Our team can’t get a win, workers won’t listen, and we can’t seem to get anyone to understand what the standard is. Immediately we start looking for things to fix. Maybe a new drill or a new sales tactic will help. Or maybe we can just put in more hours, work harder. When none of that works, we start to pass the blame - we must need better players, more talented workers, people that actually want to be here. The problem we repeatedly fail to realize is that the issue is hardly ever external, yet that’s where we look for the solution over and over. It’s almost always something we could be doing differently, and almost always has something to do with our relationships, specifically trust.
In this post we’ll cover why trust is important, explain how to build it, provide 3 guidelines for building it daily, and share 3 actions you can take today to improve your team's trust.
Why Should I Care? Here’s what we seem to keep forgetting as leaders: trust is always the centerpiece of whatever the purpose is for our teams. No matter what profession, field, or sport we’re in; trust is the most important element of the team. Once trust is established within a team, the processes we are trying to create will take care of themselves. And whatever the standard is, a team that has trust among its teammates and leaders will consistently meet or exceed that standard. The field or sport we’re in becomes irrelevant. It’s a superpower!
Creating a Superhero Every superhero has to have a superpower, right? Superman could fly. Spiderman could climb buildings. The Hulk had incredible strength. When it comes to teams, there is only one superpower. Like those of the heroes mentioned above, the superpower isn’t obvious to the average bystander. Teams all look basically the same, just as our heroes do. They don’t use their superpower unless they have to. But, they know they have it. And they know, when needed, they can call on it. So it is for teams.
Trust is the superpower of teams. Trust is what makes teams stand out, achieve excellence, and create bonds and memories that stand the test of time. Trust is the foundation for all other team dynamics. Without it, you have nothing. With it, anything is possible..
The problem with trust is it’s invisible, like other superpowers. On teams, trust sits quietly behind vulnerability. Without teams opening up and sharing mistakes and weaknesses, there is no trust. Trust is simply at the mercy of vulnerability. But, vulnerability is hidden behind something too - safety. We build trust by building safety.
Safety is the by-product of vulnerability and trust. As a leader, we have no more important job than to establish this sense of safety within our team. Here are a few guidelines to understand when your aim is to build trust with your team:
Grow It. Trust takes time to build. Embrace that fact and be patient.
Guide It. Trust isn’t something you check off the list. You will need to work on it 5 years from now just as much as you do now. It’s never done.
Guard It. Think of trust like blowing air into a balloon. Every small, positive act pushes a little air in and builds a little more trust. Likewise, every small, negative act takes a little air out and diminishes trust.
It is crucial to note, no matter how hard you try you can never fill the balloon all the way up with one giant positive act, but you can certainly let all the air out with one giant negative one.
REAL TALK - Action Steps
Collide More - Proximity definitely matters. The closer, physically, we can be to those we are trying to build trust with, the better. This proximity promotes more 'collisions' (Daniel Coyle - The Culture Code). And nothing builds trust more than interactions. It's so simple we don't appreciate it's power.
Parents - spend as much time in the same room as you can; limit times in bedrooms with the doors shut; even if you are doing different things, being in the same room is beneficial
Coaches/Managers - be intentional about locker/office assignments to force collisions between players/workers that might not interact much outside of practice/work; assign partners in the weight room and for drills/projects to do the same; force collisions through organization
Teammates - eat lunch with different people; car pool; take breaks and talk to people; put down your phone
2. Get Some Touches - Touch connects people. Handshakes and High Fives are incredible ways to build a sense of belonging on your team. It may feel a little awkward at first, but you just have to decide if building trust on your team is worth you being uncomfortable for a little bit.
Parents - create a handshake with your son/daughter and do it every time you leave each other or see each other; make High 5s part of the celebration of anything good that happens
Coaches/Managers - instead of just nodding, smiling, and walking by someone start giving your team High 5s; also participate in the team handshake below
Teammates - make a team handshake, unique to your team; do it the first time you see a teammate that day or anytime you see them outside of practice/work
3. Try Improv - Yes, that's right improv. You don't need to be an actor or professional to benefit from improv. There are some simple warm-ups and games that could easily be added to the start of a team meeting. The growth in trust comes from gently stretching comfort zones, realizing you're still safe, then stretching a little more. And the smiles don't hurt either.
Mirror Mirror - stand 3 inches from your partner, nose to nose; 1 person starts as the leader, the other the mirror; for 20 seconds the mirror has to try to reflect exactly what the leader does; after 20 seconds switch roles
Sound Ball - going around the room the leader begins by making an unusual noise into an imaginary ball he is holding in his hand; he then passes the imaginary ball to the person on his right; this person repeats the sound of the person before him, then makes his own unique sound; he then pass the ball to the person on his right, and so on; Each person only needs to repeat the sound of the person before them, make their own sound, and pass the ball to the person on their right
Heads Up - everyone in the room stands up so they can all see each other; the leader gives 2 commands throughout the game - heads down and heads up; when heads down is given everyone looks down at the ground in front of them; when heads up is given everyone looks up and attempts to make eye contact with 1 other person; if you look up and make eye contact with the person making eye contact with you; both of you are out and can sit down; continue until you have a winner or only 2 remain
Trust isn't easy, but neither is being excellent. Most leaders accept trust as something their team just has or doesn't have and spend no time thinking about how to improve it. That's like coaching a basketball team and not working on shooting. Trust is the life-blood of successful teams. As leaders, we need to treat it as such.
The next 3 posts will provide more detail and ideas around action steps to developing trust on your teams.
For more information on building excellence in your teams, visit us at www.bluecollargrit.com. We would love to know how we could help!