# 5 - Trust in Teams
this issue you will find:
An introduction to the topic of Trust in Teams
A review of "Trust & Betrayal in the Workplace"
by Reina and Reina
Pointers to additional information on this topic
TRUST IN TEAMS--AND WHY IT MATTERS
is the willingness to believe that others will behave in reliable,
predictable, non-hurtful ways. It is one of the most important
conditions for healthy and productive relationships. It contributes
to the sense of safety that allows us to let ourselves be known
to others and to try new things. Without trust, we are more guarded
in our interactions with others, less willing to share information
or other resources, and reluctant to work collaboratively with
more than ever, organizations require collaboration in order to
succeed. The complexities of technology, increased competition,
and interdependence, have created a work environment that requires
the knowledge and expertise of many, interacting synergistically.
It's too much for any one individual to do alone.
so, increasingly, we have come to rely on teams as the best arrangement
for solving difficult problems under demanding conditions. Presumably,
a team is comprised of a manageable number of people, each of
whom has a contribution to make. But that's not all that's required
for a team to be successful.
identifies three essential components of team success: (1) a goal
that is clear, significant, and embraced by all members; (2) members
who are competent in the technical aspects of the project; and
(3) the ability of the members to work together effectively and
collaboratively. This third factor is so fundamental to high functioning
teams that it can make or break their ability to succeed. In our
experience, teams often have the most difficulty with this element.
It is frequently overlooked with the hope that if a group of talented
people work really hard, they will be able to "pull it out."
the heart of collaborative work relationships is trust. Paradoxically,
the same conditions that characterize today's work environment--faster,
cheaper, geographic dispersion, competition for scarce resources,
downsizing, mergers and acquisitions--also create conditions that
contribute to mistrust and the feelings of betrayal that come
if trust is critical for success but hard to create and sustain,
the important question is, "How can trust be developed and
maintained in teams?"
Where It All Starts: It is important to understand that different
people come to work with different assumptions about trust and
how it is built. These beliefs are typically formed and reinforced
in early life experiences, including cultural differences. This
takes two forms that can be summarized as the "half empty/half
full" model. Some approach relationships based on the belief
that others are fundamentally trustworthy. They start from a position
of trust, holding and building on this assumption until the other
person does something that is perceived as untrustworthy. These
are the "the glass is half full" people. Those who see
the glass as "half empty" start from the position that
it is better not to trust others until the others have demonstrated
that they are worthy of that trust. They have a wait-and-see approach.
The potential for collision between these two points of view is
high and can, ironically, contribute to a difficult beginning
for everyone, increasing the likelihood of misunderstanding. As
part of the team formation and start-up process, it's a good idea
to find out where each of the members is starting from and to
discuss what will help them develop a foundation of trust.
The Dynamics of Trust and Risk: The lifeblood of thriving organizations
is the ability to innovate. Whether innovations are tangible,
patentable inventions, intellectual property, or new processes
that improve how work is done and customers are served, companies
can't compete successfully without them Creating and innovating
new products and process entails taking risks and the possibility
of failure. Our survival instinct, however, leads us to avoid
or minimize risk when we are feeling unsafe. Employees who experience
their work environment as risky put a lot of energy into *avoiding
or managing* those risks rather than *taking* risks. Situations
or cultures of low trust contribute to this experience or perception
of riskiness. High trust is the condition that supports and enables
The Importance of Team Start-up and Formal Agreements: Perhaps
the greatest investment that can be made to foster a climate of
trust among team members is to engage in a formal team start-up
process. During this process, team members come together to discuss
the team's charter, align and buy in to the goals and deliverables,
clarify roles and responsibilities, and work out important details
and expectations with stakeholders. The creation of a clear set
of team agreements is equally important. These agreements are
the basis for setting realistic expectations and the rules of
engagement for how members will work together. They must also
include a process for how issues will get surfaced, conflicts
will get resolved, and problems will get escalated when the team
cannot come to agreement. Since unmet expectations--whether articulated
or assumed--and the inability to resolve conflict are the chief
causes of feelings of disappointment and betrayal, these agreements
are extremely important.
Disappointment and Betrayal: Disappointment and betrayal are the
feelings that result from a perceived breach of trust. This happens,
for example, when a commitment is not delivered or an agreement
is not kept, or so it seems. When this occurs, the level of trust
of the person feeling betrayed drops. The amount that it drops
depends on several factors, including that person's position on
the "half-full/half-empty" continuum and the significance
of the unmet expectation to him/her. If care is taken to discuss
and work out the issues in a timely way, trust can be recovered--though
it will not return to the original level immediately. If little
or nothing is done to deal with the breach, then the trust and
the relationship may be permanently damaged. When successive breaches
occur, these cycles repeat themselves until they become patterns
or norms in the team, the relationships are characterized by mistrust
and suspicion, and the style of work becomes increasingly dysfunctional.
Distrustful relationships between or among even a few members
of a team are enough to affect the entire group. Once this occurs,
it is virtually impossible for the team to recover without assistance
from someone outside the team who has expertise in rebuilding
damaged relationships. So the best approach is to get off to a
good start with clear agreements and to make sure that the team
has the necessary support early in its life to help members work
within their newly created arrangements until they become the
An Additional Caution: With many more options available for how
to communicate with each other as well as increased geographic
dispersion of people who need to collaborate, we have become increasingly
reliant on technical communications media at the expense of face-to-face
(f-t-f) interaction. But when it comes to developing trust, there
is no substitute for f-t-f engagement. How much is enough? It
depends on the team, its work, and other environmental and organizational
circumstances. Both research and our experience show that the
initial start up work needs to be done f-t-f. People frequently
avoid conflict therefore and conflict resolution by phone or on-line
for fear of being misunderstood and making things worse. So periodic
meetings for check-in and team maintenance are an absolute necessity,
as are agreements that call for the surfacing of any issues that
could affect the relationships among the team members as soon
as they see them.
is our observation that teams more often fail because of relationship
issues than for lack of technical ability. This component is often
neglected because it requires hard, uncomfortable work and an
investment of time and energy by *everyone* involved. The price
that is paid every day--in costs to people, organizations, and
"Trust & Betrayal in the Workplace: Building Effective
Relationships in Your Organization" - by Dennis Reina &
Michelle Reina (Berrett-Koehler, 1999)
today's fast-paced, changing workplace, trust is more important
than ever. But according to Dennis and Michelle Reina, after two
decades of downsizing, restructuring, and managerial changes,
trust within organizations is at an all-time low. How can we reverse
this damage? "Trust and Betrayal in the Workplace" gives
us a proven model to help us rebuild trust in our organizations.
The Reina Trust & Betrayal Model helps us to conceptualize
trust and betrayal in new ways.
book is divided into three parts. Part I (Understanding Trust
& Betrayal) defines what trust and betrayal are and why they
are important in today's organizations. Many authors and consultants
talk about trust, but use euphemisms to discuss betrayal. The
Reinas deal with betrayal head on. Their model shows us how to
begin the process of healing from betrayal and rebuilding trust
both between individuals and in teams.
II (Transactional Trust) is the meat of the book. Reina &
Reina remind us that trust is created incrementally and is reciprocal--one
has to give it to get it. They introduce us to three types of
transactional trust: contractual trust, communication trust, and
competence trust. Each has specific behaviors that build trust
and maintain relationships in the workplace.
Trust, which forms the basis of most interactions in the workplace,
is defined as managing expectations, establishing boundaries,
delegating appropriately, keeping agreements, and being congruent
in our behavior. Communication Trust is the willingness to share
information, tell the truth, admit mistakes, maintain confidentiality,
give and receive constructive feedback, and speak with good purpose.
When we readily and consistently share information and involve
employees in the running of the business, it not only affects
trust, but also productivity and profitability. Competence Trust
involves respecting people's knowledge, skills, and judgment,
involving others and seeking their input, and helping people learn
skills. Competence Trust is found where leaders and employees
learn from one another, and where both are learning from their
customers, suppliers, and competitors.
III (Transformative Trust) shows us how the model can serve as
a tool to help us move our organizations toward the highest form
of trust -- Transformative Trust. Transformative Trust occurs
when the amount of trust within a team or organization reaches
a critical point and increases exponentially, becoming self-generating
and synergistic. Four core characteristics are usually present
-- conviction, courage, compassion, and community.
the end of each chapter a section headed "Ideas in Action"
provides reflective questions and application exercises for using
the material in day-to-day work environments.
at millpond believe that in high-trust environments, people are
more willing to keep agreements, share information, admit mistakes,
learn from those mistakes, and take on greater responsibility.
They are more committed to and aligned with the organization's
vision. By creating workplaces where trust flourishes, we can
dramatically improve morale, productivity, and profits. This book
teaches us how to do that.
Web sites and Other Resources we've found about this topic include:
The web site for Dennis and Michelle Reina's firm, Chagnon &
Reina Associates, is <www.trustinworkplace.com>
They offer several resources for trust building, including a certification
program for HR and OD professionals.
See Chapter 6, Collaborative Climate, in Larson, C.E. and LaFasto,
F.M.J. (1989). Teamwork: What must go right/What can go wrong.
Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications for a discussion of this topic.
Handy, C. (1995, May-June). Trust and the virtual organization.
Harvard Business Review, Reprint no. 95304.
NTL Institute offers a variety of development programs that address
trust building between individuals and in organizations: <www.ntl.org>