Trust. It’s kind of like a woman’s handbag. (If you’re a guy, I mean.) When asked about it, you can only vaguely describe it, you don’t really know all the things that go together to make it up, and in your little man-brain you don’t really understand the need for it. But believe me, when you lose it, you know all about it.
If you want to be a cutting edge leader, you’ve got to have trust. It’s probably one of the most valuable commodities in leadership – just ask a politician. If they had trust, elections would be a cake walk. But it’s also quite difficult to quantify. How do you know when you have it and when you don’t? Well, you just do.
As Patrick Lencioni explains, when you start to lose trust in a team, it’s like taking the plunge on a roller coaster. First, without trust, your team can’t be totally honest with each other. Secondly, because they don’t feel safe around each other, they avoid conflict – that is, honest and healthy conflict where ideas are put on the table and then challenged, rigorously debated over, and refined. Thirdly, because decisions aren’t wrestled through, team members aren’t as committed to them. Fourthly, because they’re not committed to them, they are less likely to feel accountable or hold each other accountable. And finally, they are less likely to care about the team’s results and will often resort to pursuing their own goals.
Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? So how can you as the leader ensure that you have a healthy amount of trust in your team?
Lencioni gives a couple of helpful tips. Firstly, you’re got to make sure your relationships are tight. Spend time together. Find out each other’s personal histories. Understand the differing personalities in your team and how each person is uniquely wired. Secondly, ensure that there is healthy conflict and accountability in your team. People actually thrive off of that – they want to be loved and they want a challenge. And finally, you as the leader have to lead by example by putting all of the above into practice.
So even if trust seems a little mysterious to you, don’t ever get complacent about it. Just like when your wife gives you her handbag, you’ve got to clutch onto it and protect it for all you’re worth. You and your team will be glad you did.
Image source: handshake communication by intuitives http://www.flickr.com