How trust enhances team performance

As you learned from Drew’s post last week, we attended the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Solo and Small Firm Conference.  It is a conference for well, solo and small (fewer than 10 attorneys) firms. Unsurprisingly, there were a lot of discussions about teams with other attendees – especially those of us who have a dispersed workforce.  One key ingredient in having a team whether dispersed or not is trust, but it becomes even more important when people work from different time zones. Luckily, Amanda HarNess from Business Excelerated, a business growth strategy firm, has some thoughts on just that. Take it away, Amanda!

How trust enhances team performance

In the workplace, mistrust is like a spreading virus. If team members do not trust leadership, they will feel less invested and apathetic toward the outcomes of the company. If leadership does not trust the team, then they are likely to micromanage, withhold information, and show favoritism for only a select group of people. The combination of this creates a vicious cycle of dysfunction.

Outside of our own conscious decisions, even though we may not realize it, we (as humans) develop an abstract form of trust between one another on an instinctual basis before our thoughts even register.

Perhaps you can recall a scenario in your life when you were meeting someone new at the office or a networking event, and as you shook their hand something about them set off a “gut feeling” that they were not super righteous. Maybe later you thought to yourself “I don’t know, there’s something about that guy…”

In those circumstances your brain is telling you that the other person is not to be trusted. On a psychological level you detected a level of deception or inauthenticity.

In 2016, PwC reported that 55% of CEOs think that a lack of trust is a threat to their organization’s growth. But few take action to increase trust, mainly because they aren’t sure where to start. (HBR)

Here’s where I recommend you start to build trust.

Authentic leadership

Authenticity in the work place is not a new concept. But I want to offer other perspectives.

  1. Recognize that authenticity does not have to be complete vulnerability and transparency (that can make authenticity feel threatening). But you do need to be relatable. This creates a sense of security and confidence for others. They understand they can TRUST you because they understand more about YOU.
  2. Being authentic is not a performance or a distraction from your natural self. And there is a balance of being authentic without becoming unprofessional. What you say and how you say it can still be determined by who you are speaking to and under what context. That’s not being inauthentic – it’s just various versions of your true self, appropriate for the situation.
  3. Start with something as simple as sharing a narrative about camping with your family over the weekend. This is an indirect way to describe something you enjoy (camping) with something you value (family). A colleague or employee can certainly relate to those two things (joy and values). In return you will build trust.

How do you think your colleagues or employees would view your authenticity in the workplace?