KEY POINTS:

1. Dependability is being able to rely on others to complete their tasks well.

2. A dependable team is highly productive. Promises are kept, people follow through, things get done, and trust is built.  

3. The first step is to switch from time management to priority management. If every team member understands the priorities of the project, they are going to stay on track, which means the whole team stays on track.

The third element of a healthy high-performance team is dependability. This is a pretty straight-forward concept: it means being able to rely on others to complete their tasks well. We all have a pretty good sense of what “dependable” means – with our bosses, co-workers, spouses, and even with elements of the world, like public transportation or a favourite coffee shop.

Dependability matters because it draws on and leads to so many other individual and team factors. For example, a dependable team member is building positive relationships as a by-product of being responsible and reliable. That person’s word is their bond, which boosts morale and confidence all around. And of course, a dependable person – and team – is highly productive. Promises are kept, people follow through, things get done.

Most important, dependability builds trust. People who can be depended on are people who can be trusted. Faith in each other and in the mission is strong.

During parts of our climb up Mount Chimbarazo in Ecuador, the whole group was roped together. There were times, especially at night, when we had to completely depend on one another. The image of climbers tied together is perfect for a dependable team. With such a strong sense of responsibility and connection, you’re not going to let anyone down. If you did, the team could fall off a cliff! In our case, it felt amazing to be tied to everyone else. It was empowering. It’s also empowering for other kinds of teams.

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How can you ensure that you and your teams are dependable?

My strong suggestion is that you pivot from time management to priority management. If your team works from a sense of priority, it is going to be highly reliable when it comes to reaching stages and benchmarks. If every team member understands the priorities of the project, they are going to stay on track, which means the whole team stays on track.

I shifted to priority management awhile ago in my life. Long story short: after I ended up in the cardiac ward of a hospital with a heart infection, I reset my priorities: health first, then family, then work.

At the outset of a project, align everyone’s priorities around what is mission-critical. Cut out anything that isn’t essential. As a result, you’ll see dependability rise. People naturally become more reliable when they are engaged in mission-critical activities rather than distracting minutiae.

When my health became mission-critical as my first priority, I was able to complete an Ironman a year after my heart infection knocked me out. Right now, my priority is building great relationships with my family. I spend time with my wife and kids from dinner through to bedtime. I do it every day. That mission-critical focus has made me highly dependable and has been great for the health and strength of my family. The same happens on work teams.

On your teams, spend time at the outset of a project and then periodically afterward asking, what is mission critical? What are the right priorities? You will find that the dependability of each member and the whole team skyrockets.

Today's POWER UP: Priority Management and the Mission Critical Question

The key to dependability is actually doing what you say you are going to do. In a team context it is having the confidence that people on your team will get their jobs done. Despite how obvious this sounds, it is not a given that people will be able to finish what they commit to. I believe that is the result of so many of us being inundated with urgent requests to do tasks that make us busy cause us to get side-tracked from doing our important work that will advance our work and / or our lives. There are 2 critical actions that can help you be dependable and to ensure that your teammates are dependable as well.

The first is to do priority management not time management. Most people manage their calendars and not their priorities. When you are clear on your priorities and then you assign time to get your most important things done each day (rather than the other way around) you set the stage for achievement and dependability.

The second way to improve dependability is to ask a very powerful question at the beginning of each day / meeting / block of work. The question is “Is this mission critical?” That simple question will give you and your teammates perspective that you need to make decisions about what you are actually going to do. 

Most of us have too much to do and not enough time. Therefore, we often cannot get everything done. This causes a lot of stress and anxiety, especially when your teammates are depending on you. Priority management and the mission critical question are two ways that you can ensure that you are getting your life most important work done despite the challenges and demands that you’re faced with on a daily basis.