Monthly Archives: February 2011

Keeping it Simple

In the new economy, the Team Clock Institute is one of many organizations seeking to model the qualities of an “employer of choice.”  With so many metrics for best places to work, how do we make it simple?  Why would the industry’s best talent wish to engage with my team?

Let’s break it down into four areas: investment, trust, innovation and distancing.

Investment: Top workplaces are committed to providing their teams with the resources they need to excel. Moreover, employees are committed to a set of values that empowers respectful management of conflict and appreciation for the richness of diversity. The norms and rhythms of day-to-day interactions illuminate this investment.

Trust: Employers of choice hold themselves and each other accountable for agreed upon norms. Passing trust tests produces comfort by enabling teammates to anticipate each others’ moves. The result is collaboration and a unified approach to a common set of goals.

Innovation: Leaving comfort behind to take a risk requires a level of bravery that can only be earned through successful investment and trust. The reward of trust is the knowledge that the safety net still exists beneath you even when you can’t see it. Top teams stretch to create disruptive ideas that change the world. They are willing to endure the consequences of the change they create.

Distancing: When you gradually move away from the previous status quo, you are responding to the change you have crafted through your choice to take risks. Disruptive innovation changes the landscape.  It forces nimble adaptation, poise and resilience in the face of stress. Letting go of the past allows energy to be re-devoted to a an unknown future.  With this, the cycle begins anew.

Employers of choice invite change with enthusiasm. Like the quadrant-based faces on the Team Clock, the bulk of the growth experience requires functional distress and discomfort. As a reward, we get to enjoy a brief celebration of attachment only to cash it in for more change. Employees of the Team Clock Institute have bought into this engagement with full disclosure.  How about you?

Which Came First?

A hand shot up during a recent Team Clock workshop.  Having just finished reading a best selling business book focusing on team dysfunctions, she expressed confusion about the relationship between trust and conflict.  The passionate audience member pointed out that the “dysfunctions” model asserts that trust is a necessary condition for eventual successful management of conflict. She then asked why successful management of conflict precedes the development of trust in the Team Clock model.  “I’m confused,” she said. “Which comes first?”

Of course, conflict is much easier to manage in the context of a trusting relationship.  When there is trust, differences are buoyed by similarities.  How, though, does trust develop in the first place?  The Team Clock model views trust as the natural consequence of accountability.  Anything that occurs before that is not trust – it’s faith.

The Team Clock model argues that as agreed-upon norms are tested, partners enjoy an increasing sense of safety with closeness.  If you do what you said you were going to do, there’s a greater likelihood that you’ll respond similarly the next time.  Therefore, I trust you a little more each time you follow through with a commitment.

Eventually, the tests are no long necessary. Deep, sustainable, lasting trust boasts accountability during difficult times, not just when conditions are normal.  What happens when partners view challenging circumstances from different perspectives?  How is this chasm traversed?  Teams and relationships that anchor a commitment to healthy debate in their norms are raising the expectations of trust. When the norms of a relationship include the expectation for respectful negotiation of differences, the threshold of trust is elevated.

Almost anyone can build trust under normal circumstances. Just have confidence in human nature and hope everyone does the right thing.  However, when the landscape is critical and the pressure is high, only those who have woven an appreciation of difference as strength into the fabric of their norms will be equipped to measure up to the test of trust during stressful times. That’s when it counts.

So which comes first?