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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: Trust

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“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”

–Steven Convey

I was talking with one of my employees about trust the other day, and she told me a story about when her husband was in the military. Boot camp was filled with paper-work and medical check-ups, shots, etc. Before they started the process, the doctor told them to watch out for the guy in front of them as the shots they would receive tended to make some people pass out.

Her husband went through the gauntlet of shots and was in line to get dinner when he, as warned, got tunnel vision and passed out. When he woke up, one of his buddies told him that the guy behind him in line saw him start to waiver and instead of reaching out to catch him, he merely side stepped out of the way. Later the guy apologized for not catching him and said he wasn’t sure why he stepped out of the way. My employee and her husband laugh about it, but at the same time, that was NOT the guy you want to have your back.

I just had my team read through The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. The first dysfunction Lencioni discusses is the lack of trust. It seems so basic, but its amazing when you realize so often that this trait can be ignored, or not given the proper focus needed for teams to be able to function well as a group. You need to know if the person behind you or next to you is going to catch you if you fall.

This led me to ask myself, what builds trust? What takes away trust?

First thing that came to mind, and what I tell my employees, is transparency and authenticity. Granted, there are times when the full details cannot be disclosed for legal and privacy reasons, however, I strive to keep my employees informed of what we are working on and the plans we have for the company. I also believe it is important to answer “why” we have decided to head in chosen directions. It’s when things are kept secret or information is not disclosed that causes us to be concerned and fearful. If someone doesn’t want me to know the information, I assume it must not be good—or at least not good for me! I believe I have what’s best in mind for the company, so I’m not afraid of transparency and try hard to keep everyone in the loop of what we are doing—and why!

That statement brings me to my next point. Trust comes from the belief that the other person has your best interest at heart. I trust my reports because, at the end of the day, they’ve shown me that they want what’s best for me. Alternatively, I have to earn the trust of my employees and prove to them that I have their best interests at heart. I will catch them, and they will catch me. If this is true, this will affect our decisions, our work ethic, and our loyalty. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to trust or be at ease around someone whose motives are unclear or who you believe is only out for his or her own benefit? It’s next to impossible to have a functional relationship with them because you’re always watching your back or double checking what they’re doing. Heaven forbid you pass out. In a team situation, this would be exhausting and highly unproductive. The peace that comes from that aspect of trust cannot have a dollar sign put in front of it.

Trust is crucial. Just as a marriage will crumble if you don’t trust one another, an entire team can crumble that isn’t built on trust; and then there’s no one to catch you.

The ideas for this blog entry came from the “The 5 Dysfunctions of Team” by Patrick Lencioni.