VOICE May 2016 - page 4

By David Webster
It was 12 noon on the first morning of our two days
together. My colleague and I invited the Executive
Team to consider the qualities and behaviours that
would help their conversations be successful in
their work together. The stakes were high – com-
plex expectations from multiple stakeholders, and
tough delivery targets.
In this workshop, there was an
opportunity to ‘clear the decks’
and refocus. Here, they could
‘slow down to speed up’.
Running somewhat against ac-
cepted development wisdom, we
had waited until later in the first
morning to hold this conversa-
Waiting helps the team start to understand the rules
they need. Our experience is that even in the first
two hours, they will have become much more aware
of what they need from each other to feel sufficient-
ly safe in order to talk and progress. So as with oth-
ers teams before, instead of ‘going through the mo-
tions’ the conversation moved to trust – what it
meant to them, how you build it, whether it was
present in their team. They were striking at the nub
of what often causes teams to flounder – a lack of
So what is trust? How can one be trustworthy in a
leadership team?
Although studied quite a bit by academics, the liter-
ature can appear fractured on what trust is, how it
can be built and how it can contribute to sustainable
performance. Yet there are common threads that
are useful to us, and some clear messages on how to
be trustworthy as a member of a team.
What is trust?
I would define trust as a belief, present in a relation-
ship, that another is:
– that they will keep promises
– that they have the skill and experi-
ence required
– that they will not betray confidences
– that they genuinely care for you and your
An example: My recent visit to Accident & Emer-
gency (A&E)
I was recently treated by a doctor
for a broken nose, which I sus-
tained in a Tae Kwon Do spar-
ring session. Let’s look at the doc-
tor who treated me, and how she
built trust with me, which ena-
bled her to do her job.
I arrive in A&E
(or the ER if reading this in the
US) with the broken nose. I am
seen by the doctor. The break means that I need
specialist attention, and the doctor says that she
will need to check on a consultant’s availability to
perform a procedure. She returns five minutes later
with details of where to go and who to ask for. She
has won on dependability – not only was she a doc-
tor in A&E who could diagnose the condition, and
not only did she return, but she came back with spe-
cific instructions as she said she would.
The doctor displays medical compe-
tence: she diagnoses my condition quickly by her-
self and importantly says that she was unable to
perform the important procedure but that it was
necessary; she also says ‘you need it done within
the next few hours’. I do not yet trust her to perform
quadruple bypass surgery on me, but I absolutely
trust her judgment on my nose.
As she works, she asks about my family,
my interest in sparring, about my work as a psy-
chologist and why I like it. In turn, I ask similar
questions of her. The more I share, the more I feel
comfortable with her prodding and talking. I share
because she asks questions in a way that makes me
feel I have choice in what I share.
I feel confident that she will not gossip. The initial
gap between us begins to close and as a result, she
can work; and I can get my diagnosis.
By her actions, she shows she genuinely does
So as with others teams before,
instead of ‘going through the
motions’ the conversation moved to
trust – what it meant to them, how
you build it, whether it was present
in their team
1,2,3 5,6,7
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