Last Wednesday, I had the pleasure of spending the day with a team of executives who trust each other. Many of their jobs have expanded or changed completely recently, and we were meeting to figure out how they can best operate as a team, given their new configuration and roles.
When we work with teams, we quite often use a model that focuses on five elements that characterize high-performance teams: clear and compelling goals; well-defined roles; simple and effective processes; practical measures; and high trust.
Over the course of the day, we worked through all five elements, and I helped the group agree on ways to clarify and improve in all the areas. When we got to trust, there were a few fairly minor things that needed to be addressed, but overall it was the element that required the least work.
As I thought back over the day, I saw that this core of trust was at the heart of what made the day so productive and enjoyable. People told the truth to each other; they felt free to disagree; if someone didn’t know something or turned out to be wrong about something, that was OK. There was a lot of humor, and people were at the same time relaxed and focused throughout the session. It would have been hard to ascertain who was responsible for the various ideas and agreements that ended up in our final work product: once an idea was on the table, there was little pride of ownership – everyone weighed in, riffed, made it their own. It was truly a group process.
At dinner that night with the group, an exceedingly enjoyable and comfortable affair, I realized that their trust has this same positive impact on their interactions every day. This group of people is extraordinarily successful and effective by every measure – financially, creatively, and in terms of building long-term asset value. Their trust in each other is like a lubricant: it makes their interactions smoother, faster, easier, clearer, more accurate. They waste much less time than most teams in miscommunication, useless political wrangling, self-protective posturing.
Once again, I saw the importance of trust; it really is the foundation of great personal and professional relationships. When there’s trust, nearly anything else can be solved. When there’s not, it makes everything else difficult.