Building Trust


I’d like to talk about building trust in a team quickly. I’m working currently with a leadership team on their level of trust. The CEO has brought me in to work with the team because he feels there is a low level of trust in the team. The CEO is new, he’s only been in the role for the last four months and he’s taken over this team. There are certain members in the team who have been on this team for a number of years and others who are new. These are all professionals, highly qualified, highly competent people, working in a highly competitive industry.
As I’ve been interviewing everyone, I have discovered that the CEO is right. There are people who trust others in the team and the people they trust are those with whom they’ve had interactions, that they’ve known for a number of years. Whereas with the other people who are new, the level of trust is low.
If you take a moment and reflect on who the people you trust are, you will find that they will be people you have known for a while and who have delivered for you. Trust is something you earn. If you think about it like a bucket, it’s like putting a deposit in the bucket, isn’t it? Every time you do something, you deliver on it, you follow up on it, you increase the deposit. Of course, the longer you know someone, if there are times when it doesn’t happen or something doesn’t get delivered, the deposit in the bucket may go down, but nevertheless there’s a reserve in there hence you carry on with it.
The challenge is when you are working across cultures and when you’re working virtually and in teams in Matrix organisations. Sometimes you just do not have the time to build that trust and have someone earn and put the deposit into the bucket. What I’d like to suggest you do is try a concept called “Swift Trust”, which helps build trust quickly. Why not start with giving everyone a full bucket of trust, and when they don’t deliver they draw down on it. Rather than build up on the level of trust, they’re going to draw down on it.
I’m not being naive and saying ‘Completely trust anyone,’ but what I’m saying is rather than have people work and earn it, change your philosophy and change your attitude towards people so you can start from the place of ‘I trust you to deliver on it.’
You may want to put a few things in place with your team before doing this, firstly be really clear on the parameters, for example, what is the area that you want the individuals to work on? Secondly, you may want to give them a level of accountability on certain aspects of your project. Thirdly, be clear with your expectations. In other words, the level of reporting back, how often you want to be kept in the loop, how much information they need, how can they access you, etc. Create some clear boundaries of communication, but have people appreciate and understand that you trust them to deliver.
I find that if you do that, it accelerates the process, which is what I’m working on with this current team – how do we accelerate the process? Of course it goes without saying that if there is an element of what I call humanity in the team, which in other words means if you know people individually, the level of trust will actually increase. Therefore, you may want to introduce some activities in there which build trust for those that have not already developed it in the team setting.
Here are some reflection points for you. How much trust do you have in your team? What’s your level of trust with them? What’s their level of trust with you? How can you build trust quickly in your team?