Before he died, Dr. Robert Atkins made a healthy living and created a cultural phenomenon teaching people to reduce their intake of carbs. In a strange way, team-building efforts have taken this advice unknowingly. My advice counters Dr Atkins; I teach encourage teams to indulge, even delight in their CARB intake.
CARB is an acrostic representing the four major dimensions ultimately responsible for a team's effectiveness:
Commitment to the team and each other
Alignment and goal agreement
Relationships among team members
Behaviors and skills
This advice then could be described as the anti-Atkins diet for teams -- it takes more CARBs (or more of each of the CARB components) for teams to be successful.
Of course team commitment can (and often will need to be) built -- it won't pre-exist when you put people on a team. Since team formation, their development, and success is a complex thing, several other factors will aid in the development of this commitment. But recognizing its importance is a good first step.
How will you know when your teams has built a level of commitment, or what are the factors that will build that commitment? High levels of commitment correlate with several factors, including:
- Belief -- People will believe in each other. Individual motivations are clear and generally understood. People are able to believe in the team, its individual members and the work of the team. The results of the efforts are clearly visible.
- Agreements -- People have mutually agreed to a set of behaviors that are acceptable to the team. By building a set of agreements on performance, behavior and "how things are done," productivity is greatly improved. Why? Because effort and energy isn't spent on these distractions. Effort can be directed to the work at hand.
- Trust -- A major underpinning for team performance is trust. Trust in each team member to do what they are supposed to do and trust in the leadership for direction. It is clearly necessary for the levels of commitment required for high-performing teams.
- Support -- Support is a critical factor, but it is also a bellwether for the rest of these factors. If people are supporting team decisions, commitment is likely present. If people are supporting each other through tough parts of a team's life, they are likely committed. Is it possible for a team to get results with low commitment? Sure, you can get some results.
But, you will never approach the results that could be achieved with people who are committed to the team and each other.