The healthiest teams share mutual trust and respect and like each other. They trust each other, have respect for one another’s contribution to the whole, and enjoy each other. Because such a team is so healthy, those that the team is designed to serve benefit. If one or more of the three (trust, respect, like) is missing, the team and those the team is designed to serve suffer.
One of the reasons that healthy teams are so rare is that it is common for one or more of the three to be missing. We know this from personal experience, outside of the teams we serve on. There are likely some people you trust and respect but don’t really like that much (I know you love them; I am talking about liking them). In the same way, there are people you really like but don’t necessarily trust or respect fully. The people you are closest to, those you long to serve alongside, are likely those you trust, respect, and like.
While there is overlap, trust often relates to character, respect to competence, and like to chemistry.
We trust people whose character we trust. While we know no one is perfect, we believe their overarching motives are pure, their hearts are focused on the right things, and they are filled with integrity. Trust is the foundation of a healthy team. Without trust, there really can’t be a team. There is merely a collection of individuals knocking out assignments.
In relationship to the team, we respect people whose contributions and competence we value as significant. We are glad they are in their roles. We know and believe the team is better for it. A team that respects one another’s contributions is a team that moves more quickly and operates with greater synergy.
We enjoy serving alongside people we like, people we enjoy spending time with because we share the same values. Chemistry is much deeper than mere uniformity; it is shared commitment to deeper values that transcend personalities and preferences. When there is chemistry, meetings and hallway interactions are more than mere reports and pleasantries. The team genuinely enjoys not only what they get to do but also with whom they are able work.
If there is a character issue with the team, the whole team suffers as trust erodes. It must be addressed, not ignored. If there is a competence issue, wise leaders provide coaching and opportunities for team members to develop. Not to provide coaching to a team member is cruel to the person and to the team. If there is a chemistry issue, leaders should ensure shared values are in place.
Wise leaders look in the mirror as much as they look at their teams. They constantly ask questions, such as: Am I trustworthy? Do the people I serve alongside trust my character? Am I growing in my competence, learning and developing? Am I close to my team? Do I interact with them relationally?