Interacting female

 If you are currently part of a group that lacks team trust or is struggling with issues like petty jealousy or defensiveness, rest assured that there is hope.

Any negative environment you are now experiencing can be improved by investing time in building or repairing relationships – but once you have acknowledged that there is a problem, the next step is accepting that you CANNOT just “get rid of” those negative behaviors!

Let me explain.

Imagine that you are sitting with a friend one afternoon at a table, and on the table is a pitcher full of air. 

It would be impossible for you to remove the air in the pitcher, no matter how many ways you twisted or shook or held it… but when your friend pours a quart of lemonade into the pitcher, the air that was there originally is unable to occupy that same space.

To get rid of the air, you must replace it with something better.

For teams, that is a wonderful bit of information, for while the behaviors or attitudes you may be struggling with cannot simply be removed – they can be replaced with something else.

The truth is that defensiveness or jealousy is more often than not a reaction seen when someone doesn’t trust their co-worker.  Trust is an important ingredient for any team to perform at or near its potential, and without team trust the group is doomed to underachieve or suffer from the workplace conflicts that are often symptoms of that distrust.

There are certainly a variety of topics involving trust that impact team performance – including trust in the vision of your leadership, in your talent, or in the strategic process that you are asked to follow.  But while these are all important, perhaps the most common issues are indicators that at least one teammate lacks interpersonal trust.

Perhaps they feel threatened, and do not trust the teammate to wield the power or talent they have correctly.  Perhaps they feel slighted, and do not trust that they will be given ample opportunity to contribute or enjoy recognition.  Perhaps they feel misunderstood, and do not trust that their opinions or needs are considered important enough.

But while it may take a while to do so, even broken relationships can be repaired if you are willing to take the time to work on it – because all trust is based upon relationships.

Trust is a positive assumption based upon previous actions.

Your past relationships are often what color the willingness to either trust blindly or wait to find evidence of other’s worthiness. You and your teammates brought the baggage of past hurts and disappointments with you when you joined the team.  But no matter how hesitant your teammate may be to accept you or a teammate as trustworthy, you can still replace that pitcher of suspicion with the sweet lemonade of trust… it just may be one drop at a time.

Trust is something that you build by illustrating you understand and care about your teammates and you build team trust by making and keeping promises with those around you.

The behaviors that build trust can be as simple as showing up on time, or delivering what you said you would as part of a project. 

The important thing is to be consistent in keeping the commitments you make.

According to George MacDonald, “to be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved.”  To earn that compliment, you must make incremental progress and let your behaviors match your words.

Some people may just assume you are terrific, and only repeated poor behavior will serve to change their optimistic assumptions and create any feelings of jealousy or defensiveness.   But some will bring more baggage, or will have been corrupted by false information, and they will need to have their negative assumptions or fears proven wrong.

This may take time and effort, but it is an activity we undertake everyday.  Trust is the assurance you feel when considering the character, strength, or abilities of someone that has some influence on you. And just as you build trust with people incrementally through the keeping of promises, both formally and informally, you also begin to trust (or distrust) brands or companies for the same reasons.

Leaders seeking to build team trust, who recognize the dangers of jealousy or defensiveness, must find ways for their people to spend time together and give them opportunities to not only build relationships, but to more importantly begin to make and keep promises that will be the basis of the trust they desire to instill.

In athletics, they may consider a preseason team building event to put people in situations where they are challenged to work together and depend on one another.   In business or virtually any area, though, it is your focus on building relationships and providing your people the opportunity to work with one another in challenging situations that builds trust.

Team building activities are an ideal way to introduce these opportunities to your team, and can provide experiences for people to grow closer in the midst of interactive challenges that serve as a microcosm of the adversity they will need to overcome together as colleagues.  The most common team building questions often deal with relevance of the event and suggested activities… but if you have people in your organization who are struggling with interpersonal trust issues, and you are looking for a way to replace the negative air in their pitcher with lemonade, a day of teambuilding activities may be exactly what your group needs.

Team building events are not a panacea for all issues your team may be experiencing, but when it comes to strengthening relationships, building trust, and improving communication among a group of people, there are few options available that offer such a tremendous return on your investment.