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It’s all a question of Trust

October 22, 2011

“You know what your problem is? You believe that everybody thinks and acts as goody-goody as you do.” The look my colleague gave me as he said this, made me feel quite uneasy. It was a sort of ‘ah ye naïve old fool’ look. Coming from anybody else I would’ve considered this comment a layered compliment. However, coming from him it felt like a downright warning.

My manager at the time once asked me why I didn’t like this particular colleague. We were out having office drinks that evening and the mood was pretty easy-going. I glanced over at the colleague acting congenial with others and turned to my manager, “I don’t trust him.”

That office game we play

Trust depends on vulnerability
Trust depends on vulnerability

Before that job, I worked as a temp in government administration. My project ended and the department manager, pleased with the results, recommended me to a co-manager embarking on a similar project.

Coming in with high praises can raise questions though. And the co-worker I was assigned to work with acted friendly yet held his distance. I sensed this. So at our first weekly meeting with our boss, I stressed how he had helped me along and credited him for the ideas I had come up with.

I did this for two reasons. One, I don’t like playing ‘that office game we play’ and two, it was the  truth. My ideas were ‘fresh and new’; but there’s no way I could ever have done it without his help. It was a collaborative process.

And yes. It worked. His attitude towards me changed there and then. I had proven to him that I was trustworthy. And yes. It turned out we were a very great team together.

Room for vulnerability

It’s not rocket science to state that trust is necessary for team building. Nor is it science in stating that the more trust there is among team members; the better the team thrives. Any simpleton can deduct that a thriving team equals thriving productivity.

Patrick Lencioni is a celebrated author, speaker and consultant. He guides organisations on issues concerning leadership, teamwork and engagement. One of his main themes is trust.

(Note: For more on this, check out Lencioni’s video library at The Table Group)

Lencioni discerns two types of trust: the predictive trust and the vulnerability based trust. Speaking of trust in the workplace, we tend to confuse these two. Predictive trust is when you know a colleague long enough to know what to expect from him. While this kind of trust is useful; it’s not fundamental in creating great team dynamics.

The moment you’re able to tell a colleague “I’m bad at this”, “I was wrong” or “You’ve done a terrific job”; the moment you’re willing to be this vulnerable without fearing your colleague abusing the situation, that’s when you’ve got the trust you need.

That’s the kind of trust that builds dynamics, spurs on creativity and produces satisfying results.

You know, contrary to what’s often cited in job descriptions, teamwork is neither a virtue nor a skill. Teamwork is a choice each team member makes. If trust is lacking in a team, the members will choose —either consciously or unconsciously— not to work (well) together.

Moral, Ethics and Trust

We all in (office) life make judgement calls of who’s trustworthy versus who’s untrustworthy. The reason why I didn’t trust the colleague I started off this post with, was because he had this habit of taking credits and honours for work and ideas that weren’t his. He was constantly elbowing his way into the limelight.

At first I found his attitude exhausting; but it didn’t bother me much, for I expected the ones in charge to be sharp enough to notice what was going on. To my dismay though, I later discovered this wasn’t the case. Most managers tend to look at ‘the obvious loudmouth’ straight in front of them. I learnt the hard way that (office) life at worst, is a dog eat dog world. I also learnt that in the end this not only breaks up team moral; it brings down the organisation.

You probably know the old wife’s saying: Those that play together; stay together
I’d like to adapt it for the occasion to: Those that trust together; excel together

(Source image used: Wikimedia Commons)

Related post(s) to read:

Chemistry & Allergy
Let me colour you…
Power to the True Team
The sum of us

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