say what needs to be said for fear of upsetting the team or individuals within it.
Team members resort to agreement for the sake of harmony: they do not say what they think as they believe this is in the best interest of the team.
At most, their comments are guarded or worse, they do not say anything or contribute in any way.
They either know how the team will react or they do not know how the team will react. Either way the reason is simple. There is no trust.
They are reluctant to say what they think out of fear of how the team will react — because they know they will react.
Or they are reluctant to say what they feel because they don’t know how the team will react and they donâ€™t trust them enough to just say it anyway.
The relationships within the team are not strong enough for the team to discuss or communicate certain things as to do so will create turmoil within the team or put strain on certain relationships, thus creating disunity and removing the â€œharmonyâ€.
Once again, nothing could be further from the truth.
Harmony is great but not when it comes about because people hold back from saying what they think or believe to be in the best interest of the team.
If the team works at the real communication and what comes from it, including how to deal with the aspects of conflict and occasional disagreements that stem from the real communication, then the team will become so much closer, so much stronger, more trusting and therefore, so much better.
This is based simply on the fact that “What doesn’t get said in this team just gets worse.” (Jason Smith, Victoria Titans NBL team, 2001)
Those who do not speak up or do not speak the truth make it hard for others within the group to trust them. But they don’t say what they believe needs to be said to the team because they donâ€™t believe they can trust the team.
And therefore, the entire aspect of “team” breaks down.
Trust is built when each team member sees and believes that each other team member is being true to him or herself and that their intentions and focus are in the best interests of the team.
The first and foremost advantage of ‘real’ communication is the fact that truth builds trust.
The Journey Continues!
Bill, thank you for your passionate and plainspoken contribution here. It is clear you deeply love your work! And you make excellent points about the differences between harmony and genuine team work. That’s critical to our understanding of group effectiveness. Best to you.
[…] Team Trust Levels Survey […]
Dan: I pause, take a slow, deep breath, and express my joy at your return to the blogosphere, and my appreciation of your generosity in sharing this trust survey with the world.
I don’t think I can add much more substance to what you’ve written, or to the ways others have already responded. I just want to gratefully acknowledge the trust you are modeling for us in opening up this survey, which represent such a wealth of your insights and experiences.
I trust that this will lead to more meaningful discussions (especially of [former] undiscussiables), stronger teams and mutual benefits for everyone … including, hopefully, the person willing to share so openly of the patterns that have emerged through years of cultivating trust in a variety of organizational settings.
As always, Joe, thanks for your supportive comments, and in this case, your advice about how best to post the survey. Best to you.