Enhance Trust And Emotional Safety On A Team

A team leader wants to move the team quickly through its “storming” phase

CONTEXT

A newly promoted team leader approached us after assessing that her team—composed of long-tenured and newer employees—lacked the trust and experience needed for true collaboration and high performance.

Charged with a high-profile organizational mandate, the team had no time to lose in establishing itself and starting to perform at a high-level.

The leader, who had worked in positive and negative team climates previously, did not wish to wait for problems, but rather wished to be pro-active in cultivating the best conditions for high-team performance.

Consistent with findings from organizational psychology research about high-performance teams, the team leader and we agreed that the team needed an accelerated way to develop greater “psychological safety” with one another to clear unresolved conflict and to challenge each other more in constructive ways.

APPROACH

We interviewed each member of the team to understand everyone’s impressions of the new team, including their perception of team climate, strengths, and opportunities for growth.

We determined that an assessment tool (in this case, the FIRO-B—oriented at gauging our “interpersonal needs”) would be helpful in developing a common language amongst team members who varied in their needs around inclusion, control, and warmth.

In our experience, human beings often take their interpersonal differences personally, and building awareness can help a team avoid the painful misunderstandings and assumptions otherwise made in relationships.

We designed and delivered a 1.5-day team retreat aimed at sharing impressions and results of the interpersonal assessment, and opened up a larger conversation about a working set of “team expectations” that all members committed to practicing.

RESULTS

As a result of retreat, along with a sense of on-going responsibility taken by the leader and team members, this team reported a greater sense of flow, interdependence, creativity, and joy in their work with each other.

The team created a “team charter” document – summarizing a dozen behavioral expectations team members wished to hold each other accountable for.

Over time, with “tune ups” we supported through follow-up retreats, this team continued to engage in the discussions that many teams avoid with each other.