Team Building Part 2: Honesty is the Key!

The second in a series of 2 articles giving a slightly different perspective on effective team building, condensed from an original seminar presented by the author, John Roberts. John is a Freelance Training Consultant and director of JayrConsulting Ltd. Part 1 (Another Brick in the Wall) deal with selecting and building the initial team. Part 2 deals with the culture that need to be in place to run the team really effectively. The ideas expressed are personal opinions built up from many years of experience in the Electronics / Aerospace industry, the Armed Forces, the Telecoms industry and the Training industry. There is no suggestion of this being a 100% solution applicable to or workable in all situations, but it is aimed at getting people to think outside of the norm and question the 'normal' way of doing things.

1. Honesty – The Key!

It really is that simple! The basic foundation of building and running REALLY successful teams is TOTAL honesty! Sounds simple, but it can be one of the hardest things to implement due to existing workplace cultures and peoples long-term conditioning to them. If you are not prepared to implement this culture change, you will only ever have functional 'teams' that are purely paying 'lip service' to the whole idea of ​​team building.

Being honest starts here! You cant pretend to be honest, or only implement some parts of it, either as a team member or as a team leader. If you are not going to give it 100% – Give it up, because the rest depends on this to work properly!

There are two separate parts to honesty within the team scenario and both are equally important:

(a) Being honest with other people

You have to learn to be honest with everyone. If someone is not performing properly-Tell them as soon as possible, and help them to overcome the cause. If someone is performing well-Tell them as soon as possible, and help them to do even better.

If there is good news about the project / team / company-Tell people as soon as possible, without hiding things and deliver praise where appropriate.
If there is BAD news about the project / team / company-Tell people as soon as possible, without hiding things and discuss what can be done about it at a team and personal level-ask for input and ideas to resolve things. Most people can handle most situations well, as long as they feel they are being informed and involved.

Make sure that you are doing your share of the teams work, to the best of your ability. If the team are having to cover for you, you are not being honest with them.

If you make a mistake- admit to it, as soon as possible and if necessary get help to resolve it. If you try and hide your mistakes you are not being honest and it just leads to more work for others in the long run.
Do not perpetuate rumors! It is one of the fastest ways to break down trust in a team culture. If you do not know something is a fact-don't repeat it!

(b) Being honest with yourself

For a lot of people this can actually be extremely difficult to achieve, due to long term conditioning in a competitive work place, but once it started builds up to build on itself as long as everyone is really committed to long-term success of the team building process. You have to really look at yourself deeply and honestly and work at correcting your individual behavior patterns and shortcomings.

If you can not cope with something-tell someone and get some help with it. No one is perfect and we all need help sometimes. In a good team environment, nobody is going to think less of you for asking help-just the opposite if it helps to get things done.

Be honest about your skills and abilities starting with your cv!). If you will not find out ever, but by that time, you may have let a lot of other people down!

Do not steal credit / ideas from other people and put them forward as your own. Any gain for you is only short term and it is one of the quickest ways of destroying trust amongst your team.

Question your commitment and work ethos continuously-Are you really giving 100% effort all the time? If not-why not -do you need to seek help or are you just being lazy?

Do not lie! It's infectious in a team environment. If you want a day off- take a leave day-don't keep re-burying your grandmother!

Admit when you are wrong in a discussion-and apologise!

Do not moan and grumble about work – if you do not like being there -Leave!

2. Communication

Communication is one of the most important factors in successful teams. To be effective it must be continuous and completely OPEN – both between team members and between the team leader and their team. There should be no secrets. The team need to know how they are affected by corporate plans and decisions. Members need to know if they are doing things correctly. The team leader needs to know if their team members have any ideas or problems that should be acted upon. People respond better if they know the facts – even to bad news! (I had a team where they all volunteered to take a 10% pay cut to save a team member from redundancy, when the financial figures were explained to them openly!)

This DOES NOT mean that you need to have interminable 'formal' team meetings! People should be encouraged to talk to each other and to the team leader all of the time. A good team leader will set out time every day, (YES, you can do it, if you are organized!), Purely to get around and talk to their team. The better your communication is, the less meetings you will need to have!

3. Trust

Trust between team members and between the team and team leader MUST be absolute. If you do not trust people to get on and do their job – why are they in your team? If you trust people to do a job, you have to relinquish power to them to make their own decisions – and they have to be responsible for those decisions! Team members must have trust in the team leader – that they have their best interests at heart and are working for team rather than individual success. In the ultimate team, people have to depend on each other for their lives – that can only be done with trust in your fellow team members.

4. Conflicts and Compromise

Teams are made of PEOPLE! You have to expect conflicts and confrontations. They should not be arbitrarily stamped upon – people have to be made aware that at some point they will have to compromise with other people in order to continuing functioning as an effective team. Members should be encouraged not to hide conflict, but to work it out and arrive at a compromise. The team leader should try and be aware of any conflicts and help to resolve them where necessary. Do not expect your team to never argument – they are all different people, and just like in a family, there is nothing wrong with a healthy argument, as long as it is resolved

5. Chinese Councils

ALL team members should have an input to planning and decisions concerning the team. People in the team should be treated as equals. The team leader is not in that position because they are 'better', it's just that they have different skills to the others. where necessary amend plans and decisions relating to the team and its objectives. However, everyone should be aware that at the end, the team leader has the ultimate responsibility and therefore the final say in any decisions, having taken into account the input from other team members This should be a regular ongoing procedure.

6. Assessment and reward

Forget 'Annual Assessments', Competency grids and pay rises based on individual performance! What matters is, "Is the TEAM successful?" The team leader should be constantly aware of how team members are performing and giving them feedback and assistance where necessary as the project progresses. It is no good leaving it until some later point to let people know if they are not achieving what is required or patting them on the back if things are going well. People need constant feedback -with honesty!
Reward should be based on the success (or failure!) Of the whole team, not individuals, so that people are encouraged to make sure that everyone in the team is pulling together to achieve the team goals -not trying to score 'smarty points' for their own individual advancement. (This would not work in a 'sales' environment, which is why sales people tend to work as individuals rather than as teams!)

7. Buddies

Team members must all be 'Buddies' with each other. This does not mean that you have to be close friends or socialize with each other! What it means is that team members have to support one another at all times. Everyone has 'off days', and team members should notice when someone else is not performing 100% and offer help and support to get them through this period. Sometimes all it will take is a joke or remark to buck someone up or they may need help with a particular task that is getting on top of them. All members should get into the habit of 'watching out' for each other. There is no shame in seeking or accepting help – we all need it sometimes. We all have different skills and abilities and team members should be encouraged to make use of each other's skills to achieve the team objective as efficiently as possible. I was never very good at producing diagrams for presentations, but I had someone in my team who was brilliant at it, and I would always ask her to critique my work so that I could produce a better finished product.

8. No Blame – No Shame

EVERYONE MAKES MISTAKES! The secret is to have a culture where people are not ashamed to admit to having made a mistake! That way, mistakes can be rectified quickly, and more importantly, learned from! If someone makes a mistake (deletes a file or something), you do not want them to feel that they will be penalized or marked down in some way. You need them to tell someone and if necessary seek help to rectify it as soon as possible. (Needs 'honesty', as above!)


You may have noticed something in reading the above? No jargon, no 'hype', no 'games', no 'exercises', no 'concepts'! – NOT NECESSARY! Successful teams are all about PEOPLE, their natural skills, abilities and relationships. Running a successful team is very much like running a successful family and most of the values ​​are the same – BUT, it will not work WITHOUT HONESTY as above! Remember that is probably the hardest thing to achieve due to human nature and the conditioning that people are subjected to in the normally competitive culture of most work places, but it is worth the effort if you really want to achieve effective team building.

Think about all of the above – how much of it currently applies to teams in your workplace? Could you implement this? Remember – unless you start with HONESTY, it will not work, and you will always just be going through the motions of team building!

As always I am completely open to any comments – the whole idea of ​​this seminar is to get people thinking and discussing what they do in their teams and how it could have improved.


Adapted from an original article by John Roberts, freelance training consultant, Director of JayrConsulting Ltd., . John can be contacted at

This article may be freely reproduced / modified and used in any way, providing this acknowledgment is left in its entity.