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Building Trust at Work – Improving Team Results

building team trust

Trust is a critical element in our everyday lives. The relationships we enter are centered on trust. Whether we are going to work, shopping online, or meeting a stranger, trust becomes the yardstick for how far that relationship may go.

For those of you in a significant relationship with a life partner, trust means everything to that relationship. Break the trust and the relationship bond shrivels and dies.

Bob Burg is famous for coining the phrase “know, like and trust (KLT).” His teaching says we only do business with people we know, like and trust. It’s a progression of experience that gets us over the goal line. You visit each of the three stages before you are ready to make the bigger commitments.

The same is true at work. We spend most of our waking hours dedicated to work. Trust in the workplace should be a vital part of success and reward. Yet managers seldom focus on building trust to build a great team. Instead, they focus on the tasks at hand. They agonize over process and procedure to get things done.

Yet employees struggle to perform at the higher levels of success.

If I can’t trust my boss, why should I give much effort to the task? A low or no trust situation is like meeting the clerk at the convenience store. I don’t have much vested in that transaction. I give the clerk my money to buy my gas or pack of gum. If I watch them put the money in the cash register…end of relationship. It doesn’t require a high level of trust.

However, when I take a job, I expect a lot more in the way of trust from the boss. He/she needs to drive that train. They need to be the ones demonstrating how trust is going to work in that situation. Once I can determine the level of trust I am going to get (remember know, like, and trust), then I begin opening up my trust bank to give back.

By the way. The whole notion of trust is just like a bank account. Deposits must be made for funds to be available from which you can spend. I must get trust to give trust.

But as a leader, that model shifts in a big way. YOU must be the one making the deposits in your people. Show them trust and confidence, then they will begin to pay it back.

join our team graphic

The Trust Gap

Trust is never mentioned by my coaching clients as a ‘top of the list’ goal. Often, they have been introduced to leadership frameworks that are intended to build a certain leadership culture or change an old one. They engage me for helping direct those leadership development efforts.

With the focus on conceptual principles, leaders forget the value of simply building trust. When we start doing the coaching work, we inevitably run head-long into the issue of low trust.

They acknowledge a sense of no trust, yet they are stuck when challenged to think about ways to build better trust.

Talking about trust gives way to more frustration about how to get there. After all, think about how you chose your spouse (if you have one). Was there a specific, tangible set of criteria or did you just ‘know.’?

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

That is why I like the Team Trust Model as the answer for practical and tactical ways to build trust. Since the model is really a process of logical thought about the dynamics of how trust can be built, a leader can craft a methodical and measurable system for gaining better trust within the team.

team trust model

Building trust is a process to answer a list of key questions. The questions might be obvious or subtle, but they are questions, nonetheless.

When the leader effectively and systematically answers all of the questions his/her team may have, then trust begins to evolve. The process naturally fits the KLT method. As employees, the more we know about the work team, the better we are equipped to like what we’re about. If we like it, then we can begin trusting it.

At the Core

The Team Trust Model is here to promote trust at work. It does so by inspiring people to invest their discretionary effort. Every employee comes to work with a certain capacity to deliver. However, this overall capacity is divided into segments. The first, and most basic level, is the bare minimum. We agree to deliver our bare minimum effort to keep from getting fired.

It’s the lowest of effort expended. It keeps things moving at an acceptable pace. But it won’t set records.

Discretionary effort, on the other hand, is that extra effort; the 110%. Employees all have the ability to spend this extra. The question is whether they want to.

For leaders, the challenge is to inspire folks to do that on a regular basis. Come to work and give the extra all the time.

When the team setting is right, people never question the willingness to give it all.

A New Series

The preceding message is the start of a series of articles presenting the dynamics and power of the Team Trust Model. Over the next few weeks, I will be diving deeper into this approach for practical and tactical ways to improve your team’s performance while building a more rewarding work experience.

Living and Leaving a Legacy

At some point in everyone’s life, three questions haunt your thinking.

Who am I? Why am I here? And where am I going?

Perhaps you’ve visited these questions more than once, stopping at various stages; the ones we think of as defining moments. Events like getting married, having children, changing jobs, buying a new house, and moving into that house create opportunities to examine ourselves.

As the years go by, our thinking shifts slightly. I submit that the three questions change too. The trio becomes:

  • How did I do?
  • What difference did it make?
  • How will I be remembered?

All three get rolled together to become the Legacy we leave behind.

Many of my executive coaching clients are concerned about that legacy. They know the company isn’t going to name a building after them, but they wonder whether their leadership influence matters.

Just about the time you think you have answers to all the questions, life throws you a curveball.

Life’s Surprises

Recently I received an email from someone introducing themselves as my first cousin from my paternal grandmother’s side of the family.

I’ve been following my family genealogy for quite some time. I knew I had reached a dead end on the branch that was my grandmother.

legacy tree

Because of the power of the Ancestry.com database, the first cousin found me. She had begun building her family tree only a few weeks ago, yet there I was in the database.

We have already spoken by phone, exchanged many family photos, and made plans for future connections.

I had resigned myself to the notion that this portion of my history was going to go unknown. In fact, I’ve been thinking that all of my adult life.

Yet now, I have a whole new light to shine in my story. It has brought new energy and excitement to things.

It turns out this family line is a Lewis family; notably of the Lewis and Clark Expedition as well as some Hawkins namesakes who trace relationship to Davy Crockett (of the Alamo). I now have a complete line of heritage that includes military service in the American Revolution, War of 1812, the Civil War and both World Wars.

I realize many Americans can claim similar family history, but it made me proud all over again for the roots and legacy others left me.

It has created a renewed commitment to live my remaining years to the full.

So What?

The big so-what is that we all should take time periodically to recalibrate. We need reflection on the things that have happened. We need to reaffirm our purpose.

For the things that have already happened, you can make amends for shortcomings. For those yet to happen, make stronger plans driven by better choices.

I use a tool to define a personal purpose vision statement. Once this has been done the first time, it’s helpful to review it periodically to account for life events that may have changed your perspective. If you’d like a free copy of the Power of the Personal Purpose tool click here.

If you need someone to work through the next chapter with you, I am always available to come alongside as your coach or mentor.