The ability to establish, grow, extend, and restore trust is the key professional and personal competency of our time.
– STEPHEN M.R. COVEY
Upholding any great teamwork environment is a culture of trust. For people to push together in the same direction, they need a motivating binding reason to put the team need’s first. In extreme situations, like danger, working together can sometimes be forced upon us by innate survival instinct which we realise is best met by working as an unit. Likewise in some negative pressure moments, like fear of job loss, the shared “fear” can sometimes enable people to work together, if they believe all jobs can be saved. However in both cases, the “stick” like pressure is unpredictable and it can just as likely be the case that individuals ditch the team if they believe their interests are better served alone. In short “stick” like pressure can only bind people together for so long.
“Stick” like means of gaining trust don’t normally last long.
A far more long term creater of team work is the belief that serving the unit also serves oneself and this exists when people feel genuine trust. At the base of any culture of trust are the three pillars of trust: authenticy, empathy and logic which bound together the interests and needs of the unit. Authenticity means your team won’t doubt your intentions, dismissing the need to think of one’s own interest first. Likewise being authentic means you will admit mistakes and not be afraid of showing weakness which also leads to trust. Empathy of course is needed as it communicates to the team that their feelings and emotions matter and won’t be ignored as without this, people’s more extreme emotions could drive them towards self interest. Finally logic is needed as ultimately we all trust things we understand and logic and reasoning fills this information gap. To create a culture of trust we will need to explain why sacrifice is needed or justify why a bad decision was made as without doing those people won’t trust that their interests are represented. People ultimately normally accept mistakes when they understand and emphathise with the human reason why it happened.
Authenticity, Empathy and Logic are three pillars of trust.
When we actively practice the three pillars of trust, all team members will be able to better understand the triangular relationship between: action, intention and impact. Usually trust first breaks down not because someone actually did something, but rather because others fear they did it. It is far easier to allow in this fear when team players aren’t authentic, as ultimately we trust less the people we don’t feel we know. Likewise an environment without empathy will mean people are wary of showing their weakness, hence less honesty and therefore reduced authenticity. And of course when we don’t understand the reasonings for things it far easier to jump to the assumption that people are doing something we don’t like, even when we don’t necessarily have the facts to confirm this.
A culture of trust allows the team to feel realtionship between action, intention and impact.
Another vital part of any trust envrionment is the exisistence and active adherance to communal values, ideally coming in some form from the company’s own value system. Values allow us to identify with something bigger than ourselves and hence be more willing to put ourselves second. A value understood and adhered to allows two individuals pushing for their own separate views to accept a third alternative way and it is knowing this third way exists that creates a culture of trust amoung a team. Ultimately individuals will never trust fully, if they feel someone else’s way is frequently put in front of their own. Team/Company values come in many forms and there is another blog post on this but what matters here is to understand that understood and practised company values like: tranparency of information, judging development as much as performance and willingness to admit when you made a mistake all contribute to a secure value system which in turn links the triangular relationship between actions, intentions and impact which is essential to trust.
A practised value system allows the team to see the connection between actions, intention and impact which in turn creates trust.
The most effective work environments are ones where people seamlessly work together . In many ways trust is the lubrication that makes it possible for all the different cogs to turn together and hence work in unision. Contrary to what most people believe, trust is not some illusive quality that people or team’s either have or don’t; rather, trust is a pragmatic, tangible, actionable asset that leaders and teams can create. Creating a culture of trust is hard work and requires continuous maintenance but it more than pays itself off in the longer term as studies continuosly prove trust contributes to higher productivity. Ultimately if you want your team to follow your lead, you need to invest into and maintain a firm culture of trust.
Trust is the highest form of human motivation. It brings out the very best in people.”
– STEPHEN R. COVEY