Trust is at the heart of building great teams. Without it, a cascade of negative things that hurt the team takes place: reluctance to have healthy conflict, unwillingness to make commitments, avoidance of accountability, and a failure to look at real results (Lencioni—The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team). 

In LEAD 365 we also learned another set of eight characteristics of great teams that include trust, shared vision/common goals, commitment, communication, knowledge of self and others, talent/competency, grace, and chemistry. Again, trust features prominently on that list.

This week I want to look at what Pat MacMillan writes about trust in his book The Performance Factor: Unlocking the Secrets of Teamwork. What he writes about the importance of trust is worth the read:

Trust is the essential quality in any team relationship. Team members will not work interdependently with anyone they do not trust. And without interdependence there can be no effective division of the task, no leverage of the gifts and skills of individual team members, and therefore, no synergy.

No trust, no relationship, no team.

In a team relationship, as in any relationship, we trust people because we are comfortable with both their character and competence. By character, I mean our perception of another person‘s motives, values, honesty, or moral fiber. Competence, on the other hand, refers to the capability, knowledge, and skill of a team member in general, and specifically as it impacts his or her assigned role. If we don’t trust both a team members character and competence it is unlikely that we will put our desired goals, performance appraisal, compensation, or career into that person‘s care.

Trust is difficult to define, for it is more an emotional and intuitive concept then a concrete one. It is more than simply confidence based on calculation and experience. Sometimes we trust another person without any evidence that they are worthy of trust. Our intuition or instinct tells us this person is trustworthy. Occasionally our instincts are misguided, and the object of our trust proves unworthy of the gift. And that’s what trust is, a gift. We can decide to give, to withhold trust or even to withdraw it if the recipient is undeserving. To emphasize this nature of trusting even further, it’s often said that we don’t give people our trust; we just lend it to them.

(From Pat MacMillan The Performance Factor: Unlocking the Secrets of Teamwork, pages 140,141)

Recently in LEAD 365 we have begun defining trust based on the “five finger approach.” Rodger describes each finger of the hand as representing a unique element that goes into trust. The five elements are commitment, competency, communication, alignment, and character. Can you guess which finger represents each of these elements of trust? 

The thumb represents communication (it can touch all the others); the index finger represents alignment (we are going in the same direction); the middle finger represents character (or lack thereof!); the ring finger represents commitment (think wedding ring; and the pinkie represents competence (when competency is small, little is accomplished). 

When any one of these is missing in a team relationship, trust is diminished.

Thanks for the choices you make every day to lend others your trust, to give that gift through your vulnerability, to make yourself worthy of their trust, and to build a great team as a result!

Lead on,

Image by geyergus. Used under CC BY-ND 2.0 license.