The Executive Toolbox: Building Trust

In his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni puts trust as the foundation for building a strong team. However, in today’s corporate environment executives I’ve worked with often feel there’s no one they can really trust.

Although sometimes this is warranted, building a team who you can trust and who trusts each other is an executive skill that can be learned and honed over the course of a career.

It would be wonderful if when taking on a leadership role you could give a little introductory speech to your team and proclaim, “This is a team that trusts each other,” but it doesn’t work that way. No team can learn to trust their leader or each other by proclamation. It’s a choice each team member must make, but it’s the job of the leader to set the example and initiate the process.

It’s even harder to build trust with a team who has been working together, has a low level of trust and isn’t consistently performing at the needed level.

It’s important to recognize that as an executive or business owner you affect the team dynamic by how you interact with your team and with each member of the team.  Changing the way you interact will change the dynamic.

One method that can be effective is to set 30 minutes aside for three consecutive days to do this exercise:

Day 1: Make a list of your previous bosses and rank them highest to lowest by how much you trusted them. What were the personal attributes of the leaders you ranked highest? How did those you rank highest interact with their team? With each team member? With you?

From this analysis write out your personal definition of the attributes you admire in leaders.  

Day 2: Complete a personal assessment. What are the personal attributes you have and exhibit that will cause your team members to trust you? What attributes do you need to develop or exhibit? How do you interact with your team? How do you want to interact with your team? How do you interact with each team member? How do you want to interact with each team member?

From this assessment write out a statement of what attributes and behaviors you want to further develop and exhibit.

Day 3: What one change can you decide to make in your behavior or interaction with each of your team members? By picking one change to make, acting upon it you, then sticking with it, you’re planting the seeds that will grow into trust.

Write out the change you are committing to. You don’t need to tell anyone what change you’re making or why unless you choose to. Some of the most profound changes I’ve made or seen others make were made based upon a personal decision and commitment. Often those are the most powerful, particularly when it comes to building trust.

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