Recently, I wrote a blog about building self-managing teams. One key feature of self-managing teams is trust. I periodically advise teams to participate in a professionally run team-building course, but sometimes that isn’t feasible. Here’s a helpful approach to building trust within your team that I find helpful.
It’s hard to trust the people you are working with when a cloud of secrecy hangs over the air and permeates the conversations. Yes, there may be confidential matters in most organizations, but project transparency has value.
I’ve had many conversations with project managers on the subject of transparency. Some are simply uncomfortable with it. I argue that in complex project work, transparency improves performance. In my opinion, people are more inclined to work well with others when there is a culture of transparency. If all you need is for people to take orders well, perhaps transparency is not required. But that’s not collaboration. And more complex projects require collaboration.
Dr. Louise Comfort, Professor of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh, believes that “the key to fostering successful emergence and complex behaviors is to increase transparency—the ability of participants to share relevant information.”
Respect is a behavior, not a feeling. When we begin working with new people, we can show respect long before we develop respect. As the expression goes, you can “fake it till you make it.”
It’s hard to find a great team of people who don’t respect each other. We have to look to the other people on our team and believe that they have value to offer. It’s as simple as that.
If, over time, the team finds that someone on the team doesn’t have something to offer, it may be time to rethink the team makeup. But, in the beginning, we don’t start there. So, show respect. When someone consistently gives you reason to not show respect, a conversation needs to happen.
In Brene Brown’s book, Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution, Dr. Brown discusses the question: Are people usually doing the best they can? As a parent, I can tell you that children are often not doing the best they can, and it’s our job to hold them to a higher standard.
As a person, I find that my relationships work more effectively, when I come from a mindset that says that, generally speaking, people are doing the best they can. We simply don’t know what happened that caused that team member to walk into a meeting 20 minutes late. Exploding in anger or making sniping remarks doesn’t help the situation.
When team members try to show some level of empathy for others, it can improve team dynamics. Parents learn early to pick their battles. Team members and project managers should do the same thing. Show understanding. Focus on what’s important. Is someone habitually late for meetings? Address the issue.
Professional team builders frequently use a technique called trust falls. This is where someone (perhaps blindfolded) falls from some higher point into the arms of the team, trusting the team to catch him or her.
I often wonder how that experience would change if there were outsiders attempting to interfere, deliberately trying to move the team away from catching the person.
Isn’t that more like the real world? It’s easy for me to trust a specially hired admin who I hired to work just for me. It’s harder to trust a group of people who work for other people in the organization. They have other demands on their time. Many have more important priorities.
If you can set up a support framework, you may have more luck. Some have criticized this approach as enabling team members to be less accountable. I think it’s simply a pragmatic realization that people today are pulled in many different directions.
Let’s look at an example. I do weekly reports on one of my projects and I need time records updated before I can produce the data. So, I send a simple reminder email or text every week. Every week, three people or more will update their time records after I send that email. Should I expect people to remember? Or, is a reminder email a helpful part of the project support framework that improves success?
Effective teams work together in a spirit of cooperation, accountability, and focus. It takes some teamwork before people can begin to trust one another, and it takes trust for teams to work really well together.
Earlier this year, I wrote a blog on helping teams succeed. Check it out here if you want more tips.