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  • Writer's picturePilo


Updated: Jun 9, 2020

As we start 2020, I would like to go back to basics. The idea is simple: if there is no trust in your team, you cannot lead the team to success… plain and simple… no trust, no thrust.

What does trust mean? The definition can help initially: a firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something. So, you can trust something or someone… and equally you can also be trusted. It is deeply rooted in human society. Think about the trust you have given to this world since you woke up this morning: you trusted your alarm to ring, your shower to be hot, your electricity installation to be safe, your bus to show up or your car to start up, probably securely disclosed your passwords a few times (Facebook, computers, ATMs…) and it’s not even 9am. We live in a world that requires trust, a world built on us giving and receiving trust.

Yet, when the 9am team meeting starts, what happens? The leader shows up sick with a cold after a sleepless night and acts as if everything is normal. Everyone is multi-tasking during the meeting (emails, Facebook, Whatsapp…). It is another month below plan, yet the

failure is collective… it is no one’s fault. To be fair, one region is up and that is the success of one leader… (is it?) Employee engagement is low and flat, which is no surprise given the targets cannot be achieved. Finally, a colleague speaks up about the need to radically change the approach… too late the meeting is over. have you ever experienced these kinds of meetings? How often… 25,50,75% of the time?

If you are the leader of that team, you have a much bigger problem than the 9am meeting? There is no trust in your team. Why is trust so critical? Because when you have it in a team, every team member can focus one's energy on delivering results. Everyone can contribute with one’s own strengths, asking for help when facing a difficulty. This is the foundational requirement to get the magic formula of 1+1=3. The good news is: as a Leader, you can influence trust in your team. Indeed, trust has first to be given before being received. It takes time and cannot be rushed. There are many ways to establish trust with others: 

  • be genuine: be true to your words and do what you say. Commit and meet the expectations (never over-promise and under-deliver). Always be honest.

  • be vulnerable: express the way you feel, share mistakes and lessons learned, admit a mistake as it tends to significantly reduce stress among colleagues, thus improving trust and performance. You can also share good news and find ways to relate with others (hobbies, travels, common projects...)

  • be generous: be helpful with others... remember that «giving» always wins over «taking». Do not compete with others (win-loose) trying to get power over the team’s outcome. Do not constantly self-promote... instead recognize others around you.

As the Leader starts being genuine and lead by example, trust will naturally get established among the team members.

How does it feel to be in a team where trust is fully established? It feels like thrust!!! Indeed, the team is all the sudden lifted from the ground, able to raise quickly and fast, empowered by the law of motion! The entire team is moving at once and everyone is part of it. Have you been part of such a team at work, in sports, in your community? It is totally exhilarating.

Let’s do the 9am meeting again... The Leader comes in and welcomes everyone. The Leader asks how everyone is doing. The Leader openly admits the cold and the sleepless night and asks for special support from one’s colleagues that morning. The agenda is being shared openly (no hidden agenda). Everyone is happy to be in the meeting as there is not a better team to be part of. Everyone is focused on the team’s outcome and there is no multi-tasking. The team takes responsibility for the results and seeks for solutions to close the gap. There is no fear of conflict. Everyone contributes and the Leader facilitates the discussion. The team members define a critical few actions, commit and follow-up.

Sounds like a dream? If you have experienced this kind of team dynamics in your hobbies or your sport’s team, why not at work? As a Leader, this is your main job. Outstanding team dynamics is possible at work. It starts with trust and it creates team's thrust. Here is one of my favorite quotes from Patrick Lencioni in The five dysfunctions of a team: “Successful teamwork is not about mastering subtle, sophisticated theories, but rather about combining common sense with uncommon levels of discipline and persistence. Ironically, teams succeed because they are exceedingly human. By acknowledging the imperfections of their humanity, members of functional teams overcome the natural tendencies that make teamwork so elusive.”

If you are in a leadership position, ask yourself the tough question: is there trust in your team? How does your 9am meeting look like? If there is no trust, your team is likely to be stagnant. Not trust, no thrust.

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