The impact of trust on team performance
‘Trust arrives on foot and leaves in a Ferrari’ (Mark Carney)
Strong team performance requires trust.
Strong teams collaborate, encourage diverse thinking and innovate to drive new solutions to complex problems.
We can still have working relationships with people that we don’t trust, but not great ones.
If you suspect they’ll talk behind your back, play political games, lie to get ahead, or act in a way out of sync with your values, you are likely to be careful what you say, how much interaction you have with them and what information you share. A great team needs Psychological Safety – able to take risks without feeling insecure or embarrassed, and Dependability – to trust one another to deliver high quality work on time (Google 2015).
Without trust, teams operate in silos, protect themselves, avoid risk, fear confrontation. Without trust, we get poor team performance. As Lencioni outlined, the biggest underlying cause of dysfunction in teams is a lack of trust. You can have working relationships with smart, diverse, courageous and cooperative people, but if they don’t have trust it will fall apart. Trust is the ‘magic dust’ for strong relationships and teamwork and it helps build positive work cultures.
As humans, we tend to trust people by default, as otherwise our society would struggle to operate. This basic human trust makes the world go round, and we build it up higher and higher as we develop relationships with people. For example people trust each other with their laptops whilst they nip to the loo in a coffee shop, or to stay on the correct side of the road when driving.
In 1995, Mayer identified that trust is built on three things; Ability, Integrity and Care (or benevolence) with trust building up as these are displayed consistently over time. Of the three, Care is the most important. Why?
- You can make a mistake and still have people’s trust.
- You can even lie to someone and still regain their trust
- But if they believe that you don’t have their best interests at heart, that you don’t care about them, you will struggle to ever gain their trust.
So, relationships are the foundation of team collaboration, trust is the foundation of relationships, and the foundation of trust is care.
Do people feel you care about them and what they have to say? If people feel you don’t care, they will have low trust, clam up and it will lead to poor performance.
The converse is also true. If people feel you do care, it will start to build trust, people will begin to speak up and ultimately performance will improve.
Studies indicate that conveying care is more likely to gain you trust quickly that showing your ability or competence. At an individual, team and organisational level this has an impact on performance.
I’m sure you do care, most of us do. But do we show it? Or do we show that we care more about our KPIs or our careers for example?
We must have a foundation of care to build trust. Trust will improve connection and relationships and give us more effective teams, that collaborate freely and solve the complex problems of our future.
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