How well do you know your team? Developing trust to unlock continuous improvement

Key hole Solution partnership and key opportunity business concept as two trees shaped as a human head with a key and keyhole shapes as a collaboration success metaphor in a 3D illustration style.

“A team is not a group of individuals who work together, it’s a group who TRUST each other.” Simon Sinek.

How many people fully trust the team that they are working in? In 1999, Roberto Francisco, a psychologist at San Jose State University described the ‘Five Levels of Interpersonal Communication’, in which he described the highest level of communication requires an increase of both risk and trust.

Rapport is built once communication has deepened, and moved beyond sharing of everyday information, or ‘rituals’ as Berne described in ‘Games People Play’ (1964), to an open discussion of emotions, feelings and thoughts. How often does this happen in our working life? How often do we have ‘deep conversations’ with genuine interest, versus conversations about the weekend, or the daily work tasks that need to be completed?

What would change in the team if people got to know each other, and connected on a more meaningful level, rather than just exchanging work facts, and asking how the weekend was? How would the level of teamwork and team spirit change if there was a high level of trust?

Granted, this would require a greater level of risk, a demonstration of personal vulnerability, and a positive intent to show that the team is made up of real people who all have their own thoughts, feelings, beliefs and values, not just an ability to deliver the job in hand. This isn’t about bearing all, or sharing everything that is strictly personal, but it is about developing a level of meaningful communication, sharing what matters to us, and what motivates us to do a great job every day at work. It’s the people that will always make the difference in the end, so developing the right level of trust and rapport is key.

A recent study by Ernst & Young, shows that only 49% of employees have trust in their boss and their team. Without trust, open and honest communication will be stifled. People will not share what they are really thinking and feeling, and developing a culture of continuous improvement will be hindered.

To role model the development of trust, leaders and managers need to be open to receive feedback. To demonstrate authenticity as a leader, acknowledging when they don’t know the answer, when they have made a mistake are all positive ways to build team trust. Nobody respects a leader who claims to know it all. So, when you’re asking your team how their weekend was, ask yourself if you know anything more meaningful about them?


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