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Creating Principles Trust

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 Principles Trust and look at ways to address three key questions:

  • Will they know what to say, to whom, and when?

  • What are their intentions and motivations?

  • Will they respect and build trust with others?

Will they know what to say, to whom, and when?

Offering trust can lead to being trusted. A leader can offer trust to their people by sharing information. While sharing privileged information offers an opportunity to build trust, it also comes with risk. People may not always know what they can discuss outside of the leader or team. Unintentionally sharing with the wrong person or at the wrong time can just as quickly destroy the team unity. More on intentions in a bit. Right now, let’s consider ways to minimize the risk.

Start by talking about confidentiality and be clear that not all information should leave the team. Make sure your team knows where the information sharing boundaries exist and don’t assume your staff understands the limitations or expectations. More importantly, discuss the possible outcomes of sharing privileged information so the individuals understand why the boundaries exist. It can be tempting to discuss information with others as a form of camaraderie but doing so will impact the trust within your team. Lead by example and reflect on your own motivations for sharing. Make yourself available in case of questions and encourage your people to share ideas within the team. Those discussions may lead to new opportunities.

What are their intentions and motivations?

Insecure leaders often fall into the trap of believing the worst. The theory is that if they expect and prepare for the worst, they can protect themselves. This often has the opposite effect.

High performing teams clearly understand the group’s purpose and believe that each person is vital in achieving it. Measure performance by collective successes rather than individual ones by acknowledging and rewarding team behaviors instead of the superstars. Always remember that you are a part of the team. Leaders who dig in alongside their people are far more likely to be trusted and have a higher performing group. Leadership is not about being the center of attention, but about spotlighting others. Praise the team’s accomplishments and highlight individuals who support others. Trust me, there is plenty of limelight to go around when celebrating shared successes.

While there is no way of truly knowing the intentions of someone else, building an atmosphere of shared purpose reduces the likeliness of self-focused actions.

Will they respect and build trust with others?

Finally, we get to heart of it all: Will your people play nice in the sandbox? In other words, will there be Psychological Safety. In the amygdala, the oldest and most primitive part of our brain, resides the will to survive. When someone feels “threatened” the amygdala kicks in automatically with one of three responses: fight, flight, or freeze. When that happens, the individual loses access to higher brain functions like listening and asking questions. When there is a breach in psychological safety, the entire team suffers.

Following some of the previous suggestions naturally builds psychological safety and prevents the amygdala from taking over. Be clear that poor behavior, such as bullying, is unacceptable because it may create the fight-flight-freeze scenario. Some poor workplace behaviors are easily missed. Good leaders are aware of and respond to interrupting, dismissing, and condescension within the team by immediately redirecting the conversation back to the diminished person and focusing on their contributions. If the behaviors continue, meet with the offending individual privately and be clear it will not be tolerated. Escalate appropriately as needed.

Lastly, don’t just manage conflict, model healthy conflict. Every high performing team understands the importance of differing ideas and opinions. When a team has a clear shared purpose and common goals, they become the anchor point for all discussions. Team members should challenge assumptions and ask questions in service of achieving the purpose without making it about any one individual. This is an incredibly difficult skill for a team to master, but essential and worth the work.

If you want to move your team from performing to High Performing, you can’t move the needle alone. Talk openly about the characteristics and behaviors the team needs and share the responsibility of making it a reality.

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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