Trust is non-issue from square one

For a team to be productive, cohesive and ultimately successful, it is essential that the team members trust one another. That’s a matter of common sense, but what lies at the heart of it is our need for a sense of belonging. This is relevant at all levels in the organization, from the shop floor to the boardroom. And, in an environment of trust and safety, morale increases, productivity sees an upswing and the company’s product can become exceptional in its quality.

Everyone has a story of his/her own

What I observe during my team coaching sessions, especially at the executive level, is that all team members come to the table with their own history. These individual histories include stories and experiences that range from pride in performance and appreciated know-how to backbiting and undermining, usurped ideas, and stolen thunder.

Such positive and negative aspects are a given within any team. But the question of belonging and trust is, in essence, a question of leadership. More specifically, the traits and quality of an executive are defined by how they deal with these group dynamics.

A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking

I see too many examples of executives who mainly project previous negative experiences into their new surroundings and responsibilities – as if the negative traits are a given, at any time and in any place! This is a problem, because it makes trust and safety an issue at the boardroom level itself. And that presents a handicap in terms of leadership, as we tend to cultivate such feelings and issues by spending a lot of time, energy and other resources on managing them.

In all those cases, I advise executives to reflect on that trust (or the lack thereof) and ask themselves what is really driving the situation. Do they need to feel a safety net to operate in, and are they waiting for the team to provide it? Is it a matter of having confidence in their own abilities and performance? Why do they need to feel that safety net before they can open up themselves? Instead, why don’t we start by trusting the team and assuming their support unless proven otherwise? We could also say “it’s a non-issue” and assume our responsibility in pursuing our purpose and delivering performance.

Anticipating trust issues before anything happens will never give you the most effective results, because you’re blocking the team’s freedom from the very start. And simply put, that’s not how belonging works.

Can you take a calculated risk?

Waiting for trust to grow “naturally” is a waste of time and your good energy. Instead, take your team’s trust and safety as a given, provide the leadership to let it flourish, and act in full confidence.

In the end, you are the executive – for a reason. Belonging starts with you. So take the dive. Feel the trust. You’ll do just fine, and maybe even better.

-Bercan Günel, Partner at NGL International
February 21st, 2019