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Why do we not treat our team members the same way we treat our clients? Whereas I am more comfortable than most in shaking things up to try to get people to think outside of their comfort zone, too many times I have led and/or attended internal team meetings where the interactions have gone way beyond negative. Sarcastic comments, eye rolls, finger pointing, yelling… lots of frustration that can put up walls. But if we treated team members like clients, would these interactions be just as negative? Very unlikely.
Building trust with your team members and working well together is so essential both personally and professionally. It’s precisely why school projects typically include team assignments. Educators try to teach us early on how to work together towards a common goal. In school and early on in my career, I did not work well in teams. But I was fortunate enough to receive coaching that underscored the idea of treating team members and internal coworkers like clients. It totally resonated with me!
The moment I started treating my peers and direct reports with more respect, a monumental shift in my management style emerged: I was able to start building trust with my team members. In the book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, Patrick Lencioni says that teamwork begins by building trust and that the ultimate test of a great team is results. He said, “Trust is knowing that when a team member does push you, they’re doing it because they care about the team.”
By treating your internal team members like you would a client, you’ll get much better collaboration and results. Once I changed my mindset, I got better performance from each person and improved outcomes from the group effort. There was a greater trust and understanding in how to work together, with the added bonus that it was just more enjoyable and less contentious.
The process of gaining trust among team members can start simply by getting to know the people on your team − on both a professional and personal level. Are they married? Have kids? Where did they go to school? Where did they grow up? What was it like working for their previous employer? Where did they go on their last vacation? Building trust from there takes time and practice.
Patrick Lencioni also said that, “Great teams do not hold back with one another. They are unafraid to air their dirty laundry. They admit their mistakes, their weaknesses, and their concerns without fear of reprisal.” He went on to say “that when people feel like they can’t express themselves, and don’t feel like they’re being listened to, then they won’t really get on board. This makes trust the cornerstone of the team.”
Treat each other like clients first to get into the mindset of respecting each other. Get to know each team member, and build trust by making your team a safe place to express ideas without fear. You’ll start seeing the results.