Commitment: Is Your Team Really on the Same Page?

Alex was a member of an interdepartmental team exploring logistics and expansion. They had just finalized their recommendations to the senior leadership:

  • Move forward with the development of a new distribution center.
  • Purchase a property located 20 miles north of a major interstate highway intersection.
  • Warehousing, loading bays, and administrative offices to be housed in a 3-building distribution center “campus.”
  • The new distribution center to be constructed for the exclusive use of the growing company.

The proposal was well-thought out, backed by good data and a compelling business case. The team celebrated its success!

In reality, not everyone was whole-heartedly on the same page. While in general agreement, there wasn’t a full commitment to the team’s decisions — as expressed by Patrick Lencioni’s model of cohesive, high-performing teams.

Two members of the team believed that updating and expanding the company’s existing distribution centers was a better investment, and never completely let go of that idea. Some team members quietly stuck to their guns about the greater efficiency of a campus composed of two larger buildings rather than three smaller buildings. Alex felt strongly that available space should be sublet until demand grew and the space was needed by the company. And everyone tacitly recognized that the location was a compromise. It was no one’s first choice, but it was the least objectionable.

Worse, no one was shy about expressing their opinions and lingering concerns to their colleagues and supervisors outside the team. The team was “on the same page, but…”

Alex, saw it coming — under the pressure of review by the senior team, the recommendations crumbled. Four months of work were wasted. When the team was reconstituted, the company had lost valuable time, effort, and competitive pressures were growing.

And Alex was named to lead the team! Channeling Lencioni’s model, Alex was determined to get this right. As he lead the team, he considered:

Has the Team Built a High Level of Trust?

Teams need what Patrick Lencioni calls “vulnerability-based” trust — trust that requires everyone on the team to be completely open and honest with each other. Vulnerability-based trust makes people genuinely unguarded and vulnerable to each other. When everyone on the team is open to each other in this way, the team creates a safe environment to discuss, share, learn from each other… even argue. For more, read Arden Coaching’s blog, “Essentials of team Performance: Trust.”

Is the Team Engaging in Healthy Conflict?

Healthy conflict is built on a foundation of trust, where each team member believes, “For the team to win, we need the best ideas to win.” What is vital is that everyone needs to be confident that no one on the team is holding back.

Healthy conflict focuses debate and discussion around ideas, issues, and action steps, not the individual. Ideas are the “gladiators.” The gladiators step into the ring and are thoroughly and honestly debated. They are fighting to the death — not the person who “sponsored” the gladiator.

The ability to engage in healthy conflict and debate the merits of an idea passionately, in an environment of vulnerability-based trust, is a crucial. For more, read Arden Coaching’s blog, “Essentials of Team Performance: Healthy Conflict.”

Alex was determined to make sure that the best ideas win!

Has the Team Committed to Commitment?

Without trust and healthy conflict, the previous team never fully bought into its own recommendations. They lacked commitment. In a high-performing, cohesive team, commitment is unreserved buy-in from each team member of the recommendations and decisions made by the team.

And commitment is not consensus. Consensus avoids healthy conflict and results in poor, but safe, uncontroversial, decisions. Commitment means that the team chooses the best course of action possible and gets behind the decision whole-heartedly. Team members understand and agree to support team recommendations and decisions — even if team members may have initially been opposed to some ideas, or proposed a different solution. For more, read Arden Coaching’s blog, “Essentials of Team Performance: Commitment.”


Alex invested a lot of his leadership energies on building vulnerability-based trust, encouraging and facilitating healthy conflict, and creating a team culture of commitment. Three months later, senior management reviewed a revised set of team findings and recommendations and was pleased to move forward on all fronts.

To learn more about leading cohesive, high-performing teams, contact Arden Coaching at [email protected] or 646.684.3777.