Trust… The Coin of the Realm

A friend of mine owns a creative services company that has enjoyed tremendous growth in both market position and revenues over the past decade.

In the last few years, however, they’ve struggled. While the creativity and talent level of individual contributors have continued to evolve, their market position and profitability have eroded.

To make matter worse, their unique offerings have inspired lots of competition, and one has recently soared past them to become the market leader.

So, what happened? How did they lose momentum, and what can we learn from this?

While studies have shown that success does indeed breed success, the real drivers of sustained high performance are healthy levels of team productivity and team culture.

Productivity and culture are really two sides of the same coin that successful businesses cash in on daily. More specifically, high team culture and high team productivity result in High Team Performance. If ‘trust’ is the coin of the realm, then high team performance is what you should spend it on.

Conversations with my friend, along with several of his team members revealed a culture that currently values individual contributions over team performance. The team collaborated well when, and only when, their backs are against the wall. In those moments, they are able to shift into the team mentality that made them successful in the early years.

Along the way, however, they began telling themselves that their success was tied solely to their ability to stay creatively ahead of the competition, and to choose projects that allowed them to stretch creatively.

If ‘trust’ is the coin of the realm, then high team performance is what you should spend it on.

The real success story, however, that somehow got pushed aside, was their ability to combine high team productivity (i.e. purpose, roles, decisions) and high team culture (support, trust, communication) to drive team effectiveness to unexpected, and at times dizzying heights.

As this is a recently diagnosed case, it remains to be seen whether the company will choose to engage in one of our high impact Team Effectiveness Programs*. I have no doubt that we can measurably improve future performance by reconnecting them with the 18 attributes that once made them successful.

I’m confident they see the urgency, based on the last text message I received, which read, “You’re right. Forget talent. It’s all about the team.” Not sure I’d go that far, but I understand the sentiment.

* Over the past year, as a contributing designer of the Aiir TE Programs, and as a senior consultant at Aiir Consulting, I had the privilege of working alongside a team of brilliant coaches, clients and researchers to developing (3) separate programs designed to diagnose and measurably improve team effectiveness at every level of an organization.