Harnessing the power of positive conflict in your team and workplace creates a higher level of engagement, decision-making, innovative thinking, and productivity. The functional factor that creates this kind of high-performing team? Simply put, Trust.
Trust is something most people see as “soft,” unquantifiable and not worth measuring, thus not an element of good business to be considered.
Not so, according to our research, surveys, on-the-ground experience, and team training tool! Most importantly, trust is a trait that can be developed, improved upon and nurtured - a crucial consideration for any leader who wants to build high-quality, high-performing teams.
No one expresses the value of, and business case for, trust more eloquently than The New York Times and #1 Wall Street Journal bestselling author Steven M. R. Covey in The Speed of Trust (a terrific read on this topic):
“There is one thing that is common to every individual, relationship, team, family, organization, nation, economy and civilization throughout the world - one thing which, if removed, will destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most influential leadership, the greatest friendship, the strongest character, the deepest love...That one thing is trust.”
Covey shares his own trust tale of the merger between Franklin Quest and Covey Leadership. Blending the two cultures proved to be extremely challenging. His well-intended initiatives were being met with enough misunderstandings, second-guessing, and resistance that the new company was heading toward “increased bureaucracy, politics, and disengagement. This was wasting enormous amounts of time, energy, and money.” These are the lessons he learned:
Lesson #1. The cost of mistrust is significant - and measurable. Covey’s critical insight on the economics of trust: “When trust goes up, speed will also go up and costs will go down.”
Lesson #2. Do not assume you have trust with people.
Lesson #3. Be more proactive in establishing and increasing trust.
Lesson #4. “Trust truly does change everything. Once you create trust - genuine character- and competence-based trust - almost everything else falls into place.”
Trust is a hefty concept to unpack.
To begin to understand the concept of trust so you can work with it in your own team, let’s look at Lesson #2, how we assume we have trust with people.
What we individuals believe about trust informs the presence or absence of trust interpersonally, in the team, the organization and, as Covey puts it, ripples out in the market and in society - “It flows from the inside out.”
Our beliefs influence whom and what we choose to trust. Yes...the act of trusting is a decision.
We tend to believe that we are objectively assessing a person or situation and making a logical choice to trust or not to trust. But the truth is, we can’t trust ourselves to be objective! Our tendency, or propensity, to trust is an amalgam built over time of our particular experiences, culture, personality type, genetics, etc. Thus, understanding what drives us to make the choices we do around trust can pave the way for making better and more informed decisions about our interactions with others.
A team of individuals with that level of self-awareness will be a stronger, more effective team.
The “trust factor” is a piece of data used to determine the level of trust to apply to a situation. Our research has identified 10 primary factors which people call upon to make a decision, consciously and usually unconsciously, to trust a person or thing. For each one of us, each factor will vary in salience, according to our propensity to trust (that amalgam of data we’ve accumulated over a lifetime), and according to the situation we’re facing.
For example, trusting our boss in a performance evaluation and trusting that the approaching dog on the street won’t attack us each bring up a different set of factors and varying degrees of importance to us.
So, picture a room full of 15 team members. Visualize each one’s unique combination of the 10 primary trust factors and their level of import, and what the situation and individuals in the meeting represent to each one of those 15 people. Can you see how trust could inform - or destroy - the functionality of a team?
As I said earlier, trust is a trait that can be developed, improved upon and nurtured, which is great news to us as individuals and to leaders of teams.
The power of understanding trust is to make great decisions and build positive relationships.
You can also see, then, the power in the ability to observe, understand and measure our trusting or untrusting behavior. When we do, we can find the common language to understand each other. By observing and understanding our behaviors around trust, we can then incorporate our knowledge into team conversations in a way that creates awareness, shifts behaviors over time, and enhances individual and team performance.
In future articles, we’ll dive deeper into the 10 factors that drive the propensity to trust, and offer tools to help you get proactive about building trust in yourself, your team, and rippling well beyond.
What are some challenges you can see about trust in your team, or in yourself? Share your thoughts in the comments below. If you’d like to talk more about embracing constructive conflict, please feel free to schedule a conversation with us here.