Teamwork Failures Often Boil Down to Lack of Integrity

Posted by Kristin Arnold on November 6, 2008

A common plight; many teams are inspired in the moment and simply drop the ball when reality hits.  We can blame lots of influences:  lack of time, conflicting priorities, sick children, interruptions, and other grenades that explode our best intentions.  If you really boil it down to the basics, we simply put a higher priority on other things that consume our time.  And the team’s priority took a back burner.

We all understand that a very sick child has a higher priority that just about anything as mundane as teamwork.  But what about all those other priorities that are not as visible?  The proposal that had to get to the client yesterday?  Or resuscitating your crashed computer?  Or maybe you simply forgot to follow through on your commitments?  After all, we are all human and sometimes we just don’t get around to it.

For most teams, there is dead space between the time you agree to a specific action item and when it theoretically should be done.  When it doesn’t get done, we naturally invent incredulous stories to fill in the gaps.  When you are always creating stories for one or two particular team members, animosity creeps in and distrust emerges.

Regardless of the excuse, teams that perform extraordinarily well have a high degree of “integrity.”  They do what they say they are going to do and the team trusts other team members to move their action items forward.

The good news is that everyone can have integrity.  Linda Tobey, author of The Integrity Moment, points out, “Integrity is not the privileged domain of a few.  Nor is integrity a fixed commodity that once achieved is always present.  We often find ourselves acting with integrity in one moment, but struggling for it in the next.”

To act with integrity:

Know What Drives You.  Priorities are all about knowing what is important and putting first things first.  If you haven’t identified your “values” or guiding principles, take some time to figure out what drives you.  Why do you keep getting out of bed every morning?

Understand Expectations.  Have a clear understanding of what the team expects you to do, within any constraints and time frames.

Decide With Integrity.  Agree if the action item is consistent with what is most important to you.  Don’t agree to something you know you will never do.  If there is room to negotiate, raise the points you’d like to discuss.  If you think you’ll need help, ask for it.

Do It.  Follow through on your commitments.  Recognize, however, that stuff happens and sometimes other priorities collide.  But rather than burying your head in the sand and waiting for the team to discover your lack of action, tell the team as soon as possible what the situation is so the team can react, recover, and move on.

Question:  Are you guilty of dropping the ball for your team?

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