Many of the most profound influences in life are not visible. Think gravity, magnetic fields, friction, and ultrasound. The invisible world often governs what happens in the material world.
The same is true in teams. We can’t see trust between teammates but we can witness the startling effect it has on performance.
The words differ but they stand for the same thing: camaraderie, cohesion, bonding, esprit de corps, fellowship, chemistry. These are the labels we place on teams who exhibit an unusual level of trust. Of the many qualities that distinguish high-performing teams, trust is the discriminating X-factor by a wide margin.
Cohesive teams know each other well and like what they know. To a large part, trust on a team is acquired by understanding each other. “Miracle on Ice” hockey coach Herb Brooks knew this. That is why, in 1980, he assembled an Olympic team made up of players who had known each other since they were adolescents. Instead of selecting college all-stars, Brooks chose players who had played and competed together for years. It proved a historic and winning formula.
But not all teams have a rich history with each other or have bonded over competition. In fact, in business or education settings, that is rarely the case.
To offset this disadvantage, great team leaders invest a lot of time in encouraging teammates to learn more about each other in conversations designed exclusively for that purpose. Forums where team members disclose who they are and how they see the world help to deepen the understanding necessary for camaraderie.
Great leaders also know a little magic behind trust in teams. If there is a secret to team chemistry, it might be this: trust depends more on what team members think of each other’s skills than on just about anything else.
When teammates have conviction in the competencies of their colleagues, trust gains a foothold. Surrounded by teammates who are steadfast in their belief in their talents, team members can’t help but to believe in themselves, as well. This is how trust in teams erupts.
While trust alone does not guarantee exceptional outcomes, it almost always elevates performance to the highest level possible for a team. That’s why so many leaders are on the hunt for the elusive and invisible force of team chemistry. Trust matters, even though we can’t see it. It wears a cloak but reveals itself in the threads of high performance.
To believe in someone and ultimately trust them is taking a tremendous risk. Today's Field Note reminded me of a quote from Katzenbach & Smith (I had to look it up to ensure I got it right) ... "Joining a team is a career risk, giving up individual control is a performance risk, acknowledging personal responsibility for needed change is a self-esteem risk, allowing others to lead is an institutional risk, and abandoning hierarchical command and control is a stability risk. Taking such risks makes sense ONLY if it unleashes a team's capabilities in pursuit of PERFORMANCE."
To get to this level of trust (that can lead to High Performance), one must learn the complexity and timing (when and how) to take risks, or as Brent below nicely shared, FAITH in others and self.
I've notice my teams bond through hardships and desiging/implementing large projects/initiatives. They come out of these with a shared experience that seems to bring them closer.