When working with leadership teams, I often ask them during an icebreaker exercise to share an experience that they’ve had working with a high-performing team, and explain what it was about the team that made it so successful.
The majority of the narratives describe teams that were successful despite difficult circumstances, where creativity and innovation marked the difference between breakdown and breakthrough. And, in exploring what was underneath the breakthrough, trust stands out.
So, the conversation transitions to how we build trust with this team, now – with a sense of resolve and urgency. Here are seven tangible ways teams can build trust:
- Give it time – go slow to go fast. Rarely, human beings trust each other from the start. Start slow while being intentional about building trust as a cultural imperative, not just a strategic objective.
- Make it confidential. Knowing that information will not leave the team meeting room invites members to open up more and share their best ideas, concerns or triumphs about a project, without fear of retribution or mockery. Create clear consequences for breach of confidentiality.
- Use a page from the forum playbook. Start team meetings with check-ins and icebreakers. Add exercises that become progressively more revealing – therefore requiring more trust among the group.
- Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Trust happens over time because of how we relate to each other. As we take the risk of being vulnerable, it becomes easier, and we move closer to being authentic – the kind of human connection we are comfortable trusting.
- Lift shame. Create a judgment-free environment where team members are not afraid of being rejected because of the shame they put on themselves or fear others will place on them.
- Embrace chaos. Speak your truth – even if and especially when it creates chaos, because working through it will accelerate the process of discovery as individuals and teammates create more trust.
- Keep working at it. Trust is not a destination, it is a continuous journey. Self-assess where the team is in the process, and be intentional about annual team meetings that honor the progress and challenge the journey ahead.
With trust among the team, we can leverage the power to create and innovate.I will only release and share my creativity if I do not fear the reprisal from thinking, sensing and speaking outside of the box. Even when I am invited to innovate in a brainstorming session, I follow the energy of my superior, and wait for it to be safe to invite in my real creative power. I depend on my ‘left’ brain to ‘think’ through the situation, yet there is a wellspring of creativity and innovation waiting for my permission to release my ‘right’ brain. I just need the right environment to nurture and welcome what is inside. And, the right environment comes from trust.
Absent trust, I am likely to tighten my muscles and govern what I say (and don’t say) omitting a meaningful opportunity for expression, feedback and collaboration leading to innovation. With trust, my internal risk manager is more vulnerable, free to relax and open up into a free-flowing stream of creativity.
Moreover, my creativity begets creativity in you and each member of the team … and so trust brings the team’s creative and innovation power from arithmetic to geometric progression – instead of the sum of “n”, you are innovating to the power of “n”.
Unleashing this geometric power leads to innovation that any one of us could not have created individually. We now leverage the true power of the team as we shift from problem solving to creation and development.