The ability of team members to trust each other is the cornerstone of a functioning team.

The ability of team members to trust each other is the cornerstone of a functioning team.

Trust doesn't mean there will not be conflict. In fact, the ability to trust other members means there will be more conflict because people will feel comfortable saying what they really think.

However, conflict in a team whose members trust each other results in a highly effective, flexible team that can surmount almost any problem that arises.

Accountability is essential for team members to build and maintain trust with each other. Chances are that as you are reading this, examples are popping into your mind of team members who have, in your opinion, dropped the ball when it comes to accountability.

Perhaps they promised you they would finish something by a certain time and didn't. Perhaps they said they would help you out and never showed up. However, the erosion of accountability within a team usually starts with much smaller transgressions.

Take, for example, one of the most common ways a team communicates — meetings. Let's say your team has a meeting at 9 a.m. How many team members are there at 9 a.m. ready to go?

And now, a much harder fact to look at: How many times are YOU there at 9 a.m. ready to go? How many times do you go for that last cup of coffee, answer that last e-mail, or take one last phone call before rushing off to the meeting "only" five minutes late?

It may seem like its no big deal because everyone else is doing the same thing, but starting a meeting only when everyone finally drifts in is a demonstration of the team members' lack of accountability to each other. Obviously, this is a terrible way to start a meeting! Having already "told" team members they don't need to be accountable, other deadlines become easier to also ignore.

The flipside of this is that you can begin to build accountability, and thus trust, back into your team simply by starting meetings on time.

This is not done by sending out a stern e-mail insisting meetings have to start on time. It is done by being more accountable as an individual; that is, start showing up on time, ready to go, no excuses.

If you are a manager, you have the added advantage of actually starting the meeting on time even if people are late. But even if you are just a participant, sitting at the table waiting, expectantly, is surprisingly influential.

It also allows you to expect the meeting to end on time (yet another way for team members to show accountability to each other.)

Karen Bolda, M.A., is a meeting facilitator and professional development trainer. She's lived in Ashland for 13 years where she operates her own consulting business. Visit her website at www.karenbolda.com or contact her at karen@karenbolda.com.