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How To 'Future Proof' Your Team

Consider this hypothetical scenario. We are part of a small team — let’s just say five people — to rescue a hostage. I know, not exactly realistic but just hear me out.

Each member on the team has a role and multiple responsibilities to execute if this mission is to succeed. If you don’t trust me to perform a task then chances are you’ll do the task yourself to ensure it gets done right. At the very least, you’ll micromanage the heck out of me and drive me completely crazy--more so than usual.

Meanwhile, your role and responsibilities don’t get executed because, well, you’re executing mine. So what happens? The team falls into a state of “catch up” where it’s constantly falling behind, not optimizing its potential and fails to achieve the mission.

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Research from three different countries studied over 7,700 teams and discovered something that everybody inherently knows but does little to improve: higher team trust leads to better team performance. What's more is a 2002 study of 12,750 workers in “all industries” who reported higher trust revealed a 286% higher return to shareholders than their low trust counterparts.

The importance of trust isn’t anything new (at least, it shouldn’t be) but is often viewed as a “nice to have” rather than a business imperative.

Here’s why trust is a business imperative. Let’s  say you’re driving home at night along a dark road and see car headlights coming at you from the other direction. You have two options:

1. Stop driving and go nowhere

2. Keep driving and move forward

If you don’t trust the other driver’s skill to drive or his intent not to kamikaze his car into yours, then progress stops. If, on the other hand, you do, then you get to your destination much sooner.

The moral of the scenario is this: without trust, there’s no progress, and there’s no progress without trust. The same is true in business, which is why building trust in the workplace is SO FRICKIN' CRITICAL TO COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE.

Here are a couple more considerations when it comes to trust and team performance:

Use trust to future-proof.

In their book The Future-Proof Workplace, authors Linda Sharkey and Morag Barrett cite six factors transforming today's workplace:

  1. Leadership
  2. Culture
  3. Organizing Principles
  4. Technology
  5. Diversity And Inclusion
  6. Relationships

Regarding relationships and trust, “the future of work,” the authors claim, “will center on the fluid workforce. This fluid workforce consists of teams and individuals who can come together rapidly, build trust, enable information sharing, and collaborate to deliver a successful result.”

Here’s another way to look at it. Let’s say you enter into a culture that’s full of trust, one where “pockets” of trust don’t exist but rather the ecosystem as a whole is trusting. This is all you know about the company and all you’ll ever know because that’s just how things are there. When you don’t know anything else other than the value of trust, it’s easier to trust, and that’s also how you “raise” the next generation of employees. You future-proof the workplace — and your team--against low trust.

Trust enables scalability.

I interviewed Roy Mann and Eran Zinman, cofounders of Dapulse, a smart collaboration and communication app that helps team members work in sync in one place. One practice that allowed them to grow Dapulse’s annual recurring revenue 350% in 2016 and double its client base every five months, they believe, was — and is — transparency, and to be transparent, you have to trust.

They believe that sharing information and making everything accessible to employees allows them to make decisions faster which, in turn, allows the company to not only sustain momentum, but build more.

Score trust.

Trust is the foundation upon which relationships are built. If unhealthy conflict resides within your team, reexamine how much trust exists. In fact, you can implement a trust scorecard to measure two things: trust between team members and trust within the team as a whole. If it sounds uncomfortable or even cheesy, good. That means you’re on the right path. Remember, what gets measured gets managed and what gets managed gets improved. Trust is no different.

Also, consider this. While looking at where trust exists is important, you also want to consider where trust is lacking and why. What would need to happen for there to be trust? My guess is the answer to this question begins with a conversation. You build trust by extending it. It’s that simple — simple, but not easy.

How does trust (or a lack thereof) impact your team’s performance?

Originally posted on Forbes

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