Some teams thrive and tragically some teams do not. There are many reasons why one team fails and another succeeds, but one of the biggest factors is the amount of trust among team members. Simon Sinek writes, “If certain conditions are met and the people inside an organization feel safe among each other, they will work together to achieve things none of them could have ever achieved alone. The result is that their organization towers over their competitors.”
Thankfully, I have been blessed to work on several good teams where I felt this type of safety. In my current assignment, I work with a team of people that strive to help, empower and love one another. We often don’t do it perfectly, but we aim to do it better every day. On this team, I have been given a measure of responsibility, and so I try to facilitate team member care in at least three ways.
Investing. The first way to establish trust is by investing in someone and showing you care about them growing in their role and growing as an individual. There are many ways to do this, one way is through the sharing of resources. Whether it is as simple as passing along a good blog or podcast, or finding a great conference that would be beneficial to them, passing along resources to help, empower, and set others up for success, lets them know you care about them growing. When people feel like others are trying to help them do better, and be better, they feel valued.
Passing along a few resources and sending people to a few conferences are not enough, however, to make them feel genuinely safe and cared for. The greatest investment you can make in someone is to give them your time and attention. To slow down enough to simply check in and see how they are doing. To ask about their life and family. To take a moment and grab a cup of coffee to find out about the biggest challenge they are facing, and then offer them some advice. Investing your most valuable resource, your time, goes a long way to building the trust that is needed in successful teams.
Listening. This leads to a second way to make people feel safe, by genuinely listening to them. Note the word genuinely. Many people are horrible listeners. Some are good at pretending to listen. Other people are actually good at listening for comprehension, but even that is not enough for developing trust on a team. The type of listeners that are good team builders are empathetic listeners.
Empathetic listeners not only listen and comprehend what is being said, but they make the effort to feel what the other person is feeling. They seek to understand why a person is saying what they are saying. They ask clarifying questions. They give them their undivided attention. They quietly listen rather than speak, seeking to “understand before being understood.” This is the type of listening that builds team member trust.
Many times, however, we are so busy doing our own thing that we never slow down to really listen to what is going on in the life of a team member. They may be stuck, or confused, or hurt, but we wouldn’t know because we never actually listen to what is going on in their world. People feel safe when they feel like that have someone to talk to, and someone that will listen to them and care.
Loving. Perhaps the greatest way to grow trust on a team is when people make a mistake and they still feel loved after making it. This doesn’t mean we let mistakes go unaddressed. An “anything goes” culture will kill a team just as quickly as a lack of trust. Also, not addressing things with people is an unloving thing to do, as it doesn’t give them the opportunity to learn and grow like they should. Trust is established, however, when mistakes are made and the conversation is more along the lines of “what are we going to learn from this” rather than “how could you be so stupid to do this.”
Unfortunately, many people don’t serve in environments where mistakes are tolerated, so when they inevitability happen, an opportunity for growth is missed. Whether someone fails due to a lack of attention or because they tried something new that just didn’t go quite as planned (which are two very different kinds of failure), there is an opportunity to learn and grow. Great teams grow when someone messes up, because they help that person become a better person learning from their failure, rather than beating them down because of it.
These are three ways that I strive to develop a culture of trust and safety on my team. I strive to do these because I want us to achieve things none of us “could have ever achieved alone.”
What other ways do you see to build safety among teams?