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"What’s trust got to do with it?"

I’ve been focusing on engagement in teams and organisations (or lack of it) for a while now, and ways to lift engagement with leaders by providing:

Creating trust within a team and doing what you say you will do comprises the third aspect of building engagement.

Lack of trust in the people you work with creates an unhappy team. Being able to listen to your people and what they have to contribute, understand their expertise and ideas and allowing them to try out new ways of doing things, helps build towards an engaged team.

Mistakes may happen. Be prepared to be OK with that and foster an environment of learning from mistakes.

Be transparent and do what you say you will do. When making promises, keep them or explain why they can’t be kept

Focusing on building a diverse, balanced organisation filled with trusted individuals whose expertise is valued, positioned, and sought after, and who themselves feel engaged, energised, and invested in their abilities, will help to create a workforce that operates above the line and thrives. 

Trust generally comes up in discussions when it has been breached, or the team is dysfunctional or the culture is toxic.

Without trust, a team is just a group of individuals doing their own thing. It is very ‘I’ centric rather than ‘we’ centric. It doesn’t matter how capable or talented each individual is, if trust isn’t present the team will not reach its full potential.

Building trust is like building a bridge: without the proper foundation and engineering, it will fail. Trust is the foundation piece for all relationships. If you are looking to get the most out of your team or moving into a leadership role, it is essential that you understand the building blocks for trust and how to initiate these within the team or teams you are part of.

There are three building blocks for trust:

  • Capability
  • Collaboration
  • Communication

Capability: Team members must trust that their teammates are competent and can successfully complete the tasks relevant to the team’s success.

In a highly engaged and high performing team, each member should be able to focus on their own tasks without worrying about whether their teammates are following through with their assigned tasks.

Communication: Consistent and meaningful communication is necessary for engagement and trust within a team.

Collaboration: When team members collaborate, they share creative ideas without fear that another team member will take credit for their ideas.

Without these building blocks, team members can fail to meet expectations and cause mistrust.  This may be due to some team members not being capable of doing their job (failed capability); because the expectations were not communicated or understood properly (failed communication); or because team members have acted with bad intent or dishonesty (failed collaboration). 

Trust isn’t built based on your feeling and intentions. While these are important they are not necessarily visible. People can only trust you for what you do – your actions and behaviours. This is demonstrated by being reliable, accepting (of others), open, and congruent.

The emerging neuroscience research is providing evidence of what is happening in our brains when we trust and when we distrust.

Cortisol is produced in when we are feeling stressed and helps us with fight or flight reactions. If high levels continue long term, which can occur in toxic or dysfunctional teams relationships, we are prevented from accessing the executive part of our brain (the Pre-frontal Cortex), which means our ability to think and reason effectively, is impacted.

In contrast, Oxytocin is associated with nurturing and bonding. When we feel safe and trusted by the people we interact with, Oxytocin is flowing, and it helps us feel more social confidence and connection. We are able to tap into our executive brain.

Next time you are in a conversation:

  • What can you help the other person explore further and see how well can you tap into their executive brain
  • Ask more open questions to extend their (and your) thinking further
  • Consider teams you have been part of, and how the building blocks of trust have applied to each team.

If you would like to talk about your team engagement scores and ways to build engagement in your team please feel free to contact me!

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