Trust – The Origin of Teams

Trust, what can we do without? Nothing to my humble opinion. Many research has been done and even more books are written about trust. Let’s have a look into trust and how this relates to our day-to-day way of working, wellbeing and personal development.

First of all, we all understand trust, as this is the first thing that we develop – or maybe are born with. Newborns trust their caretaker within one hour of birth. Trust is the origin of social connection, and critical for survival when we are dependent.

HBR, by Roderick M. Kramer, a social psychologist, published a mind breaker in 2009 called “rethinking trust”. The article, based on the collapse of the world economy caused by corporate scandals (Madoff, Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, etc.).

Kramer presents the thesis that human beings are naturally predisposed to trust—it’s in our genes and our childhood learning—and by and large it’s a survival mechanism that has served our species well. Kramer also highlights that our willingness to trust often gets us into trouble. Moreover, we sometimes have difficulty distinguishing trustworthy people from untrustworthy ones. At a species level, that doesn’t matter very much so long as more people are trustworthy than not. At the individual level, though, it can be a real problem. Kramer’s thesis is that

“To survive as individuals,
we’ll have to learn to trust wisely and well.”

That kind of trust—Kramer calls it tempered trust—doesn’t come easily, but if you diligently ask yourself the right questions, you can develop it.

To trust is human,
ut our judgment is sometimes poor

The shadow of doubt lingers over every decision to trust. The 7-step approach aims to reduce this doubt:

  1. Know yourself
  2. Start small
  3. Write an escape clause
  4. Send strong signals
  5. Recognize the other person’s dilemma
  6. Look at roles as well as people
  7. Remain vigilant and always question

You can read the full article here: HBR-Rethinking Trust

When it comes to teams, team performance and team leadership, Lencioni made a great model that puts trust where it belongs: at the fundament of people working together, also being the source for all elements needed to work together successfully.

Lencioni defined that without trust, people cannot speak-out what’s in their mind, they don’t feel safe enough. Google recently came up with exactly the same conclusion, based on a (very) big data analysis (check the article here).

A quote from Google article: “Psychological safety was far and away the most important of the five dynamics Google analysists found — it’s the underpinning of the other four. How could that be? Taking a risk around your team members seems simple. But remember the last time you were working on a project. Did you feel like you could ask what the goal was without the risk of sounding like you’re the only one out of the loop? Or did you opt for continuing without clarifying anything, in order to avoid being perceived as someone who is unaware?

Turns out, we’re all reluctant to engage in behaviors that could negatively influence how others perceive our competence, awareness, and positivity. Although this kind of self-protection is a natural strategy in the workplace, it is detrimental to effective teamwork. On the flip side, the safer team members feel with one another, the more likely they are to admit mistakes, to partner, and to take on new roles. And it affects pretty much every important dimension we look at for employees. Individuals on teams with higher psychological safety are less likely to leave the organisation, they’re more likely to harness the power of diverse ideas from their teammates, they bring in more revenue, and they’re rated as effective twice as often by executives.”

Trust is the major differentiator when it comes to identify successful teams. We all know about trust, we all have experience with its impact, nevertheless we all feel sometimes that we have something to lose when we give trust. Time to unlearn!

In team building and development sessions, often the focus is on methods, communication, etc. For me the trust component is always the first and last I bing along when facilitating teams. It does not always mean trust is created immediately, however seeds are planted ti rethink trust, too rethink how team members approach each other, and especially, rethink we with think about each other. The heart of “a lack of trust” is our thinking. Yes, indeed often based on past experiences, however, creating new experiences based on the old ones, will only create another experience similar to the old one. By rethinking how we create relationships and work together, be aware of our prejudgements and pre-mis-conceptions, we will approach people differently, creating a different – new & positive – experience.

Therefore learning to let go of the past, and letting go of experiences so they don’t influence our current one, is a great way going forward. Together and with an (more) open mind. The only way to trust, create trust and of course receive trust.

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