2 min read

Bat In The Cave

May 7, 2021 6:30:00 AM

What separates the great teams from the rest? It all starts with trust.

A lack of trust, where vulnerability is not respected or rewarded, leads to fear of conflict among team members. Without healthy debate and critique, they never go deep, causing an absence of commitment to develop where team members avoid accountability all together. Team members pursue personal gain and status over team victory. Ultimately this inattention to resultsteam results – brings an end to a once promising group of talented individuals.

Pat Lencioni has named this chain reaction of failed leadership The Five Dysfunctions of a Team in a book by the same name. I suspect most of us have been on a dysfunctional team or experienced dysfunctional leadership.

Five Dysfunctions Of A Team
As a leader, trust is about letting my guard down and being vulnerable. It’s admitting when I’m wrong or I don’t know. It’s going first.

With vulnerability-based trust established, my team will embrace healthy conflict. We’ll be able to go deeper, getting below the surface. They’ll help me see the “last 5 %” that I can’t see on my own.

When my team members have been heard and feel respected, buy-in will naturally occur. We’ll move faster because we’re aligned and mutually committed to our cause.

Accountability develops within the team, no longer reliant solely on me as the coach. The team begins playing for each other, not wanting to let their teammates down.

And that’s when the magic happens. Our focus will be on results with team victory always taking priority over individual attempts at status and glory.

The root of all team dysfunction is the absence of trust. As Lencioni says, “Trust is knowing that when a team member pushes you, they are doing it because they care about the team.”

As a Midwesterner, I think this can be particularly difficult. We’re raised to be nice. And we really are nice people! Somewhere along the way being nice gets equated with not being critical of others, even if well-intentioned. I think it’s actually a form of selfishness: I’d rather not feel bad by providing constructive feedback, which might lead to conflict, making me feel bad.

For me, I’ll take the kind of team member who cares so much about me that they’ll enter the danger, pointing out my flaws and maybe even helping me fix them. I want to know if I have a bat in the cave! Literally or figuratively.

Yet, that’s on me to foster. I have to create a safe and trusting environment where those around me know I want the tough news and the constructive critiques. Because I know it comes from a place of love and it’s not personal at all.

Stephen Covey calls trust the “glue of life” and the “foundational principle that holds all relationships.”

Want to give your leadership team an edge? Start building a foundation of deep trust by going first. As Hemingway wrote, “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”

And also, you’ve got a little something…no, the other nostril. There, you got it.

Bat In The Cave - Cropped


Topics: Executive
Tim Leman

Written by Tim Leman

Tim is Chairman and CEO at Gibson. He joined Gibson in 2005 as the Director of the Employee Benefits Practice and became a principal in 2007. He was named President in 2009, CEO in 2011, and elected Chairman of the Board in 2014.

With Tim’s leadership, Gibson has been selected as a Best Places to Work in Indiana, named to Principal’s 10 Best list for employee financial security, maintained its status as a Reagan & Associates Best Practices Agency, recognized as one of 20 Indiana Companies To Watch, and named to the Inc. 5000 list. Read Tim's Full Bio