Trust Me! All Team Performance Starts With Trust

Recently the CEO of a 500-employee sales and distribution company said, “We love to hire people who were involved in team sports in college.” Yes, the CEO did play baseball and basketball at a small division II school when he was in college, but he’s no ex-jock looking to relive his glory years.

“People who have put their heart and soul into playing a team sport understand the true nature of teamwork. They know what it means to have faith in others, and they know what it means for others to have faith in them.”

Teamwork is crucial to getting work accomplished in today’s world. Can you think of an organization or an individual excelling without people working together toward a common purpose? The foundation of a high performance team is trust — a shared openness and reliance in each other.

“That’s what people learn participating in athletics — theatre too,” added the CEO. “I look for any activity where, in order to succeed, you have to count on each other to do their job, be completely open with each other, commit to a plan, and care more about the outcome of the team than your own individual performance.”

Vulnerability-based trust is the cornerstone of team building

The first of the Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team™ as developed by Patrick Lencioni, “Trust is the foundational behavior which enables the other four cohesive team behaviors — engaging in healthy debate, commitment, accountability, and collective results,” said Maren Perry, president of Arden Coaching. “It is the characteristic upon which all the other behaviors are built.”

Also, Perry adds, “It is the behavior that people have the most difficulty adopting.”

Most of us understand trust in terms of what is called “predictive trust.” For example, “I trust that Jason will get me the report on time,” and “If I say something in a certain way, I know how Lisa will respond.” Predictive trust is built over time and is evidence-based.

In a team setting, the trust needed to build success is called “vulnerability-based trust.” It requires everyone on the team to be open, and respectfully honest with each other. That means making yourself vulnerable and shedding the corporate armor many of us typically wear. Vulnerability-based trust allows the team to create a safe environment to:

  • Say that you don’t know the answer to a question
  • Admit that you made a mistake
  • Ask for help — “I’m not very good at this piece; can you show me how to do it?”
  • Offer sincere feedback
  • Be comfortable being yourself — allowing your true personality and capabilities to shine

“Vulnerability-based trust needs to be established by the team leader,” said Perry. “They set the tone.”

Trust is vital to team performance because it creates a supportive and constructive environment for exploring ideas, working out problems, seeking help, offering and accepting honest feedback, and crafting the best solutions possible. 

Coaching to build trust

Creating vulnerability-based trust does not come easily. In some corporate cultures, ingrained behaviors need to be undone. It’s a learned skill that needs to be developed and consistently applied and practiced. For more, read Arden Coaching’s “Essentials of Team Performance: Trust.”

Perry notes that, “After the initial assessment/discovery phase of a new team performance engagement, we find that trust is something that needs to be built up and  strengthened 95 percent of the time.”

If people do not establish vulnerability-based trust, it will be impossible for the team to succeed.”

For more about programs to instill the The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team™ in your organization, visit Arden Coaching’s website.

To learn more about team performance and leadership development contact us at [email protected] or 646.844.2233.