What is Possible When Your Team has Trust

And How to Build Trust if It Doesn’t

team building trustDoes your team work in an environment of trust or fear? You will know the answer to that question when you observe how mistakes are handled. If I am working in an environment of trust, I can readily admit my mistake and set about solving it in a way that prevents future breakdowns. Conversely, in an environment of fear, I am afraid of the consequences and may be tempted to cover up my mistake. Thus, I take steps to patch it up behind the scenes without addressing the underlying issue.

Note: This article features the second in a series on Success Factors.

Click here for complete list of Success Factors for 2018.

Some years ago, my boss tasked me with a project that was new to me and that had significant ramifications for our team. He asked me to gather software requirements from our internal customers and to analyze and recommend a new enterprise-wide software program. The company had a sophisticated array of software requirements that were projected to evolve during a time of rapid growth, and this new selection represented a crossroads in our company’s technology investment.

stephen covey leadership quoteUnfortunately, the culture of this company was toxic and even hostile. Knowing this, I realized the importance of getting this project right. I felt exhilarated by the challenge and the opportunity to learn and contribute to our team and company success. However, I was afraid to make a misstep, knowing how harshly and publicly any mistakes might be handled.

In Stephen Covey’s book “The Speed of Trust” he says, “Over time, I have come to this simple definition of leadership: Leadership is getting results in a way that inspires trust.”

I was able to proceed with this significant project with confidence because I knew several things. First, I felt confident in my knowledge of our internal customers and was motivated to support their success. Second, I knew I had the respect and trust of my boss. He set clear expectations, trusted me to act autonomously, and expected me to come to him with potential solutions, not just problems. Finally, I believed he would advocate for me and shield me from unreasonable repercussions of any honest mistakes.

Stephen Covey believes that you can do something about creating trust. He thinks that trust is a pragmatic and actionable asset, not something soft and intangible. Furthermore, he believes that trust underpins every transaction and conversation we have at work. Without it, people are afraid to bring up new ideas and creativity is quashed before it can blossom. Without it, the root cause of issues is unlikely to be uncovered, and quality suffers.

I don’t know if my former boss ever read “The Speed of Trust.” I knew I could trust him, though, because he kept his promises. His behavior was congruent with what he said. He did not rush to judgment when anyone on our team made a mistake. He expected quality, but he knew that none of us, including himself, is perfect.

I chose to highlight this story because I know that no company or culture is perfect. Despite a hostile work environment, our team accomplished so much by creating a positive team culture. Think of what you can achieve in a culture of trust.