Team Trust -- The Dysfunction
"Without [trust], teamwork is all but impossible."1
That statement seems like common sense. The tricky part is how you define trust. Does everyone on your team have the same definition of trust? Dictionary.com defines trust as "reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety etc., of a person or thing; confidence." I trust my coworkers will complete their tasks proficiently and in a timely manner. I trust my boss will pay me at the end of the week. I trust my spouse will be faithful. I trust the people in my life will behave a certain way; their feelings about that behavior don't really come into play.
But Lencioni puts a different spin on trust. "In the context of building a team, trust is the confidence among team members that their peers' intentions are good, and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group. In essence, teammates must get comfortable being vulnerable with one another."1 With this new definition of trust, the team can function at a new level.
At this point we are not focused on the team members' behaviors as much as their motives. If I trust my team members are looking out for my best interests, I can be vulnerable and let down my protective walls. Since I am confident team members have my best interest in mind, when I see an undesirable behavior from a team member my assumption will be that I have a lack of understanding causing me to misinterpret that behavior. Because I am secure in my team member's motive, I will have the freedom to question that behavior. Because that team member is secure in my motives, he will not take offense at my question.
Operating from an understanding that my team members' intentions are good frees me up to be honest and operate without offense. How often do you assume another's behavior is meant to harm you? And how often are you so sure of your assumption that you do not even question the person about that behavior? How often do you avoid asking questions because you fear the other person will respond out of offense?
Unfortunately, most of us have come to believe that these protective walls benefit us personally and professionally. Lencioni suggests the cost of not being vulnerable is quite high. "Teams that lack trust waste inordinate amounts of time and energy managing their behaviors and interactions within the group."1
If I am always looking out for number one, then I have to jockey for position and I will compromise the team's welfare for my personal promotion. I'm going to play my cards close to my chest and I will have to calculate my next move based on how I think my team members will react. Whether this takes place at work or home, the resulting political strategizing is exhausting. Teams that function with a lack of Lencioni's kind of trust suffer low morale that translates into high turnover in the workplace and infidelity or divorce at home.
What are your experiences with trust on your teams at work or home?
1 The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni