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Creating Performance Trust

Building blocks with the letters for trust being stacked

Everyone is talking about TRUST. It is supposed to be the golden ticket to strong, high performing teams. But how do you get it? How do you analyze or measure what is often a gut feeling? As elusive as trust seems, it is not entirely dependent on the behavior of others. One measure of leadership is the ability to create opportunities that create trust.

Trust in the workplace can be broken down into 2 types: Performance and Principles. In this article we talk about Performance Trust and look at ways to address three key questions:

· Will they do what they said?

· Will they do it well/right?

· How will they represent me and the team?

Will they do what they said? Projects and teams can crumble when someone is considered unreliable. To build a culture where people can depend on each other, clear and consistent communication is the key. Set the expectation that meetings will be spent discussing key activities, and not just putting out fires. A good practice is to have everyone bring a log of their work to regular team meetings. Doing this consistently creates transparency and normalizes the check-in. Sharing progress and challenges offers opportunities to support each other, a core trait of high performing teams.

Team leaders should watch for signs that someone is consistently struggling. This is the time to approach them one-on-one and get really curious. Great things to find out might be: What do they think their priorities are? What does meeting expectations look like for them? How do they think they are performing right now and what do you want their performance to look like? What do they think is getting in their way? What do they need in order to be successful? What do they need from you to be successful? The answers to these questions can uncover great opportunities for the team member to be accountable and to make them feel valued.

Will they do it well/right? This can be the trickiest of the Performance Trust questions, often fueled by the team leader’s actions. When the leader regularly becomes involved in completing team member projects or needs to approve every decision, it can lead to leader burn out and team member apathy. Let me be clear, to build trust and team capacity, this needs to STOP.

The first step is usually for the team leader to acknowledge to themselves that mistakes and failure will happen, and that is okay. For the perfectionist, this can be a hard pill to swallow, but it is imperative to build a high performing team. When mistakes are punished, or treated as unacceptable, team members may hide them or blame others, destroying trust in the process. Leaders should wean themselves out of projects slowly. Pulling out quickly could be confusing and frustrating. Communicate clearly that you are giving the team member the reigns to make decisions. Be clear about the outcomes you need, then give the space and support for the team member to make them happen.

And when it goes awry, and it will, get really curious. What was their thought process? What were the factors they considered? Which factors were of higher priority and what felt limiting? This is an opportunity to help team members to broaden their scope or narrow their focus when making decisions. If there is information they did not consider, bring it up and ask how that could have influenced the project. With each opportunity, they will learn and become better; and you will likely find more time in your day.

Another way to build the capacity of team members to make important decisions is to be an example. Talk about decisions you make, criteria you considered, trade-offs you made, and what outside considerations (stakeholders, board, legal) needed to be addressed. Not only will this demonstrate how to make higher level decisions, it will show that your decisions are not arbitrary. It can also create a better understanding of the organization’s values and priorities.

How will they represent me and the organization? When you trust team members to do the work, and do it well, this could be the time to let them step into more visible roles. If this is new to a team member, I recommend setting them up with a mentor. Someone who can share their successes and missteps, what they learned, and how they used that to grow.

A clear outline and representation of the organization’s values and the team’s priorities are important for anyone who will influence and present outside of the group. The more defined and normalized these values and priorities are, the more put together, consistent, and trustworthy the organization will appear.

Performance trust is just the beginning. Next we will explore Principles Trust, sometimes referred to as psychological safety.

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Being a high performing team involves so much more than just getting the job done. Systems interact and influence each other at every level. If you have specific questions, concerns, or are just curious about how to take your team’s performance up a notch, give us a call. Blue Wysteria offers Individual and Team coaching opportunities that focus on leadership development and achieving goals. We look forward to talking with you.

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