Posts Tagged ‘Communication Skills’

Common Team Challenges: Lack of Trust


‘Trust’ is one of those buzz words that can mean many things, depending on the context. The definition of trust used by Patrick Lencioni in his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is the notion that you have confidence that your co-workers have your best interests at heart. No one is out to get you, just waiting for you to screw up. That kind of trust is not common enough in today’s workplace.

When working with clients on team building programs, I always ask the question, “What is going on with your team that makes this program timely for you?”. The answers vary quite broadly. Sometimes a group is just looking to have fun together and give back to the community. But sometimes, there are challenges with trust lurking beneath the surface.

When trust is lacking in the workplace, it leads to an unwillingness to be vulnerable with one another. This means that we don’t ask for help when we’re struggling. We don’t offer help. We don’t readily admit to mistakes. In short, we are less invested in our team. We are more likely to create harmful silos that keep us walled off from one another, rather than helpful silos where we reach out to capitalize on each other’s strengths.

Take Lencioni’s definition of trust into consideration for a moment. And then ask yourself. Do you trust your co-workers? Are you willing to admit to your own weaknesses and mistakes without fear that they will be used against you?

If the answer is ‘yes’, then good for you! If the answer is ‘no’, then here’s a challenge for you. What are you doing that contributes to that atmosphere? You can’t control how others behave. But you have 100% control over how you behave. Are there small ways in which you are signaling to your co-workers that you don’t trust them? Or that you are not trustworthy? Think about it. And then commit to doing one thing this week that will help promote trust in your workplace. Good luck!

Ellen Patnaude

Ellen Patnaude is Vice President of Instruction for the Northeast region. She is based in Detroit, Michigan, but she also teaches in Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbus, Toronto, Baltimore and other Northeast cities.

Interested in a Team Building Event of Your Own?

Principle 1: Avoid Criticizing and Complaining

Communication and Teamwork

When it comes to building trust and rapport, there are seven basic principles that we have found to be key. The first of those is as follows:

Avoid Criticizing and Complaining

Any behavior that is negative will inherently go against the spirit of building trust and rapport with someone. And so this first principle is simple, yet powerful. Allow me to illustrate through an example.

Jane was preparing for her first big presentation to the Board of Directors. She was very nervous. She spent a lot of time making sure that she had all of her information correct, and included lots and lots of data to back up her points. Her goal was to delivery the information that the Board needed to vote to give her department a larger budget for the coming year.

In preparation, Jane asked her friend and colleague, Paul, to listen to her practice her presentation. Paul agreed, and followed Jane to a conference room to sit and listen as she walked through her planned speech.

As Paul watched, Jane struggled. She was visibly nervous, wringing her hands, laughing nervously, and she gave far too much detail about some of the numbers and sources she was quoting. She got a little lost in her explanations and tended to mumble, then interrupt herself, and chided herself out loud several times during the session.

When she was done, she sat down at the large table, looked at Paul like she expected the worst, and said, “Okay, give it to me straight. How bad was it?”

Paul sat for a moment, unsure of how to give feedback to his friend, who was obviously going to struggle mightily in front of the Board. He wanted to give her constructive advice that was both honest and helpful, without making her feel worse about herself or her presentation.

“Well,” he began cautiously, “I really liked how you moved around a lot in front of the room.” He paused. She looked surprised, like she had expected him to lambaste her with criticism. “Really?” she said. “What else?”

Paul continued on, picking out all of the positive things he could think of for her to build on. She was surprised and felt good about his feedback, but then asked him what she had done wrong. “I really need you to be honest with me,” she said.

Paul paused again, wanting to keep it positive so that she wouldn’t get discouraged and only focus on any “negatives” that he pointed out.

“I think you could get away with fewer examples,” he said finally. “You have a really good handle on your facts, and you are passionate about them, so you don’t need to give more than one or two for each point that you’re covering.” He continued on, framing his advice about what she could improve in the same positive way.

At the end of it, Jane looked relieved and pretty happy. “I was really worried that you were going to tell me I was terrible!” she confessed. “Instead I feel like you gave me some really good pointers and things I can definitely use, and I feel much better about how this will go. Thank you!”

Paul did was this principle is telling us to do. If he had been brutal in his feedback to Jane – criticizing her style and complaining about her rambling – she would not have felt very positive about him or the experience, and it would have eroded their trust and rapport instead of building it.

“People have a way of becoming what you encourage them to be—not what you nag them to be.” –S. N. Parker

We all need feedback from each other. It’s one of the key ways that we grow, learn and improve. But there are ways to do it that will help build the trust and rapport between us, as well as give us a much better chance at actually improving! Next time you find yourself in a position to give such feedback, take a moment to consider how you are going to frame what you have to say.

Will your words sound like criticism? Will it sound like you are just complaining? Or will your words encourage and provide ideas for improvement? It’s worth taking that moment to stop and think before you speak.

Ellen Patnaude

Ellen Patnaude is Vice President of Instruction for the Northeast region. She is based in Detroit, Michigan, but she also teaches in Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbus, Toronto, Baltimore and other Northeast cities.

Interested in a Team Building Event of Your Own?

Nektar Therapeutics Rescue Bear in San Francisco, California

Scientists at Nektar Therapeutics recently hosted a Rescue Bear ® team building workshop in San Francisco California to help bring together different groups within the company. Most of the twenty employees that participated in the event were from the San Francisco area and at least familiar with each other. However the company noticed that there were two groups within the company that did their job well but could benefit from learning how to work with the other groups as well. The different groups tended to function on their own, not sharing information with the other groups within the company. The Rescue Bear workshop gave them a great opportunity to come together as a team and learn better communication skills.

The Rescue Bear team building workshop involves splitting the participants into teams and setting them on the task of solving several puzzles and challenges in order to obtain the materials needed to construct various stuffed animals. The challenges of the event encourage participants to dig deep into their creative thinking abilities in order to solve them. This helps employees to see the importance of every person’s contribution on a team. There can be no individual success. The participants must work together in order to complete the tasks. Each person has a unique personality type that is a good indicator of where their strong suits are. By learning what their co-workers personality types are, everyone within the team learned new strategies for reaching goals as a team.

The event was a challenge for the participants but they rose to it admirably and were able to successfully complete ten stuffed animals. The animals were donated to the San Francisco Fire Department. The fire department uses the stuffed animals in their work with children who have suffered through traumatic events. For the scientists at Nektar, helping people to feel better is a core of what they do. The Rescue Bear event gave them yet another way to help out people who are suffering. It is truly appreciated by everyone involved. Thanks once again to the employees at Nektar Therapeutics who hosted an educational and fun Rescue Bear Workshop.

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