Trust is the foundation of real Teamwork

It’s only natural that we trust the people who are close to us, but the ramifications of this go far beyond our personal life. In business, too, trust is the cornerstone of successful collaboration, which is why teams need to actively work on building bonds based on trust, openness, and empathy if they want to achieve top results. In some teams, sharing and bonding happens spontaneously, but other teams may need help and facilitation to establish relationships of trust. At work, people should get closer to others to better understand what is going on, and decreasing the distance might also help increase communication and creativity. If you want to better understand people you work with, Personal Maps popular Management 3.0 practice can come in useful, and they can also help teams get to know each other better and forge deep bonds based on mutual trust, openness and empathy.

Trust is the foundation of real teamwork.

In his 2002 book, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable” Patrick Lencioni wrote the following:

Trust lies at the heart of a functioning, cohesive team. Without it, teamwork is all but impossible. Unfortunately, the word trust is used—and misused— so often that it has lost some of its impact and begins to sound like motherhood and apple pie. That is why it is important to be very specific about what is meant by trust.

In the context of building a team, trust is the confidence among team members that their peers’ intentions are good, and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group. In essence, teammates must get comfortable being vulnerable with one another. This description stands in contrast to a more standard definition of trust, one that centers around the ability to predict a person’s behavior based on past experience. For instance, one might “trust” that a given teammate will produce high-quality work because he has always done so in the past

Building Trust with Personal Maps

A while ago, I had a chance to work with one team in order to help them grow and develop as a team. After a relatively short time of daily observation and interaction, I realized that they did not manage to develop true trust and were often unwilling to admit that some aspects of work were not going in the right direction. On top of that, they would quickly come to conflicts that would last very briefly, followed by a hiatus and a superficial sense of artificial harmony. For me, this was a sign that they weren’t able to handle a constructive debate, which prevented them from dealing with conflicts adequately. Mutual trust and vulnerability in front of others were lacking, which are normally built by allowing the team to learn more about each other and establish a sense of empathy.

At the end of one sprint, I invited people to an informal get-together I named “Sweets and Learn”. I put sweets on the table and right at the start, I told them that I had been with them for a while but that I felt the need to present myself to them properly. I shared my Personal Map with them (leading by example) and I asked them if they wanted to make their own maps. There were volunteers and they encouraged others to make their own maps too and share them with the other team members. What was amazing to me was the fact that the people had been working together for months but they didn’t know some basic things about each other. By making Personal Maps, they had an opportunity to learn more about each other, which in turn encouraged active communication. They found out that they have shared interests and they started to develop a relationship of empathy, which largely changed the team dynamics, which came to light during the second get-together already. Sharing the Personal Map with team members was the first step towards building mutual trust in that team.

The “Sweets and Learn” session produced a few major takeaways for me as the facilitator, and one of them is that people will bond with greater ease if provided the opportunity and tools to do so. Let’s face it: there’s much more to work than just work, but if people are not encouraged to bond and open up, they will hardly step out of their comfort zone. By creating room for bonding, the facilitator can considerably improve the functioning of a team as a whole as the newly-forged ties will allow for smoother collaboration and increased levels of understanding and trust among individual team members.

Author: Vladimir Kelava

Learn more about this staff on our Management 3.0 Foundation Workshop