Patrick Lencioni states in his book, the 5 dysfunctions of a team, that TRUST is the most fundamental building block of a healthy team. If we don’t trust the people we work with, we cannot work together, and the team will not be successful.
But what is trust? How do we establish and maintain it? And how do we get it back once it has been broken?
Breneé Brown says in her book “Dare to Lead” that most people believe that they are completely trustworthy, but in turn they only trust a handful of people. It speaks to how we tend to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt, but we don’t necessarily pay that forward to others. In addition, talking about lack of trust in a team is often difficult. It’s tricky for me to tell you “I don’t trust you. I don’t think you’re reliable. I don’t want to take a chance on you.” Being trustworthy speaks to a fundamental part of our human decency and it hurts to know that others don’t trust us.
Without trust the team will fall apart. They will not be able to work together and achieve their goals. So, it’s critical to build trust in a team. Here’s a couple of ideas on how you can foster trust in a team.
- Get to know team members as people. Human beings judge others. We all do it. And often we judge unfairly. We judge a book by its cover. We assume things about others that might not be true at all. Giving your team the opportunity to get to know other members as people will go a long way to building trust. Create opportunities for people to share personal experiences, talk about their values and what’s important to them. Keep the focus on what we have in common instead of what divides us. In that way people start building connections and shared understanding by realising that they are more similar than alike. And finding that common ground is the first step in developing trust.
- Focus on behaviours and not characteristics. When we say “That person is untrustworthy” we usually base it on an experience that we’ve had. We might have seen behaviour from them indicating that they are untrustworthy. It could be that they have missed a deadline, that they broke confidentiality or disappointed us in some way. But linking that to their character does not create an opportunity to change. However, if we focus on the behaviour that we’d like to change, it opens doors to re-establishing the trust. Let your team identify behaviours that will support trust and behaviours that will decrease trust. Create a “team credo” that all team members can commit to, detailing the behaviours that they will display to create and maintain trust. And hold one another accountable.
- Lean in to the difficult conversations. When trust has been broken, people are hurt and disappointed. It makes it difficult to trust again, and it’s easy to just pull back. But this is the time when having a conversation about broken trust is critical! It can create understanding and a way forward. Also, always remember that we give ourselves the benefit of the doubt more so than what we give others. A great format to use is to initiate a conversation with the person who has let you down stating that the relationship is important to you. Explain what went wrong and include “the story I tell myself…” to check your assumptions. Then listen to understand the other person’s point of view. Finally, agree on a way forward by asking clearly for the behaviour that you want.
Below is a list of the elements of trust that you can share with your team:
- Boundaries: respecting others’ boundaries and sticking to your own.
- Reliability: you do what you say you will do. And if you can’t meet the expectations, be candid and pro-active about it.
- Accountability: own your mistakes and apologise when it is needed. Fix your mistakes.
- Confidentiality: don’t share secrets or information that’s not yours to share.
- Integrity: be clear on your values and principles and stick to them, even when it is difficult.
- Authenticity: be honest about your feelings and your thoughts – people can spot a phony from a mile away.
Contact us to run a workshop for your team to establish trust and create it as a fundamental behaviour.