Trust: Effective Collaboration and Teamwork

tl;dr on trusttrust

  • Listen
  • Say what you mean and mean what you say
  • Don’t assume you are right, or your way is the only way

Deeper dive

Teamwork doesn’t require particularly huge insights or masterful tactics. It comes down mostly to courage, honesty, persistence and trust.

Members of high performance teams trust one another and themselves on a fundamental, emotional level, and they are comfortable being vulnerable (courage, honesty) with each other about their weaknesses, mistakes, fears, and behaviors (good and bad). They get to a point where they can be completely open with one another.

Jurgen Appelo writes in his book “Management 3.0” of the four layers of trust:

  1. Trust your people
  2. Earn trust from your leader
  3. Trust your team members
  4. Trust yourself

Building trust can take time (persistence), and the process can be greatly accelerated. Assuming you’ve got a good grip on #4, here’s a list of places to start working on the other three:

Listen and seek first to understand others before being understood yourself.

Make every effort to first fully understand another person’s position. Only after you have accomplished that should you then speak up about your own topic, perspective or agenda. Observe how the dynamics of the conversations and your relationships change when you listen, truly listen, first. Are people more open, receptive and more interested in what you have to say after you have actively comprehended their situation/perspective?

Speak Honestly, Directly and For Yourself

  • Be mindful of speaking only for yourself. Consciously use “I” and “Me.” Do not use “We” “They” “Us” “Everybody” “You” as a place to hide what you really mean to say.
  • Speak on your own behalf, not on behalf of others (present or not present)
  • Is everyone present who should be? Are you “triangulating” / “pairing”?
  • Be clear about your intentions and your expected outcome.
  • Don’t ask questions that are not really questions. If you can rephrase something as a statement, is it really a question?
  • Don’t ask “Why didn’t you….?” (Which make the excuse that follows acceptable…) Ask instead:
    • Did you know how…?
    • Did you know what…?
    • Was it important to you…?`

Think towards “win/win” solutions.

Be committed to always finding solutions that will truly benefit all parties involved. A win-win idea is not based on compromise, but is rooted in a belief that synergies and mutual benefit can be drawn from every situation. (More on this in “Plussing” )

Set a good example.

Be proactive and resourceful. Hold yourself and others accountable for the activities and commitments they take on. Don’t be careless or unstructured. Keep tabs on risks, issues, decisions. Take full responsibility for the consequences of your actions (or inactions).

Be honest and open about your progress and have the courage to ask for help when you need it.

Believe in yourself and be honest and open enough to say things the way they are. Never over-promise or feel pressured to say “yes” to unreasonable demands or commitments. Have the confidence and courage to talk openly about issues and to ask for help when required. Give your team the chance to help out before a situation aggravates. And the converse – always be willing to pitch in to balance another’s workloads. (See Say Mean Do)

Communicate appreciation.

Take 5 seconds to express appreciation, recognition, and encouragement to those you work with. Genuine expressions of how you value their contributions. Be direct. Be specific. Be sincere.

Give and take – the helping tango…

Everyone’s work is improved by the dynamic process of receiving and giving feedback, ideas, and assistance. When “taking” consider who the subject matter experts are, who’s available, and to whom you can show your in-process work. Be clear about the kind of help you’re seeking and your timing needs. Make sure you provide relevant background info. As a “giver,” you must also do your part well. Before you start solving problems or offering suggestions, make sure you are clear on the needs and expectations of help seeker. Review the background information they gave you, and if they didn’t give you anything, ask. If you’re going to be helping throughout a project, occasionally reach out for updates. You need to understand the current state of the project so that you can match the type and level of help you give to that phase.

Maintain a positive mental attitude.

Do your best to maintain a positive mental attitude. You may have no control over what hits your project, but you do have control over how you respond. Face the world with a can-do attitude and a mindset that you have the ability to change a situation for the better. Make others laugh. And when all else fails, administer chocolate. Or beer. Or chocolate porter.

See also

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