Trust is Essential

Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.
— Patrick Lencioni

Most organizations believe that their product, technology, service, or strategy is what sets them apart from the competition. NY Times bestselling author, Patrick Lencioni, believes that while those things are important, when an organization focuses on getting people working together on productive, cohesive teams, they will accomplish great things, and that teamwork may be an organization’s ultimate competitive advantage. Getting people to work together as a cohesive team is simple, but takes hard work, and it will pay off.

Think about the last time you were part of a dysfunctional team.  What did it feel like? I bet it had finger pointing, unhealthy competition, poor results, few opportunities to learn, or the blame game.  We’ve all been there, and it doesn’t feel good. 

When you give your teams the tools to work through issues that every organization faces, you set them up for success; you reduce turnover and you can directly impact your organization, your team, and yourself in a good way.

The first and foundational behavior of cohesive teams is vulnerability-based trust.  That means being vulnerable with one other.   It’s about being genuinely transparent and honest with one another, so you can admit your mistakes and weaknesses.  It’s being able to say things like “hey, I need help” or “I struggle in this area”, or “I’m sorry.”  Members of great teams trust one another on a fundamental and emotional level. They are comfortable being vulnerable with each other about their weaknesses, mistakes, fears and behaviors. They can ask for help when they need it.  84% of people say that coworkers who admit their mistakes makes you trust them more. 

One of the ways you can build trust on your teams is to get to know one another better.  You spend 8-9 hours a day with your colleagues, but often struggle to find a genuine connection or understanding of them.

In the Five Behaviors program we suggest an activity called the personal histories exercise. This is an excellent way to get to know one another a little better and provide your team with a low-risk opportunity to practice vulnerability. You ask team members to share answers to 3 questions:

  • Where did you grow up?
  • How many siblings did you have and where do you fall in the sibling order?
  • What was an important or unique challenge of your childhood? How did that impact your professional life?

The leader should go first in answering the questions as she will set the tone for others by being vulnerable herself.  I’ve experienced the power of this simple exercise.  It’s so interesting to me how having more information about someone generates a deeper understanding of why they are who they are and how you might work better with them.

Trust is a feeling.  It’s a feeling of safety.  It’s the feeling of I know you have my back and that you will watch out for me.  As a leader it’s our responsibility to set the tone for safety and trust in our teams and our organizations.

On your next coffee break, take 10 minutes to listen to Simon Sinek talk about why good leaders make us feel safe.  It will give you something to think about the rest of the day.

Leadership is a choice. It is not a position.
— Stephen Covey