Dictionary.com defines trust as “belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc.” Can you imagine functioning in your day to day life without trust? What if you didn’t trust your mechanic to fix your car? What if you couldn’t trust the grocery store to sell you safe food? What if you cannot trust the people you work with day to day?
Is it possible for a team to produce good results in the absence of trust? Recently Chris Chapman and I came across such a problem and this is how we mapped it:
It’s a vicious cycle and works like this:
Management doesn’t trust their staff to deliver results on time and with sufficient quality. If this continues for an extended period eventually the manager’s stress and anxiety levels increase. With time this stress and anxiety starts to show in unpleasant ways.
Unfortunately over time this will build up a culture of fear.
With time the fear staff feel with regards to management erodes the trust they have in management. As Patrick Lencioni shows us in his book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” trust is the basis for team work. Without trust it’s impossible for a group of people to do great things.
In this low trust environment the feedback loops are slow or even non-existent. For example, if a staff member is asked to something they will often quietly accept it without providing feedback. They often know they’re being asked to work beyond their capacity, but without trust it’s not possible to provide feedback.
When this situation happens repeatedly people start to become buried in work. The effect is like being in a Hollywood movie where you’re trapped in a room and the water is rising. Eventually you have your nose in a little air bubble while you struggle to breath.
When we have too much work in progress the results are never good. Quality slips, people get burned out, commitments are missed, people are working all hours of day and night and more. At first some people will give up a part of their lives to make things happen. For a while we may get some results. However, heroics never result in a sustainable pace and things will start going down hill.
Over time this becomes a highly practiced behaviour and just becomes the culture of the group. If left unchecked it will result in the team continuing on a downward spiral. Two key events are likely to happen: 1) your staff will leave as they burn out or simply give up, and 2) your customers leave as a result of your inability to deliver.
I’ve seen this cycle numerous times and there is no easy fix. However the first step in releasing yourself from your prison is to start by looking inward. To trust others you must first trust yourself. It’s something I had to learn when I shifted my career path to become an independent Agile Coach (blog post pending).
If you’re struggling with trust on your team my first suggestion would be to look at The Leadership Gift ProgramTM. This is one of the most powerful things I know. Life is a journey and if you can see how your reactions to a situation impacts the outcome it is easier to take control of your own life.
Stay tuned … I will have future posts on breaking free from this cycle.