I co-teach a Life Coaching Certification Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. One of the skills we teach to our coaches is how to ask a powerful question. Recently, my co-instructor and I played Bad Coach/Good Coach in a coaching demo. After our demonstration the student who played the client commented that she would have found value from both scenarios-bad coach/good coach-because she has a trusting relationship with both of us! This was a great example of connection. Even though I (bad coach) was doing coaching all wrong, she was okay with that because of the trust in our relationship.
Trust supports connection and connection will seek to understand. In seeking to understand, the ‘relationship storms’ blow over much more effectively and quickly! It is no mistake that the second stage of team development is Storming-this is where the relationship is put to the test! I have found this to be true in one on one relationships as well as team relationships. To get through the ‘storm’ you need connection.
So, if trust supports connection then the real question behind connection is what creates trust? And given that this blog is geared toward team dynamics, what creates trust in a group of relationships? In Patrick Lencioni’s book on The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, the first and foundational dysfunction is Absence of Trust. So if a lack of trust and invulnerability creates dysfunction on a foundational level, than how can a team build a foundation that supports trust?
In my first two blogs, I laid out some foundational practices that help to support the building of trust within a team dynamic. The focus was on communication. Getting clear on who you are as a team (not your function alone) is important in establishing a ‘safety zone’. Getting agreement on who does what, what the expectations are, where you are going as a team, what working environment you want to create and what is collectively important to you is your ‘safety zone.’ This is the beginning of trust.
And even within the ‘safety zone’ of communicating the team structure, all those words are meaningless if your actions don’t support them on a daily basis. Moving from the Forming stage, where the focus is on communication, and into the Storming stage, is where we have to put action to our words! This is where trust is really substantiated. It is through our words AND our actions that we establish trusting, connected relationships.
In working with leaders and teams, here are 8 behaviors I have found effective in supporting building trust into a ‘team’ dynamic.
There is a basic human need for stability. When laying the foundation of a relationship, it is important to be consistent in your ‘ways of being’ to allow for stability within an ever-changing environment. People need to know what they can hold onto as a stabilizer, especially when the storms come!
Reliability creates security-another basic human need. Within the team dynamic, if team members feel secure because of the leaders or the teams’ reliability, they will be able to weather the storms of challenges, differing opinions, and power struggles because they feel ‘secure’ within the environment.
Be open and transparent
People sense when there are ‘hidden agendas.’ Creating an environment of transparency, allowing for authenticity, truthfulness and openness-‘a what you see is what you get’ is imperative to developing the kind of trust that supports connection.
Be a listener
Everyone wants to be heard. Practice WAIT-Why Am I Talking! We are so quick to tell people what we think they should do, be or know! Listen openly – suspending judgments. Practicing active listening skills, especially in conflict situations followed up by practice #5, will minimize the conflict and get people moving through the storm rather than being stuck in it.
Be a question-asker
When you WAIT, LISTEN, and follow-up with a POWERFUL QUESTION, you are creating a space for people to not only be heard, they also have a voice. One of the downfalls of the storming stage in relationships is people feeling powerless, like they are not heard and do not have a voice. Listening and powerful questions meet both of those needs and help teams navigate more effectively through storming. A few key points on powerful questions:
The behavior of responsiveness acknowledges your team members. Responding says, “I hear your concerns, I care about what matters to you, I respect your time and energy.”When a culture of responsiveness is cultivated among team members, they will be more inclined to work through issues one on one in order to maximize ‘team time’ to focus on team goals.
Be a confronter
Sometimes team dynamics adopt the Ostrich Syndrome (burying your head in the sand) to get through the storms. However, this always backfires, as the storm never goes away-ALL RELATIONSHIPS move through the storming phase. Avoiding it prolongs it! Confronting the issues, addressing what is difficult and courageously facing the real issues will actually navigate you more effectively and efficiently through the storming phase.
If you give your word to something stand by it! Your word is your integrity. When a team forms, developing a ‘moral’ compass for the team will support team integrity. What is ‘right’ for the team and will help it to function, what is ‘wrong’ for the team and may create dysfunction. When the storms come, tapping into your team’s moral compass, reminding each other what you gave your word to as a team establishes that ‘team integrity.’
Back to my story about my coaching student finding value in bad coaching as well as good coaching because of the trusting relationship. I have found in my work with Leaders and Teams that a foundation of trust (created by the above behaviors) covers a multitude of group dynamic sins! Meaning, that even if sometimes the team is not performing up to par, or the leader is not leading up to par, the team will sustain its viability based on the trust established which creates a strong connection.