Photo by Joshua Hoehne

The benefits of teamwork are many, to individuals as well as organizations.  New and innovative ideas surface faster, the quality of work improves, efficiency increases, stronger working relationships are developed, team members are given more learning opportunities and sharing the load improves work/life balance. Bringing people with individual and unique talents together is a competitive advantage for companies.

However, the benefits of working of teams do not materialize without some forethought, conscious planning and development of the team.  Today, we have the added challenge of working remotely.

The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team, based on the book by bestselling author Patrick Lencioni offers a model for developing effective teams that incorporates the five behaviors of Trust, Conflict, Commitment, Accountability and Results.  The first and foundational behavior is Trust.

In a 2016 global CEO survey, 55% of CEOs said a lack of trust poses a threat to the ability of their organization to grow.

According to a study done by Paul Zak and Harvard Business Review  people working in high-trust companies reported 74% less stress than those working in low-trust companies. They also report 106% more energy at work, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, and 40% less burnout.

Trust develops over time through shared experiences, developing relationships one on one, multiple instances of follow through and living up to commitments.  Having a common language and framework to talk about trust will open up communication and foster a two-way dialogue between leaders and their teams.  I have long been a fan of the ABCD Trust Model developed by the Ken Blanchard Companies.  Their model provides such a framework and language that defines trust, enables everyone to discuss trust related issues and demonstrate behaviors that create trust.

The Four components of the model are:

  1. Team members who are ABLE earn trust by solving problems, getting results, and using their skills to help others achieve established goals.
  2. Team members who are BELIEVABLE earn trust by being honest and sincere, showing respect for others, keeping confidences, not talking behind people’s backs, and admitting their own mistakes.
  3. Team members who are CONNECTED earn trust by showing care and concern for others, asking for input, listening, showing empathy, praising others’ efforts, and sharing about themselves.
  4. Team members who are DEPENDABLE are organized, timely, accountable, and responsive to requests; they do what they say they’ll do and consistently follow up.

In the age of remote work what does this look like for leaders and team members alike:


  1. Share your expertise to help facilitate the work getting done.  
  2. Remove obstacles for others to do their best work. i.e. Consider the best times for team meetings.  Many team members are juggling home and school responsibilities along with work.
  3. Help team members achieve better work/life balance by giving them the autonomy to set goals and offering flexibility to in their choice of work habits and patterns.


  1. Be honest when people ask questions about the company, their role and returning to work. Even if the information is tough to hear, team members respect and value the truth.
  2. We have all been learning a great deal about how to function in our “now” environment.  We have made and will continue to make mistakes.  Admit them and talk about the learnings.
  3. It is important to respect boundaries. They can blur when we live and work from the same location. Heighten your awareness of the timing of emails, phone calls, meetings and deadlines.


  1. Allow time during virtual meetings for:
    • Mental health checks – follow up one on one afterwards if necessary.
    • Recognition – highlight the accomplishments of those on the team.
  2. Schedule work-related check ins with direct reports and fellow team members.  Ask them how they are doing.  Get to know them on a personal level.
  3. Create a safe environment virtually and as people come back to work.  Listen to what a safe environment means to members of the team.  Simon Sinek shares a great story in his TED talk about the relationship of trust and loyalty with creating a safe work environment. 
  4. Set up a regular virtual coffee talk or social hour to encourage relationship building.
  5. Set up one on one calls to get to know other team members outside the scheduled meetings.  Encourage others to do the same. Both Gallup and LinkedIn studies show that have a friend at work increases happiness.


  1. Communicate often and early. People want to know where the company and the team are going and how it impacts them.
  2. Be realistic about the workload for the team and as an individual.  It is ok to say “no” to prevent overcommitting yourself.
  3. When you do commit, live up to those commitments. Other team members may be depending on you to complete a task before they can move forward.
  4. Be prepared and on time for virtual meetings.  Many people are juggling home, children, school and work responsibilities and time is precious.

The benefits of teams are many.  Use the ABCD Trust model to encourage discussion, feedback and behaviors that increase your team’s foundation of Trust.

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