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Trust is everything for individuals, teams, and organisations. 
In my work, I coach individuals and teams, and trust is always a key factor in their success, or difficulties. Lencioni's Five Dysfunctions of a Team model illustrates the impact trust can have on a team. He said that if you don't have trust, you can't have effective challenge. If you don’t have effective challenge, then you can't get commitment for what you need to do. And if you can’t get commitment then there is no accountability, and ultimately, no results. 
 
A lack of trust leads to assumptions, misunderstandings, and poor psychological safety. If you can't say what is on your mind or give and receive feedback effectively, then it’s very difficult to improve and perform better. 
 
Picture this: an individual comments on the quality of their colleague’s work and gives pointers for improvement in a team where trust is absent. It’s all meant with good intention, but the recipient doesn’t see it that way. ‘How dare she say that!’ he exclaims, ‘she’s no right to comment on my performance.’ Diminished trust has led to an emotional and defensive response, and anything that might be constructive or useful in the feedback is lost. To make things even worse, trust has also been further eroded by the exchange. 
 
Imagine the difference if trust had been present. Instead of the defensive response, the recipient listens to the feedback and accepts it graciously. He thanks his colleague as he knows that she shares feedback with his interests, and not her own, at heart. Instead of being upset, he is happy that he has useful data to use to become even better for himself, the team, and the organisation. 
 
So, how do we build trust? 
 
The best teams and organisations not only encourage but expect their employees to actively focus on building trust with each other. They do this by putting equal focus on how they work as well as what they do. This is not easy, the allure of our comfort zone will usually drag us back to ‘task’ as this gives us the instant dopamine hit of progress when things aren’t going well. But if we focus on our relationships and ways of working, trust is built and magic happens. 
 
The best teams and organisations not only encourage but expect their employees to actively focus on building trust with each other. They do this by putting equal focus on how they work as well as what they do. This is not easy, the allure of our comfort zone will usually drag us back to ‘task’ as this gives us the instant dopamine hit of progress when things aren’t going well. But if we focus on our relationships and ways of working, trust is built and magic happens. 
 
You can encourage trust building in some simple ways: 
 
At the end of a team meeting, spend 10 minutes reflecting on how the team worked together. What did team members observe? What worked well? What would have worked better? 
Ensure team members have a safe space for giving and receiving feedback. Use a simple model like EEC: what was the Example of action or behaviour, what was the Effect, and what would you like to see Change or Continue? 
Manufacture ways to deepen connections by asking icebreaker questions at the outset of meetings. From ‘who’s your greatest inspiration?’ to ‘what’s your favourite flavour of crisps.’ Anything that gets people talking will build trust. 
 
Trust is the core of successful teams and organisations. Ignore it at your peril! 
 
Tom Emery is Founder of HEX Talent and Development and is an experienced executive coach and leadership development specialist. To contact Tom please visit his website www.hex-development.com 
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