Unlike tangible work, it can be difficult to measure trust and with constant deadlines to meet, building trust might seem like a luxury or something that nobody really has time for. Deadlines are usually for finishing a project, pushing an update to production, etc. and not for, let’s say, improving the teams’ trust by 50%. What would that even mean?
Without an easy way to measure trust, no clear way of working on it and no outside requirement of having it, trust can fall through the cracks and be forgotten.
But, why would trust be important to measure? Of all the things a team has to do, why should building trust be a point of analysis? Do we have to measure trust? It seems obscure.
Trust is a key element for human beings. It’s critical in societies, in groups of friends, in a family and in the work environment. Members of healthy groups of friends or families know that if they fall a family member will pick them up. They know that when their friends give them advice, they do so with their best intentions to help. In these cases, of which there are many more, trust is essential. Trust helps groups of people to achieve greater things than if they were on their own.
Nobody is all-knowing and all-powerful. We all benefit from collaboration with others, and true collaboration flourishes with trust.
Patrick Lencioni states in his book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” that trust is the base on which teams are built. If the members of a team trust each other, then they can have meaningful discussions in which they all voice their opinions. Knowing full well that the point is not to go at each other’s necks, but to come up with a decision that favors the team over any individual. If team members can’t voice their opinions, then it’s likely they won’t be as committed as they could. Lack of commitment means the team won’t be able to reach their full potential since true teamwork would be all but present.
And it belongs to the team. If we’re on team A and we’ve worked on a building trust, the moment we change teams we’ll have to start from scratch.
It’s also uncomfortable because it requires vulnerability. Being honest means being vulnerable, and real “trust” assumes acceptance of that. The team members need to be honest enough to recognize their own strengths and weaknesses to each other. By doing so they open up and put themselves in somewhat of a position of vulnerability. Some will struggle recognizing their own weaknesses, but some will have a hard time admitting their strengths. Both are important to truly open up and be vulnerable, so both are important for building trust. The team members need to be honest with themselves on an individual level before they can be honest with the rest of the team.
Vulnerability gets rid of ego and this is key for teams to start working as one instead of as a group of individuals. Once team members are comfortable enough to open up to the rest of the team and be vulnerable it’s easier for them to get rid of their egos because they no longer have the need to be someone they’re not. This in turn, makes it possible for them to understand that the strengths of the team members can complement each other.
This can make it easier for everyone to see the value that every team member brings to the table and hopefully this will help them realize that together is better.
Now, building trust requires time, and sometimes projects may seem like they aren’t long enough. But it doesn’t mean that the team should not aim to build trust. Building it is a never ending process and so how long the project will be really doesn’t matter much.
Trust building is a process that can be started by anyone on the team, regardless of position. And the great thing is that it’s like a snowball. Once you get it started and there is enough momentum, others will jump in and start helping to grow the team’s trust.