Your team's about to blow a $30 million project. A project so big that if it does fail, it could actually derail your billion-dollar company.

People have the raw skills, the talent, and the resources they need to make the initiative a success. They've even got the desire to contribute.

Yet, they're still underperforming.

They're digging in, thwarting new ideas. Sitting on, instead of sharing, key information. Taking about, instead of with, one another when they have concerns.

They're getting in their own way.

Sound familiar? I'd bet it does. We all experience these behaviors at work. The question is, what do you do in response?

I'll tell you what the leaders of this team did.

This is a real story, with real people. If I named the company, you'd instantly recognize it. But I practice what I teach. Keeping confidences builds communication trust.

As the story unfolds, look for yourself in it. Pay attention to what you can steal and apply in your own team - the ways you can leverage how these leaders:

Started paying as much attention to people and relationships as they did 'the work.'

The people leading this team went to work on understanding what had caused relationships to break down. They asked what was hard and frustrating in how they worked together, and why.

What support did people need from one another that they weren't getting?

They pinpointed misaligned expectations. Surfaced ways in which people had simply misunderstood one another. Drilled down to core interpersonal challenges that had, over time, become challenges to the work itself.

Most importantly, they unearthed a series of unresolved issues from the past. Little things that had become big. They got a firm handle on what people needed to know and understand in order to let go and move forward.

Took honest stock of their own behavior.

We've all got blind spots. Ways in which we break trust down and derail our relationships without even knowing it.

The leaders of this team gained self-awareness. They identified ways they were unintentionally sending mixed messages and setting people at cross-purposes.

Then, they made it safe for everyone on the team to gain that same awareness.

Extended compassion for their own and others' humanity.

As people learned to tune in and reflect, they came to understand and appreciate one another more fully - as whole people.

They learned to embrace their own and others' mistakes. Instead of finger pointing or judging, they began to pitch in to craft solutions.

Dug deep to tap their conviction to fuel the long game.

The inner work this team did? How they invested in raising their awareness to improve their relationships?

They had to leverage this conviction to relationships when they hit a rough patch. They had to intentionally keep their best intentions front and center, even when business pressures closed in.

Here's what they got in return:

Within six months:

There was a profound shift. At the sixth-month checkpoint, trust breaking behaviors dropped 80 percent and trust building behaviors increased 63 percent. What did that look like?

Instead of doing things like hoarding information and criticizing others unfairly, people supported one another. They got proactive about sharing information and looking out for one another's best interests. They offered timely feedback in the spirit of helping one another grow and develop.

Within 1 year:

For the first time in years engagement scores rose - by 25 percent.

Within 18 months:

The $30 million system rollout - along with its tens of millions of dollars in potential long-term benefits - got back on schedule. In fact, it was ahead of schedule, and on budget.

What this team really gained:

Most importantly, people reconnected with one another and regained a feeling of community.

Let's pause.

While you consider....

How could focusing on people and relationships serve your company?

What needs do your people have that are not being met?

What issues, if surfaced and worked through, could propel them forward?

What expectations do you need to clarify?

What skills are people lacking, and how can you fill the gap?

You don't have to wonder. You can ask.

You can take stock.



Pay attention.


Be open.

You can take notes, roll up your sleeves, and go to work on building a culture where people trust and care about one another - not just professionally, but personally.

What would that change for your team?

What would that change for your company and for you, as a leader?