Trust in Teams

Do you have a new member in your team this fall?

I remember the hope and uncertainty any time my team got a new member. What would this be like? How would this change us?

I also remember being a new team member. How would I fit in? What would they think of me? How would they know what I could do?

It takes trust to successfully navigate these waters, but how is trust built?

Patrick Lencioni, team and leadership specialist, says that “vulnerability-based trust” is the foundation of cohesive teams. When we think of trust, what most often comes to mind is called “predictive trust.” This is the trust which comes from watching someone over time, and thus, believing you can predict how they’ll behave.

But “predictive trust” is not the kind of trust that builds great teams.

A great team is built on the ability to be vulnerable and transparent about weaknesses, mistakes, errors, and other, less than perfect, areas of our lives. It’s a trust that is willing to say:

  • I was wrong.

  • I made a mistake.

  • I need help.

  • I’m sorry.

  • I’m not so good at that.

  • Your idea is better.

When team members regularly hear these kinds of statements from one another, they develop a trust that extends grace and frees them from the need to appear better than they are. They are choosing to abandon pride and fear. When this vulnerability-based trust is present, the team as a whole, and each member on the team, is able to:

Photo by  Fancycrave  on  Unsplash

Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash

  • Take risks

  • Extend grace

  • Be more authentic

  • Excel in strengths, without guilt

  • Support one another

Imagine what a team can accomplish when these are genuinely taking place!

So how do you get started? Lencioni suggests that sharing some aspects of your personal histories with one another is a safe and effective first step. Consider taking time, sooner rather than later, for each member of the team to share their:

  • Birthplace

  • Number of siblings

  • Birth order placement

  • Most interesting or difficult challenge as a child

This may seem too easy or simple, but after you hear one another’s stories, notice how it affects your ability to trust the others on your team. Certainly, this is only a beginning step. Building a foundation, or repairing what’s been damaged, through simple acts of vulnerability can lead to the kind of trust that is foundational to great teams.