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Building Trust as you work with a new team is crucial. To achieve a collaborative work environment, trust has to be built between all the involved parties be it team members or outside stakeholders. Trust helps teams function in a manner where they can help each other without fear.

Trust is all about letting go of human vulnerability. No one on a team wants to admit that they are wrong or they need help. You have to trust your team members and your management so that you can openly admit things you don’t know or understand. If building cross functional teams is important, having trust between team members is crucial to achieving cross functional teams. What you need to do is create a safe zone for the team members.

Reasons for lack of Trust

There are many reasons for lack of trust on a team. Below is a small list of things I have seen in the past that contribute to lack of trust:

  • Individualism (Selfishness leading to hidden agendas) and Lack of mutual respect
  • Belief that teams become cohesive when they have an outside enemy, ex, Management is the root of all problems.
  • Politics
  • Defensive Behavior leading to jumping the gun and blaming others or being aggressive.
  • Managers that are more into evaluating each individuals actions in a team than understand the reasons. This leads to Fear, fear to admit failure or lack of knowledge.
  • Unhealthy competitions
  • Constant team member changes or not having dedicated team members.
  • Specialization leading to hiding information for the ensuring job security.
  • A team leadership that has a know-it-all attitude and arrogance that goes with it.

The above problems are, in no particular order, a small list of things you might notice on a team that can contribute to lack of trust. Although we understand that we have to collaborate to build software the issues list above can cause team members to retreat and thus not be part of a functioning team. One of the fundamental reasons leading to these kinds of behaviors is a lack of safety that team members perceive. I have been on teams where team members would confide to me that because of the volatile nature of things, they did not know how long they will have there jobs and so they were really careful in what they said, when they said it etc etc making them risk averse and defensive. This is an extreme case but shows what lack of safety can do. It is one thing to have incompetent team members and another when the management is constantly creating a culture of fear.

Things you can do

Below are some things that I think can help elevate issues due to lack of trust.

  • Ensure that you as a coach or team member voice your concerns about lack of safety. If you have a team coach all the better because chances are that he/she will understand what you are saying and will start interfacing with Management and other leadership within the organization to change the culture of fear.
  • Creating a personal link is crucial to leading people through challenging times so ensure that team members build ties that involve a better understanding of each other. Maybe do exercises like Myers Briggs etc to help everyone in the team understand each other’s nature and behavior.
  • Establish a common purpose removing personal gain from the equation. Support individuals within and outside team that will help you achieve a more collaborative environment.
  • If safety has been an issue set goals in collaboration with the team. You have to let them know that they their view points are important.
  • When making decisions start by soliciting everyones buy-in, genuine buy-in, that is not done using brute force but by looking at facts. If you use facts team members will have a way to defend there decisions. I know this can make things slower but in the longer run it will help overall cohesiveness of the team. Also this will help individuals to build mutual respect as now they have to convince each other regarding a particular decision. If decisions are being made in a collaborative way you can be assured of this behavior “Since you also have the authority to decide, if you decide, you must at least follow your decision, and then this(decision) will not be forced upon you at all” – Taiichi Ohno
  • Have sessions where you help team members understand each other’s motives and what makes them tick. Deal with relationship issues within and outside team. Your attempt should be to create a cohesive unit not just within the team but with all the stakeholders.

Trust is the key ingredient to achieving a well functioning cross functional team.

Cross Post from my Blog

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