Do you trust your team?


Trust is the glue that holds any relationship together. In a team, one of the core functional questions between people is “Do I trust you?”. Put simply, if you are my enemy I do not trust you. If you are a stranger I do not trust you (yet). If you are an ally I trust you a little. If you are a loyal friend I do trust you.

Patrick Lencioni describes the 5 dysfunctions of a team. He says the number one dysfunction above all others is the absence of trust.

Here’s how to recognise three levels of trust in a team.

A Trusting Team is one with deep levels of trust. They are aware of when they do a great job and want to do even better. Operationally they actively seek and value feedback from each other and their direct reports. In meetings they positively support and constructively challenge each other as peers, and continuously strive to find ways to improve as a team. They are aware of and acknowledge their vulnerabilities and actively take steps to minimise their impact. They consciously acknowledge what they each do well, and question each other about what they don’t do so well. They have the skills to resolve conflict and find workable compromises. Together they strive to create even better business performance through better team working, increased motivation and active engagement.

A Tentative Team is one that on the surface seems trusting. Operationally they are aware that they are good at some things but can be reluctant to admit that they are not so good at others. They can be a little embarrassed when asked to discuss either failures or successes and in some cultures might think the latter is boasting. Because they find it hard to discuss their performance as a team, they don’t always know specifically what they do well or what they need to improve. They may be too polite to challenge each other, or are concerned that disagreement could turn to conflict and become destructive. The unspoken rule seems to be “it’s not safe to disagree”. They would probably like to know more about what they do well as a team. They would be prepared to consider what they need to start doing, stop doing, develop or improve, but only if they could do so safely.

A Troubled Team is one with little evidence of trust and where things aren’t going as well as they could. Operationally there may be a pre-occupation with self-promotion and vying for position. There is little or no acknowledgement of other’s successes. There might be resistance to feedback, and rationalisation of any negative comments. There may be evidence of infighting, us versus them thinking, I/we win – you lose tactics, and trust only existing within cliques. There may even be open hostility in the form of “playing politics” or making dismissive comments of another’s performance or efforts. No-one takes responsibility for why the atmosphere in meetings is so uncomfortable or knows what to do about it. They need to become a better functioning team because they are dysfunctional and potentially damaging to the business.

What to do about Trust.

If you recognise any of these three levels of trust in your business and want to do something to change or improve trust within a team, one way to start is by giving them feedback. As Bill gates is quoted as saying: “We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” It could come from a number of sources:  360 feedback; feedback evidence from exit interviews; from a staff engagement survey; or from your own direct observations. If you need collective rather than individual evidence, The Leadership Team Impact Report® will give feedback on the impact of the team as a whole. It allows the team to gain a better understanding of its areas of strength and weakness, the impact the team’s overall leadership has upon others, and areas they need to address. It enables a team approach to tackling challenges, to building trust and creating the business success they desire.

Mike Udin

[email protected]

30 June 2015