Trust: Why It is Critical For High-Performance Teams

The Role of Trust In Achieving High-Performance

Despite our incredible technological advances, people accomplish the work of an organization. It is people who interface with the customer, make the product, deliver the service, plan, and coordinate how work gets done. It is people who improve processes and systems, ensure quality to support long-term success and profitability.

General Norman Schwarzkopf Jr., who acted as commander of the allied forces during Operation Desert Storm, may have said it best: “It doesn’t matter how sophisticated our weaponry, people fly planes and people drive tanks.”

Unfortunately, many organizations are filled with intelligent, driven, competent people stifled by a lack of interpersonal trust, poor management, and a lack of clear leadership.

Building a Culture of Trust

In an organization that doesn’t value open communication and cooperation, people learn to avoid sharing feedback because the cost is too high. Good ideas fail to make it to the light of day. Valuable employees lose their desire to contribute. Many leave the organization.

One of the biggest challenges of high-performance leadership is cultivating a climate of trust within the organization, allowing teams to collaborate and work together effectively. When trust is absent, working relationships are characterized by an adversarial attitude: me vs. you rather than us vs. them.

No one works best in isolation. Effective teams depend on one another, learning each member’s strengths and weaknesses and challenging one another to be more innovative, daring, and results-oriented. From CEO through team manager, an organization’s senior leaders would achieve little on their own if not for the people who surround them.

A Lack of Trust and Teams Fail

Many of the problems in an under-performing organization can be traced back to poor team management. When people fail to collaborate and work together effectively, goals are not met, and mistakes happen. You can probably think of an organizational example where people needed to work together but did not. When teams fail, individuals blame each other, creating a sense of mistrust and hostility. This is intensified in organizations that pit teams or departments against one another.

Rather than fostering goodwill with failed cross-agency competition, deep, often hidden animosities and resentments can light. The more you win, the more I lose, and vice versa. As teams and individuals lose respect for one another, performance is compromised as energy wasted on manipulation, coercion, and protection rather than working towards a shared vision for the organization.

Definition of Trust

Trust is confidence in your relationships with others; a strong faith that they will meet your expectations in three key areas:

  • Integrity – Team members act consistently based on well-defined principles and values. They keep commitments and ‘do what they say they will do.’ No one is perfect 100% of the time, but that’s why open communication – including identifying when you’ve made a mistake, apologizing, and asking for help – is so essential in building a solid and effective team. This takes time, and it can’t be done overnight.
  • Competence – As teams work together, they build an understanding of everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. They understand how each member will perform and trust that individuals can meet expectations, deliver requirements, and produce results. Effective team managers identify when members need help and provide training and other resources to support their growth and personal success within their given role on the team. Defining team roles, understanding individual expectations, and offering flexibility to adapt is critical.
  • Compassion – Strong teams make an effort better to understand the diverse points of view of their members. They know that collaboration can cause friction, but that innovation comes from working together towards a shared goal and being open to new ideas and thought diversity. Individuals must put the good of the team over their agenda.

Not all three dimensions are of equal importance at any given time or in all relationships. Although their extent varies, these three make up the essential elements of a trust relationship.

The success or failure of an organization is driven by the individuals who make it up. People are interdependent, and they work best in collaborative environments, where their strengths are identified and supported.

However, collaboration is built on trust, which must be earned with a commitment to open communication, consistent collection and response to feedback, and effective leadership.

For trust to exist, leaders, managers, and individual members but be given the tools to master their emotional intelligence, interpersonal communication, collaboration skills and understand the importance of teamwork based on integrity, competence, and compassion.

Trust Begins with You

You can’t have relationships of trust if you not personally trustworthy.  Being trustworthy means that I act from the three elements of trust discussed prior:

  1. Integrity—To what extent have I clarified my purpose and guiding principles? How consistently do I act with these? Do I keep my commitments and do what I say I will do? Am I consistent and predictable in my behavior?
  2. Competence—Am I technically capable of fulfilling my roles? Do I achieve desired business results? What training or experience do I need to become more competent? Do I need to consider changing positions if I am not fully capable?
  3. Compassion—Do I listen to the point of view of other people? Do I act in a manner that is perceived by others as fair? Am I a team player? Do I give up territoriality and protection of my turf for the good of the whole? Do I seek win/win solutions? Do I show respect towards all people?

Focus On  Your Own Trustworthiness First

  • You are the only person you can control.
  • You cannot change others but only influence them by how you are.
  • Trust begets trust.
  • As you improve your trustworthiness, you change your relationships’ nature and make it easier for others to act in a trustworthy way towards you.
  • If you do an honest assessment of me and find that I am not as trustworthy as I could be, then your relationships will suffer.
  • If you want to build trusting relationships with others, you must start with yourself and act in a trustworthy manner.

If you want to learn more about how Black Diamond Leadership will build trust in your organization, please read more about our Trust program.

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Author: Robert Grossman
Robert S. Grossman is a business growth consultant, trainer/facilitator, coach and speaker with decades of experience. Having achieved success in both the corporate world and as an entrepreneur, Robert has helped hundreds of companies with high-performance strategic consulting, training and communications. He coaches business leaders, CEOs, presidents, entrepreneurs and sales professionals. Robert brings 30 years of experience as a business owner, executive coach, Vistage chair and an award-winning communicator.

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