Last week I was working with a senior leadership team and part of my brief was around developing higher levels of trust within the team. I used an exercise that had been successfully utilised by the Richmond Football Club in helping them reach and win this year’s grand final. (Richmond Football Club, nicknamed the Tigers, is a professional Australian rules football club playing in the Australian Football League (AFL), the sport’s premier competition.)
The team credits this activity as an important tool to help build trust among the players, hence the reason why I used it. Here is how it works:
• First, I asked each individual in the team to nominate a hero in their lives and explain why that person was important to them
• Next, everyone spoke about a hardship they had experienced and its impact on them personally
• Lastly, each individual talked about a highlight in their life and again its impact
A few people mentioned that they felt quite nervous during the activity and I think it was a feeling that was shared amongst everyone in the group. Yet, it was the actual process of sharing their own stories that really helped everyone connect with each other on a deeper level. People were able to better appreciate their peers in the team and learn some of the back-stories that they had never known before. People felt energised, listened to and had a shared sense of experience.
During the second part of the day when the team had to deal with a number of challenging issues they found that there was a high degree of psychological safety. This was in large part due to the Hero, Hardship, Highlight exercise from earlier in the day.
Psychological safety is improved in a group scenario when people feel that they can trust those around them. Trust is built by small consistent actions over a period of time. All high performing teams have a high degree of trust amongst themselves.
As a quick reflection exercise, take a moment and reflect on the level of trust you have in your teams. The questions that you need to think about and address are:
• Have you ever been in a team where there was a high level of trust?
• What made that so?
• What could you do to increase the level of trust in your teams, which in turn will lead to higher performance?