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Trust. The ultimate team builder?

April 24, 2014

As we found out in a recent interview, Linkage’s Executive Vice President, Dr. David Giber, knows exactly how toxic working in an atmosphere of broken trust can be to leaders and teams. He also knows how to cultivate trust and avoid the traps and problems that come with broken trust.—Ed.

“Trusted influence is a combination of hard skills and soft skills,” he says. “The hard skills are what you need to do your job—you have to have enough expertise and credibility in your field to be seen as somebody who deserves to be trusted. It does not mean you have to know everything, but it is important to have some established expertise, especially in technical or knowledge-based fields.

“The soft skill is how you use your knowledge. To be a trusted influencer, you have to be willing to take some risks, speak truth to power, and not just say what you think the client or the boss wants to hear. Those things are what build stronger partnerships between a leader and their team members.

“You need to show that you are taking risks in what you express and that you are willing to be open to other’s feedback. I think a lot of times people think trusted influence is just about networking—well, it’s not.”

How do you know if there is a breakdown in trust?

“The answer is a question: Are people withholding information or essentially not talking to each other?” Dr. G asks. “That’s basically it. When there is no trust, team members work as independently as possible and they hold information close in terms of their own personal goals or needs, as well as their function as part of the job and part of the business. There is no shared sense of purpose and there are very few ways in which people work together to get the actual work done.”

How can you rebuild trust?

“It’s actually easier to take over a team when the leader before you was distrusted and thrown out,” Dr. G continues, “compared to when trust is broken between the team members. Patrick Lencioni has written a lot about this—when you inherit a team with little or no trust, you have to be very explicit about the rules in which you are engaging with the team, both in terms of confidentiality and in terms of your own vision about where you want to take the team. You also have to decide quickly if you have the right people on the team to encourage success and trust.

“The tough choice for leaders is to determine if there is a way to work with people when their trust is broken. Is there some way that this can be worked out or is it better to just change some of the team members and start over? As a new leader to the team, that becomes the tough thing to do.”

What books or resources would you suggest for those who are interested in learning more?

“A great book on trust is Getting Things Done When You Are Not in Charge by Geoffrey Bellman. In terms of the theory on influence, Robert Cialdini has written a lot of things about the psychology of influence and is an expert to look to as well.

“In terms of movies, there are some good movies around trust. One of the best ones about trust across generations is In Good Company, with Dennis Quaid where he plays an older manager who ends up working for a younger boss. It shows how he ends up teaching this younger guy what trusted influence is all about. That is a terrific movie for this topic. There is also some of it in the movie Up in the Air, but for me, In Good Company is just a great, great example of developing trust in relationships over time.”

So let’s hear it. Have you worked on a team that suffered from toxic trust issues? What did you do to survive/rectify the situation?

Dr. David Giber has over 25 years of experience in organization development, human resource management, leadership development, and executive coaching. He is a Senior Vice President in charge of Leadership Development at Linkage. Nationally known as a leader in his field, David has developed many of Linkage’s core coaching practices and techniques and has published several articles on his coaching work.

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