This blog post will explore the 2nd Factor of the Five Factors of Leadership and Team Success – Trust.
There is no shortage of articles and books on the principle of trust. How to gain it, why it’s important, and how much positive impact trust can have seems to be well known. Even so, trust levels between employees/companies, constituents/governments, and other organizations seems to be going down, not up.
To speak specifically of the trust of engineers with other company teams such as HR – the statistics are terrible. It may be that engineers are particularly untrusting, but a recent study of tech companies by Teamblind revealed that about 70% of tech employees don’t trust HR. This study includes results from companies such as Microsoft, Google, Intel, Amazon, and more. To build and grow your company and your people, this has to change.
What Trust Looks Like
Let’s first examine what it looks like when team members trust each other. Here are a few indicators:
- Team members feel safe to take risks and speak freely
- There is frequent healthy, non-destructive conflict
- Team members believe that others will support them in their work
- Everyone is transparent with their strengths, weaknesses
- Work simply gets done faster, with higher quality
Trust truly has the power to transform the efficiency and efficacy of a team or company. It doesn’t come overnight, but it’s worth every effort to build and work on.
First Step – Look Inside
Often we get really good at justifying why we don’t trust other people. We feel wronged, mistreated, or even abused by others. This may be true at times, but in many cases I find that we make up stories in our minds to help us feel better about our lack of trust. When there is a toxic or struggling relationship with a coworker, friend, or family member, the best step we can take is to consider where we are in the wrong. If we can do that honestly, it will free our minds from debilitating and distorted views of others and feel empowered to take action ourselves. Often we have the ability to break the negative cycle and right wrongs.
Activities to Grow Trust
It’s nice to have a few activities or actions we can take to grow trust with others. I’ll share just a few of my favorites:
- Share personal histories. This can be done at the beginning of a team meeting or other gathering. The point is, often we spend more time with those we work with than we do with those we live with, and yet we lack significant understanding of what makes them tick. Asking simple questions to understand more about them as people can go a long way to grow trust. Questions such as:
- Where did you grow up?
- How many siblings do you have and where do you fall in that order?
- What’s next on your “bucket list” that you would like to do?
- Describe a unique or interesting challenge or experience from your childhood.
- Take personality profiles such as Myers-Briggs, Color Code, or DISC. I don’t think these are magical or give you answers to all of the questions about yourself, but taking some time to consider the natural differences in how team members operate and how that affects their work can give some increased insight into how best to work with and support each other.
- Share personal views on critical impacts and needs for improvement. This is an opportunity to get validation from your team on whether the things you think you are doing well or need to work on are really true.
- Get 360-Degree feedback. 360-Degree surveys are anonymous feedback opportunities from coworkers in all directions (boss, peers, and direct reports). You’ll learn a lot from asking others to give you anonymous feedback like this. In teams with high trust, there should be no surprises because people will have already felt safe to give you honest feedback.
How Can You Improve Trust?
It’s important to take time and reflect on where your trust level is and how you need to improve. Take a few minutes and reflect on the following questions, then make a specific plan to do something this week to improve trust.
- How much do you trust your team?
- How much do you think your team trusts you?
- How comfortable/safe do you feel challenging others?
Trust leads to progress, fear diverts us away
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