Season 1, Ep. 7: Great Teams Start With Trust

Trust. It’s a simple word that serves as the source of so much fear, difficulty and confusion in our lives. This is especially true at work, where trust between team members isn’t always easy to come by. But research shows that trust is perhaps the number one thing that healthy teams have in common, and that unhealthy teams desperately need. But trust requires hard work, vulnerability and commitment. So how do you build it?

Join us as we learn from Jeff Gibson—President of Consulting with The Table Group—about why trust is so important and how you and your team can start making it a priority.

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Speaker 1 (00:05):

In 2014, Zay Frank and online performance artists and the current chief research and development officer for Buzzfeed partnered with Cirque de Solei to create a powerful video about the importance of trust. It features a stunning visual performance from the Acrobat team, Alia and GuideWell with Frank narrating. How trust is crucial in their incredibly unique work, Alia and Gaia have to trust each other as acrobats and Cirque de Solei. They sometimes literally put their lives in someone else’s hands. Trust is a confusing thing. It seems so simple though. When you try to pin it down, it can be elusive. I think of the way that my body sits on a surface, that’s new to me, unknown and how my muscles remain tight, anticipating anything I’m constantly aware of that surface for these acrobats trust is paramount because the stakes are so high without a partner with whom you have deep trust, who, you know, you can count on when you’re spinning 40 feet in the air, your life, and your safety are at risk. And while the stakes may not seem as high for the rest of us in our day-to-day lives, trust is often still an illusive scary thing for many give us that initial tension exists so much of the time. We expend so much energy watching and calculating trying to predict reading signals in people ready for anything to change. Suddenly preparing to be disappointed.

Speaker 1 (01:44):

So much energy spent. We talk about trust is something you build as if it’s a structure or a thing. But in that building, there seems to be something about letting go and what it affords us is a luxury. It allows us to stop thinking, to stop worrying that someone won’t catch us. If we fall to stop constantly scanning for inconsistencies, stop wondering how other people act when they’re not in our presence. It allows us to relax a part of our minds so that we can focus on what’s in front of us. And that’s why it’s such a tragedy when it’s broken by letting go and allowing themselves to trust one, another Ali and Gaia were able to perform amazing acrobatic feats together. They’re able to do things that wouldn’t be possible without trust. And this focus on trust as the foundation for successful healthy teams is something too many leaders miss, whether it’s from a fear of vulnerability or from a lack of buy-in when trust isn’t valued highly and pursued by every member of the team, everyone suffers I’m Daniel Harkavy. And this is building champions podcast for the past 20 plus years. I and my team at building champions have been helping top business leaders improve the way they live and lead. Our goal for this podcast is to share stories and insights that will help you to become a better leader. This episode is about trust and how the best teams always start with trust as their foundation,

Speaker 1 (03:29):

Trust is a big topic and for a word that seems so simple. One that many people feel they have a good grasp on. It’s surprising how many leaders struggle to build and maintain trust on their teams and in their organizations to help us to better understand this topic. We spoke with someone who has extensive experience helping leaders to create trust.

Speaker 2 (03:51):

Hi, I’m Jeff Gibson. I’m the president of consulting with

Speaker 1 (03:53):

The table group founded in 1997 by my friend best-selling author, Patrick Lencioni. The table group works with leaders and organizations to help them to be healthier and more cohesive over the years, Jeff and the table group team have worked with enough clients to see firsthand just how central trust is to any successful team.

Speaker 2 (04:14):

There’s nothing more important than trust when it comes to building a cohesive team without it, everything else falls apart.

Speaker 1 (04:26):

What is trust? What do we mean when we use that term in the context of team health? According to Jeff, one key ingredient to understanding trust is vulnerability.

Speaker 2 (04:37):

And so what does it mean to be vulnerable? It means sharing things with one another about, you know, what you’re good at and what you’re not great at, what you’re struggling with, what your challenges are when you made a mistake, you know, being able to compliment somebody on something that they did and say to them, Hey, can you help me to be more like you? Because I need to be more like you in this way.

Speaker 1 (04:57):

Honorability is about everyone on the team, having the willingness to be open and honest with one another to push past the surface talk and our own comfort zones, and to get down to the roots of what’s driving our performance and our decisions, and this kind of genuine vulnerability is more than mere touchy, feely connection amongst coworkers, when done right. When you create an environment where the right honest conversations can take place, vulnerability can be a key driver of team and organizational success.

Speaker 2 (05:29):

And if you don’t have people on a team that are willing to be vulnerable with one another, there’s no way that you’re going to have the right kind of honest dialogue that you need to make the best decisions. And without those best decisions, there’s no way you’re going to be successful. And so it all comes back to trust in a really humble, vulnerable, human way. You need to be able to encourage that as a leader. And if you don’t, you’re going to be missing opportunities left and right,

Speaker 1 (05:53):

But in order for your team to achieve this game changing level of vulnerability and trust everyone on the team needs to feel like they work in an environment where they’re safe to engage in that honest dialogue. In fact, when Google released their findings from project Aristotle, a massive multiple year long study of 180 of the company’s teams, they found that psychological safety was the number one factor that determined the effectiveness of a team. Amy Edmondson, an organizational behavioral scientist at Harvard defined psychological safety amongst teams, as a shared belief, held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk. Taking this risk taking could look like a junior team member sharing an out of the box creative solution in a meeting, or maybe another team member being brave enough to own missing a deadline. Or maybe it’s just somebody on the team saying that they don’t know how to get the job done and that they need help. These kinds of risks are essential to the effectiveness of the team because without them, the best ideas may never get shared, or team members won’t perform at their best because they don’t feel like they can bring their whole selves to the team. Patrick Lencioni in his best-selling book, the five dysfunctions of a team was absolutely affirmed when Google released their study, because it highlighted with detailed data, a truth about healthy teams that Patrick and the table group had been teaching for decades.

Speaker 2 (07:24):

Ultimately what it comes down to as a leader who is willing to take some risks leader, who’s willing to take a risk and actually put themselves out there first and then hold their team accountable to do the same.

Speaker 1 (07:35):

When a leader takes that first step into vulnerability and shares their own struggles, questions, challenges, and mistakes. When you show the team that this is a safe space, where everyone is encouraged to do the same, you open the door to honest dialogue that will bring out the best ideas and ultimately unlock the potential your team has to impact and shape the organization in meaningful ways.

Speaker 2 (07:58):

You know, when we, when you have real vulnerability based trust, you will have a team that’s having better conversations. That’s really pushing at each other in a way that’s productive, where they’re not taking their, their counter punches personally, where they’re not taking it as a criticism, they’re taking it as a search for the best answer. You know, as a result of having that better dialogue, you’re going to make better decisions that are going to further the organization more quickly. You’re going to have people who walk out of the room after those discussions, better aligned as a result of putting all of their cards on the table.

Speaker 1 (08:35):

But even when the positive impact of genuine trust is so imperative, there are still ways that leaders can get tripped up when addressing the issue of trust with their own teams. First leaders need to realize that building trust requires an ongoing investment.

Speaker 2 (08:50):

Probably the thing that gets in the way most of teams that are trying to build trust, they think about it as a one-time exercise. They think about it as an opportunity for you to spend a couple hours and sharing your, your lifeline of what’s happened with you since college or what was your struggles since high school and, and they, and they approach it. I’ll use the words from a touchy feely standpoint rather than a true business need. And a necessity for that

Speaker 1 (09:21):

Building trust is more than a cocktail hour after work or a fireside chat at a team retreat with everyone sharing a bit about their lives. And then all of the teams suddenly trusting one another. It’s a day in day out practice where each team member comes to a meeting or to their one-on-one conversations, ready to be vulnerable themselves, and to receive another team members, vulnerability with grace. Another area where leaders get tripped up with trust is when it’s treated like a flavor of the month initiative, which the leader rolls out without a deep personal commitment.

Speaker 2 (09:55):

The second mistake is a leader. Who’s not truly into it. Who’s just going through the motions. Maybe they’re being encouraged by another team member who experienced it at another company. And it really was a benefit or an HR person was encouraging them to do it because they know that this actually makes a difference, but the leader would just didn’t get it, but they were just going through the motions. So if you’re just going through the motions, you’re actually going to set the team back more than anything else because people see through that stuff right away.

Speaker 1 (10:20):

When you, as the leader, ask your team to be trusting and vulnerable with one another, but you aren’t willing, or aren’t invested enough to model that behavior yourself. You’re communicating to your team that this trust and vulnerability stuff really isn’t all that important. And if that’s the message, the team receives no one’s going to waste their time pursuing something that the leader doesn’t value. It will actually backfire on you. Like Jeff said, when talking about risk-taking, the leader needs to make the first move. And when you do, you need to mean it. You need to believe it with all of your being. If you don’t, your team will be able to tell, and you will severely undermine both your leadership effectiveness and any opportunity for your team to grow and perform at their best.

Speaker 2 (11:05):

It’s not complicated. This is not rocket science. It’s just about being who you are and being comfortable, sharing that with others in a real way, and letting them see through, you know, the facade that so many of us carry naturally and finding a group of people that you can just be yourself with. And when you find that not only are going to have more fun working, but frankly, the results that you’re gonna achieve are going to be far greater.

Speaker 1 (11:30):

I couldn’t agree more coming up. Todd Mo setter, our vice president of content development will sit down with one of our building champions, executive coaches to talk about some practical ways. You can start building a foundation of trust in your own team or organization.

Speaker 3 (11:56):

Hi, my name is Todd Mo setter, and this is the part of the podcast where we get to sit down with one of our experienced executive coaches to dive a little bit deeper on this concept of trust. Today, I’m excited to be joined by Greg Harkavy. He’s been an executive coach here at building champions for nearly 20 years. In addition to working with teams on trust, he’s done a great job working with our own team, uh, helping our coaches form a foundation of trust as well. Greg, thanks for taking the time out to join us this

Speaker 4 (12:22):

Morning. It’s my pleasure.

Speaker 3 (12:25):

So we start the episode off with this analogy of circus delay, right? Two performers that have to really trust each other because their lives are literally in each other’s hands. When you’ve watched that video, what leadership lessons do you,

Speaker 4 (12:38):

I think getting to know one another in that video, uh, just speaks loudly. And when I look at leadership lessons, I mean the first place is you need to understand your teammates and they also need to understand you. And that’s the basis of trust. Yeah.

Speaker 3 (12:55):

Often when we work with clients, we like to focus on this idea of the difference between beliefs and behaviors. And there’s probably a set of beliefs that go along with good trust and behaviors. Can you unpack a little bit what needs to be going on? What, what do teams need to believe in order to really have a good sense of trust?

Speaker 4 (13:13):

I think one of the things I need to believe is that, and it’s really, it’s called API assuming positive intent. They need to believe that everybody here is trying to accomplish the same goal and that they respect each other and believe that they’re here because they’re good at what they do. I think anytime you operate from assuming not positive intent, it’s very difficult to move forward. So I think that’s one of the keys is just the belief is, Hey, people trust me. And they think I’m competent. And I also think everybody on the team is competent. If you at least can come in with that positive assumption, it just starts off much better. And that’s a belief thing because you’re not feeling good about yourself. You tend to look at others in a negative light.

Speaker 3 (14:03):

Yeah. That makes me think of the fundamental attribution error. Right. Which is, which is so key with trust. So for those that aren’t familiar, it’s kind of this concept that when other people do things, we tend to blame it on internal characteristics. Right. They’re doing it because they’re bad because of whatever, because of who they are yet. When, when we do things that are bad, we like to blame circumstances. Right? Well, I didn’t have a choice. I was in a hurry in teams. It’s so easy. Right. And I think, I think it comes back to that point. You made about assuming positive intent. We’re so quick to blame others, that what they do is their character and that can sabotage teams. How have you seen that play out?

Speaker 4 (14:41):

Yeah. It’s, it’s usually when you hear like always or never, um, you already know that there is something going there that you’re, you’re going into what I would consider a confirmation bias mindset. And you know, there’s so many different biases out there, but the confirmation bias in a negative light is always trying to find reasons to validate why you don’t like or trust somebody. And it’s the complete opposite of the, the API that we just talked about. But you just see that show up where you can tell by leading questions. Um, maybe the person’s not necessarily listening, but they’re thinking about their next move to confirm the bias that they have as far as why somebody else doesn’t have the right thought or idea really toxic situation.

Speaker 3 (15:33):

Yeah. I think so much of our work with teams comes down to they’re looking for something, right. They want to, they want to communicate better. They want to get better results. They want to get better performance. When you sit a team down to really focus on improving and you kind of say, Hey guys, I want to start with trust. What kind of reaction do you normally get?

Speaker 4 (15:54):

Uh, I think everybody likes it on the surface, but then they tend to think it’s this kumbaya, you know, we’re going to do a trust, fall, uh, esoteric sort of exercise. So I think there can be some cynicism in the beginning. So I usually will focus instead of just talking about trust. But it’s what is a key ingredient to working really well with one another and it’s understanding one another. So I’ll go more towards knowing your teammates at a deeper level for better results and better empathy if you will. But if you just start in at trust, I think the intellectual side of, of people get it, but there’s something internally that doesn’t trust it. And the very word of trust is one of those things where it’s like, wait a minute, what is this supposed to be like when you started unpacking it? What you find out is people genuinely love, validating the good stuff that they learn about each other.

Speaker 3 (16:50):

Yeah. I think that ties back into, um, a point we just talked about earlier, right? Is that one of those beliefs, I think teams have to believe that knowing each other is important to good teamwork. Um, and I think so many people don’t take the time to prioritize that. Um, and they’re really missing an opportunity when you’ve seen teams that truly know each other that is assume positive intent, um, that are really functioning from that, um, place of trust. What kind of things do they do regularly to fuel that?

Speaker 4 (17:24):

Yeah, I think it’s one of those things where their relationship and there are different camps, whether or not you should be friends with the people you work with, but when you see people that genuinely would like to spend time with each other outside of the office, you know, there’s trust built there, there’s, there’s a kinship. They actually like each other. And I think it’s just as fundamental as dating, you know, in a marriage, you make this commitment to a spouse, but then as you go through time, some of the, that, that, uh, romance, if you will, can die, unless you spend time reminding yourself why you like that spouse so much. So getting out and doing Gates regularly well in a team setting, it’s really just spending time together. Not always just doing work, but understanding, Hey, what’s going on in your life, what’s happening? What sort of fun stuff are you interested in? I think the curiosity of just what intrigues your teammates and having conversations around that, it’s a huge trust builder. You have to actually understand each other’s hobbies and passions. That’s when I know there’s there’s connection.

Speaker 3 (18:36):

Yeah. And I think that factors in so nicely, I mean, it’s human nature. We’re we seem to be more willing to give the benefit of the doubt to go the extra mile, to, to put the extra effort in when you know, and trust the person, right. When you enjoy spending time with them, when you know that you’re laboring together for a common goal, it’s hard to give a little extra. If you don’t get along and know the people around you.

Speaker 4 (18:58):

Yeah. This just reminds me of something that’s fundamental and it’s, we want it. And as human beings, we want to be fully known as long as we’re liked. And when we know somebody really knows us, they know our heart, they know what matters to us and they support that and encourage it. It’s one of the best feelings. That’s one of the deepest levels of trust.

Speaker 3 (19:24):

Yeah. When we, when we think about this concept of building trust, I think people want to fall into, you know, the competency, right? Can you help me and, and track record, right. Have you done it before? And those are definitely parts of trust, but that the two that we’ve talked about today that I think really worth highlighting, is that an, a team? I think we’re asking each other, do you know me? Right. We’ve talked about that one. Um, but then there’s this idea of intent, like, are you for me? Right. And are you for the team? Because if a team member is portraying the sense of I’m in it more for me rather than for we, that is going to probably erode trust faster than almost anything else.

Speaker 4 (20:04):

Absolutely. Where

Speaker 3 (20:05):

Have you seen teams kind of struggle with that one, right? Where maybe an individual performer is kind of putting themselves outside of, or above the team. How does that impact that dynamic of trust?

Speaker 4 (20:17):

Uh, it’s, it’s really divisive. I think what happens is if you see a play out, let’s say in a team setting and it’s one individual, um, kind of shutting down the other, what you’ll notice is the amount of sharing, the willingness to be transparent starts to taper off. Um, so one person’s response can be personally, not really well-received, but it’s interesting when you start see how the nature of the conversation changes with the rest of the group, it no longer becomes productive because of that sort of, you know, I’m really not for you. Therefore it makes everybody else feel unsafe. Like, well, if you’re not for that person, how do I know you’re for me? And it creates a weird psychology in the team and it has to be disarmed quickly.

Speaker 3 (21:11):

One of the things that factors back, um, like Daniel and Jeff were talking about in the first part, right? When Google did their huge Aristotle survey on teams, psychological safety was number one. And through the years of the table group and Patrick Lencioni in his bestselling book, right? Trust is the foundation. That’s kind of the premise of this whole episode, that if you don’t have this place, that you can feel safe in sharing ideas and being vulnerable in, in helping to know and care for each other. It’s hard to envision an environment where you can bring out the best in each other. Absolutely. I have a feeling that there’s some leaders out there that when they hear this idea of trust and vulnerability, that it can feel soft, right? We’re here to deliver results. We’re here to drive performance. If you find that a leader is resisting this, what kind of advice or insight would you share with them?

Speaker 4 (22:03):

The first thing I’d want to do is understand why they think it is soft or doesn’t help get results, like understanding their beliefs again is key. But when you look at pretty much all the research that we’re seeing these days, especially around employee engagement and understanding that when you work on the so-called soft skills, they’re directly connected to results. Um, if you look at, even in athletics, there are so many analogies where you see teams that do well and have sustained success. It’s because the team comes first and team health is a priority. Everybody understands that they have a contributing role, but they’re usually absence of the politics and the drama, and they’re able to sustain year after year results. So when I look at somebody that thinks it’s esoteric, I’d say, okay, don’t take art sample, look all around, show me long lasting results for any team that didn’t prioritize this.

Speaker 3 (23:02):

Yeah, I think one, one thing I’ve seen leaders struggle with is this concept of results and relationship. And that many leaders feel like it’s a balance between the two, right? If I, if I go too hard on the results side, people won’t like showing up and working together. But if I go too hard on the relationship side, you know, we’ll all get along, but we won’t achieve great things. And I see too many leaders trying to balance the two as if they’re in competition. And I think where we’ve seen really great leaders in great teams, Excel is when they pursue excellence in both because they realize that they feel each other, right. If we have a great relationship with each other, we get better results. And when we get better results, while everyone playing for teams that are winning, it’s not a matter of balancing both. It’s about pursuing excellence in both.

Speaker 4 (23:52):

Yeah. You know, I think the real catalyst or lever in that Todd is accountability because that’s the tension. If it’s all about relationship, like if you think of a, of a personal relationship, accountability can be really difficult. And you’re more concerned about wanting to be liked and for the other person to feel good. So when you see companies that are too into relationships, sometimes they fall into that trap. Where on the other end, if it’s all about results, you don’t care about me. You feel like a means to an end, but the real key, if you have really foundationally, healthy trust, accountability looks different. It’s encouraging, it’s asking the right sort of questions. And again, it goes back to that assuming positive intent. But if the accountability isn’t there, it should be considered a catalyst for better results as a friend, not as something that you’re going to get penalized for, not doing your job, it’s the very, how do we help each other out? What gets in the way, what are the barriers, where do you need help? Do we need to reallocate resources to make sure that you hit your goals, that sort of accountability and a high trust team, I think answers both results and health. Yeah.

Speaker 3 (25:07):

I love the point you made there. And I think it’s accentuated and highlighted that without trust as a foundation, it’s hard to do the accountability. Well, if I feel like you’re just, you know, um, coming after me or coming down on me, um, uh, from a personal standpoint, I’m going to get much more defensive. Whereas if I feel like the accountability is because I’m known, um, because I think you’re for me and for us, I’m able to accept that in a much more productive way.

Speaker 4 (25:35):

Absolutely knowing

Speaker 3 (25:37):

That trust can be precarious at times, right? It’s not a finished product. It’s going to ebb and flow. There’s going to be seasons where we’re doing a little better with it. Seasons where we’re struggling a little bit, where have you seen teams really get tripped up here? Right? Maybe they, they start off. Well, they get out for a couple of days. They build a foundation of trust, but the flow of the day to day, um, can sometimes get in the way, where do you see leaders and teams struggle with this on an ongoing basis?

Speaker 4 (26:04):

I think they, they feel like they’ve got it and that once you have it, it doesn’t go away rather than it’s something that has to be nurtured. And, and I’ve seen that where teams really, really did a wonderful job. And in fact, they bring us in on a regular basis to help work on those foundational trust qualities in the team. And there is a certain point in time when you should be able to say, okay, we’ve got this on our own, but what often happens is the patterns and the demands of business get in the way. And they stopped doing the fundamental things that got them to the healthy point in the first place. So when you do look back, you realize it’s, well, you stopped doing the fundamentals and that’s usually where, where it goes wrong. Um, and it just, it’s, again, time being spent, just talking about the day-to-day business can get a little mundane.

Speaker 4 (26:57):

We have to mix it up. Uh, I know it’s not all about fun, but this, this notion of having fun together builds trust. And if you’re not going things on a regular to nurture that, and it’s going to get a little stale and then guess what happens, you’re, you’re, you’re going to get a little more annoyed by somebody else’s nuances, and they’re going to get annoyed by your quirks. And you’re going to forget about why you’d like that person as much as you do or the team. So I think it’s something that doesn’t go away. It has to be a regular commitment and discipline.

Speaker 3 (27:31):

Yeah. W what comes to my mind as much, like there’s a difference between joy and happiness, which is a whole nother episode. We could unpack at some point, there’s a difference between having fun and really enjoying what you’re doing. And sometimes the line there can be blurry, right? What we’re enjoying can be fun, but what we’re not talking about is constantly playing ping pong with each other on breaks and things like that, right? It’s this finding this sense of purpose and enjoyment and drive because you like what you’re doing and more important. You like who you’re doing it with and teams that have that piece, it’s a game changer. So as we’re wrapping up this episode, and we’re thinking about trust, being the foundation for teams, it starts with the leader, modeling vulnerability. It is an ongoing practice that teams need to make sure they’re making a priority. It’s not a one-time event. They need to invest in the fundamentals, as you said, and it’s about knowing and enjoying who you get to do work with. Is there anything we didn’t touch on that you feel like we should before we close this episode out, Greg,

Speaker 4 (28:33):

I believe that if you just have this mindset of curiosity, rather than thinking that, you know, what somebody else is believing, learn from each other, like, I, I have a fundamental belief that each and every one of us were created for greatness, but what that looks like, isn’t the same. Like we’re all uniquely great at something. And if you can look at each one of your teammates, as well as give permission to yourself to realize, Hey, you’re here for a reason, there’s something great about you go into the conversations, knowing that your teammates are talented and all of these assumptions are that you’re, you’re not at the level that you are because you have underperforming, um, ill equipped teammates. But that mindset of first saying, wow, I get to spend time with somebody that is uniquely great at something. How do I learn from them? How do I listen? What are they seeing that I may not see? And if you can have that mindset as well as be free to share your own thoughts and beliefs, I think being a high trust team starts with that. It’s just, it’s really your mindset.

Speaker 3 (29:42):

Great closing point. My friend, thank you for joining us. And thank you for sharing your expertise with the listeners today. It’s been a blast. Thank you so much again, if you or your team want to get serious about trust, I cannot recommend Patrick. Lencioni’s five dysfunctions of a team. Highly enough. If you visit building champions.com/podcast, we have some resources there for you, including information on how you can learn more about Patrick and his work while you’re there. We’d love for you to rate and review this episode. Uh, not only does it help us get better, it helps others find us. Thank you so much for taking time out and sharing part of your leadership journey with us.

Speaker 1 (30:24):

If you are a leader who truly cares about the health, the effectiveness and the performance of your team, there’s no way around it. Trust is the starting point and it’s non-negotiable thanks so much to our guest and my good friend, Jeff Gibson for sharing some incredible insights on trust and why it’s the foundation for successful teams. And thank you for investing the time and listening to this episode. And if you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend you watch say Frank’s video on trust, Alia and guy L’s performance will absolutely. Wow. You, you can visit building champions.com forward slash podcast to find the link to the video, as well as other helpful tools and resources. And we’d love it. If you could share this podcast or leave us a rating and a review doing so helps people find us and it helps us learn so we can continue to deliver the best content possible.