For decades, business leaders have been equipping themselves with every book, philosophy, reward, and program the so-called experts have convinced them to buy into, yet companies everywhere continue to struggle with toxic cultures, low performance from teams, and the unhappiness that go with them. Yet how can leaders build trust?
From our earliest days on the playground to modern-day business board rooms, there is one giant factor that makes the difference between success and failure.
That factor is trust.
Companies work long and hard, spending millions of dollars to build brand awareness that shows trust. Consumers have to trust something before they buy. Managers and CEOs spend time and money trying to build better work teams.
Recent studies in several sectors have discovered the biggest contributor to team success is TRUST.
Building Team Performance
Google broke the ice on this topic with their “Aristotle Project.” Following the success of Google’s Project Oxygen research where the People Analytics team studied what makes a great manager, Google researchers applied a similar method to discover the secrets of effective teams at Google.
Code-named Project Aristotle – a tribute to Aristotle’s quote, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” (as the Google researchers believed employees can do more working together than alone) – the goal was to answer the question: “What makes a team effective at Google?”
The runaway winning attribute in highly successful teams was “psychological safety” or simply trust.
The Google study found that this element of trust was the most significant factor in helping teams do more, even among their peers of highly educated, well trained employees.
When trust is broken, relationships of all kinds stop working well.
The Brain Science Behind Trust
Adding to this interesting discussion comes the book “The Trust Factor” by neuroscientist Paul Zak.
In Trust Factor, we are shown that innate brain functions hold the answers we’ve been looking for. Put simply, the key to providing an engaging, encouraging, positive culture that keeps your employees energized is trust.
When someone shows you trust, a feel-good jolt of oxytocin surges through your brain and triggers you to reciprocate. This simple mechanism creates a perpetual trust-building cycle between management and staff, and–voilá!–the end of stubborn workplace patterns.
The book incorporates science-backed insights for building high-trust organizations with successful examples from The Container Store, Zappos, and Herman Miller. The Trust Factor explains:
• How brain chemicals affect behavior
• Why trust gets squashed
• How to stimulate trust within your employees
• And more
What’s a leader to do?
For you who are sitting in the corner office or who are building a small business, you hear these things and wonder. I understand it, but I have no idea where to start. I’ve had so many ‘bad hires’ I can’t imagine getting this thing going. And trust an employee????
You’ve got to be kidding me.
Let’s turn back to the Aristotle results and get the answers. Leaders build trust. Here are five key action areas that leaders can control.
The five key dynamics of effective teams that the Google researchers identified are rooted in the wider world of team performance research. Whether you’re coding at Google, riffing in a writers room, preparing for a trip to Mars, or skating in a hockey rink – teams are essential to the work experience and output.
At Google, now that the Project Aristotle team has identified what makes for an effective team at Google, they’re conducting research to figure out how to take the next steps to create, foster, and empower effective teams.
Whatever it is that makes for effective teams in your organization, and it may be different from what the Google researchers found, consider these steps to share your efforts:
- Establish a common vocabulary – Define the team behaviors and norms you want to foster in your organization.
- Create a forum to discuss team dynamics – Allow for teams to talk about subtle issues in safe, constructive ways. An HR Business Partner or trained facilitator may help.
- Commit leaders to reinforcing and improving – Get leadership onboard to model and seek continuous improvement can help put into practice your vocabulary.
Here are some tips for managers and leaders to support the behaviors the Google researchers found important for effective teams. These are based on external research and Google’s own experience:
- Solicit input and opinions from the group.
- Share information about personal and work style preferences, and encourage others to do the same.
- Watch Amy Edmondson’s TED Talk on psychological safety.
- Clarify roles and responsibilities of team members.
- Develop concrete project plans to provide transparency into every individual’s work.
- Talk about some of the conscientiousness research.
Structure & Clarity:
- Regularly communicate team goals and ensure team members understand the plan for achieving them.
- Ensure your team meetings have a clear agenda and designated leader.
- Consider adopting Objectives & Key Results (OKRs) to organize the team’s work.
- Give team members positive feedback on something outstanding they are doing and offer to help them with something they struggle with.
- Publicly express your gratitude for someone who helped you out.
- Read the KPMG case study on purpose.
- Co-create a clear vision that reinforces how each team member’s work directly contributes to the team’s and broader organization’s goals.
- Reflect on the work you’re doing and how it impacts users or clients and the organization.
- Adopt a user-centered evaluation method and focus on the user.
If after considering these things, you still struggle to get your head around this complex challenge, I can help.
I’ve developed a Team Trust Model that provides a clear, concise framework that teams can embrace. In places where I have introduced this framework, it becomes that vocabulary the team uses to communicate with each other. It allows a structure and process to something that otherwise may feel too vague. With it, leaders build trust.
This model has been used by leaders at corporate giants like ExxonMobil and UPS. But it has also been used by small business owners too.
Anywhere you have three or more people assembled for performing tasks, you need Team Trust.
PS – I realize that the new era of COVID remote workers really impacts your ability to connect with your teams. However, as you study the key elements here, it is easy to see why following these ideas is more critical now than ever before.
Originally posted on DougThorpe.com
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