I walked into the room full of newly elected student leaders. You could feel the excitement. You could sense that each one of them was motivated to do his or her very best. They all wore the same t-shirt. They were all on the same team. The only question that remained between their success or failure as a group was a simple one…
Would they learn to trust each other?
Every new year is full of excitement and anticipation. But the one big difference between the teams that overcome the obstacles and the ones who get blown apart by the barriers is found in one basic characteristic…trust.
Patrick Lencioni, in what I consider to be one of the best leadership books for teams, The Five Dysfunctions Of A Team, states the following:
“Remember teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.”
He goes on later in the book to say…
“Great teams do not hold back with one another. They are unafraid to air their dirty laundry. They admit their mistakes, their weaknesses, and their concerns without fear of reprisal.”
Building trust with your team and teammates is foundational to the success of your team.
You may have charisma, an outstanding talent, the ability to communicate well, and the most capable team on the planet. But if your people don’t trust you or trust each other, you’ll never achieve the things you set out to accomplish. When you inspire trust, you increase the morale of your team, you limit frustration and skepticism, and you are better able to hold on to the people whom you need the most. Trust will affect your results as a leader more than anything else.
Just because you all wear the same uniform or t-shirt doesn’t mean that trust is automatic. It doesn’t come with the title you were elected or selected to bear. You must earn trust…from day one…and every day after that. Here are six ways I believe you can earn and build trust from others. They are not quick fix remedies. It’s not about doing it once. These are lifestyle behaviors that will earn you the trust necessary to lead your team well.
1. Be vulnerable.
Over the last year, I’ve had the opportunity to share with people about my biggest mistakes. I don’t do it for pity. I do it because I want people to know who I am and who I am becoming as a result of the mistakes I’ve made. When I am real and authentic with people, it gives them permission to be open and honest with me about where they are at in life. People aren’t looking for a leader who is perfect, they’re looking for one who is honest.
2. Take responsibility for the consequences of team decisions.
Responsibility is the greatest requirement of leadership. When a decision goes right, the leader should be quick to praise the people around him or her. When a decision goes wrong, the first person to take responsibility should be the leader. Point the finger at yourself at the point of failure and you will earn the respect of those around you. So many people want to place blame on anyone and anything other than themselves. A leader who takes responsibility for both decision and consequence is rare.
3. Coach people up…not down.
When you witness someone making a mistake or moving in a wrong direction you have a choice in how you’ll respond. You can berate or belittle this person or you can inspire and motivate this person to do better. We have all been under the guidance of someone who pushed us to do our best without making us feel inferior. Every time you correct someone you have the opportunity to increase their belief in themselves as well as improve their behavior.
4. Respond well to failure.
Whether you like it or not, you are an example to others. You get to choose each day what type of example you will be. Add to that the fact that every single one of us will fail or make a mistake at some point. Once we acknowledge that, it’s only a matter of deciding how we will respond to our failures. A healthy response involves acknowledging the mistake and learning from what went wrong. When you constantly repeat a mistake, it only tells us that you’re not paying attention.
When you respond appropriately to your own failure, you give those around you permission to learn from their own mistakes. If you try to hide your mistakes, you only frustrate those around you who are well aware and wish you’d been more honest with them and with yourself.
5. Make room for discussion, not division.
I hope you haven’t created a team of people who agree on everything and see life from the same perspective. What a boring and myopic team if that’s what you have. When you gather people of diverse viewpoints and ideas, you create opportunity for innovation and immense creativity. Different perspectives are a great asset if you don’t allow them to divide your team. This is why it’s important to create space for discussion. You want to allow people to be heard and appreciated. If your first response is to judge someone because their view is different than your own, you will limit the potential of your team.
You will know that you have begun to build trust on your team when you move beyond acknowledging the differences between each member and begin appreciating those differences and what they contribute to the team.
6. Find the gold.
Having lived in Northern California for a period of my life, I know a little bit about mining for gold. It is a tedious process. As in most mining efforts, you have to move a lot of dirt. Nobody is looking for or celebrating the dirt because there is so much of it. The goal is to find the gold.
As a leader, you realize that each person is gifted in special and unique ways. Every person can make a contribution. Your job is to find ways to incorporate these gifts for the betterment of the team and the accomplishment of your goals. Along the way, we may grow frustrated by a lack of progress or improvement. But the leader is constantly on the lookout for those moments of greatness in the people he or she serves. Sometimes the people on your team can’t see past all of the dirt in their lives. Your greatest contribution may be found in your willingness and dedication to continually point out the potential that lies within them.
. . . . . . .
In conclusion, I believe it is vital for every team to do the hard work necessary to build trust with each other. When difficulties come, it will be our unwavering faith in each other that keeps the team together and helps us to overcome the obstacles. Trust is more than wearing the same uniform, it is wanting the best for the other person and believing that he or she feels the same way toward us.
Leave me a comment: What are some other ways you’ve build trust with others?