The team who had trust nailed (and what we can learn from them)

This article was originally published on the Altris Blog – a Leadership Development and Executive Coaching company based in Auckland, NZ.

This week, I had the privilege of working with a team where the trust among the group was phenomenal – quite literally something to behold.

What was evident in this team where trust with a capital T was the order of the day?

Here are 5 traits of the team who had trust nailed:

1. Connection. A group who, as soon as they gathered for our workshop, understood the power of spending a few minutes before the session connecting and finding out what was happening in each other’s worlds. 

What’s so special about that, you might ask?

This interaction might happen with most groups. But what was different with this bunch of executives was the level of listening at play – deep listening, with full presence.

Not checking their phones incessantly whilst the other person talked.

Not interrupting the other person.

It not only meant they got a “pulse check” on the organisation they were leading, it also strengthened working relationships.

2. They were fully in tune with each other. They were as hooked-in and connected to the energy and group dynamics as the Na’vi are to The Tree of Souls in James Cameron’s blockbuster Avatar.

When someone was holding back, but others thought they had something to contribute, the group gently but firmly encouraged that person to speak up.

This exec team had some weird antennae for when there was something being noticed but not being said. And they took that vital next step of naming that dissonance when they recognised its presence. It meant issues and communication blocks were not avoided and left to fester.

3. There were differences – in opinion, in perspective and in style. Somehow the group acknowledged these and honoured them.  There was enough space and safety for each person to be themselves and for the team’s diversity to take shape, to be used for better decision making and for superior problem solving.

4. The way they challenged each other was textbook effective. This was not all ‘lovey-dovey group-think’ obsequiousness. Team members challenged each other when they thought there were paradigms at play or sacred cows to be tested. They openly and robustly disagreed (even, and perhaps especially, with the CEO). 

BUT  – and there’s a BIG but. There was a difference in THIS challenging. It was in the place it came from. The energy and intent of the challenging was one of heart, support, care and possibility. It wasn’t challenge from a place of competitiveness, one upmanship or the chance to get the knife into their colleague.

5. A strong feeling they “were all in this together”. An unwritten rule that “I’ve got your back” stood as sacrosanct. It reminded me of ‘top of their game’ sports teams on their best day.

In their model of team performance, Drexler and Sibbet talk us through how teams go through a series of questions, pretty much in order, which they need to have answered to their satisfaction, in order to become a high-performing team.

They say that before a team can turn its attention to the ‘what’ and the ‘how’, each team member must ask and have answered satisfactorily,  the questions “Why am I here?” (aka purpose) and “Who am I doing this with?” (aka trust).

This team that I had the privilege of working with, had clarity and certainty on these two questions like I’ve never witnessed before.

They had trust nailed.


1 Comment

  1. John on September 16, 2015 at 5:46 am

    Hi Suzi

    I loved your comments, you were just as big a part of the dynamic as anyone in the room:)

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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