Team Trust Leads to Team Performance

I came across a couple of interesting, but seemingly unrelated articles this past weekend; at least unrelated at first glance. The first article was about Trust levels in America. According to a recent AP-GfK poll, less than one-third of the respondents place a lot of trust in the people that they encounter randomly on a daily basis, such as store clerks, drivers on the road, or people that they meet while traveling. The score of 32% is down 14 points from 1972, when it was 46%.

This concept of “social trust” has a huge impact on our society and our ability to function effectively. According to the article, societies that have higher levels of social trust find that it tends to be easier to compromise to make deals, and that people are more willing to work together for the common good. These both appear to promote economic growth. On the flipside, those societies who have lower social trust tends to have more perceived corruption, which leads to a huge waste of time, energy and resources to counteract that corruption.

There were several reasons given for the decline in trust, but one stood out; the movement towards less interpersonal interaction. While social media allows us to communicate with large numbers of people instantly, we don’t build real relationships with those multitudes of people. While our lives have become more complicated and instantaneous, we seem to isolate ourselves from people and are not as involved on a personal level with others as we were 40 years ago.

The second article that I read was about how to make teams more intelligent. The recently released study from the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence shared that team intelligence is not simply the sum of the intelligence of the individual people on the team. In fact, individual intelligence is only moderately correlated to team intelligence. So increasing the intelligence of team members will have little to no impact on team intelligence. Just having smart people on the team will not necessarily make for a smart team.

Two factors that do have a major impact stood out, and appear to have the greatest impact on increasing team intelligence. The first is social perceptiveness. This is the ability of a team member to read and understand the needs of others. Some might define this as Emotional Intelligence (EI or EQ), while at RDS we tend to call it “People Reading” and “Adapting Behavior to be Effective.” In other words, understanding behavioral styles and the needs and fears of those styles, and then adapting behavior to meet their needs or overcome their fears to accomplish goals. The higher the collective score on social perceptiveness for the team then the greater the intelligence score for that team tended to be.

The second factor was how many people on the team participated in team discussions. The fewer that participated, allowing for one or two people to dominate, the lower the team tended to score on team intelligence tests. On the other hand, when more people participated in the team discussions and decision-making, the higher the team tended to score on team intelligence.

In other words, when you put some smart people together, but they have low social perceptiveness and only a couple of people dominate the team discussion, that team will tend to perform lower on team intelligence tests. But if we have a team of smart people that are also smart about interpersonal interactions, and where everyone participates in team discussions and decision-making, that team will tend to score much higher on the team intelligence tests. This means that these teams actually perform better and will come up with more innovative and successful approaches to solving the challenges that they face.

So how are these two studies related? Trust is the foundation!

We know that when Trust levels are high for a society, an organization, or a team, that those entities tend to reap better socio-economic rewards. We also know that you Build Trust through four key behaviors: being Straightforward, Open, Accepting, and Reliable. We also know that teams that are good at these Four Behaviors that Build Trust™ will also tend to exhibit higher levels of social perceptiveness. Furthermore, those teams that are good at Building Trust also tend to be much more inclusive of all members in their team decision-making discussions. This arises out of their work on being Accepting, coupled with also being Open and Straightforward. People who feel that they are accepted by the other team members are willing to speak up and share ideas, and those team members who are Accepting of their other team members will listen to what others have to say and consider their input.

From our research and experience we have also learned that when the senior team of an organization (be it the entire organization or a division of an organization) functions well as a team and has high levels of Trust, then the rest of that organization also tends to have higher levels of Trust. This tends to lead to higher levels of employee engagement, along with a resulting ability to better achieve its goals, both short and long-term. This translates into better socio-economic results for the organization.

If we want to build a high-performance organization, then we must begin with the senior team. If we want to build a senior team that is high performing, then we must help them Build Trust with each other first. We do this by increasing social perceptiveness and opening up communication on the team. These things don’t happen overnight. It takes a long time to foster and build the relationships between the senior team members that lead to higher Trust levels on the team. This means that if you want to create a high-performance senior team then you need a program that will be delivered over a longer period of time and focus on the Four Behaviors that Build Trust™, while also keeping your specific team and organization in mind. After all, your senior team sets the tone for everyone else in the organization; if they don’t Trust each other, then how can anyone Trust anyone else in the organization?

With Trust levels so low in the USA already, how can we afford to not increase Trust levels in our organizations? Since the senior team of your organization has such a huge impact on the Trust levels in the rest of the organization, are your senior team members as trusting as they should be of each other? Are they as socially perceptive as they could be, and does everyone participate as much as they could in making team decisions? If you aren’t absolutely positive about your answers being a resounding “yes” to these questions, then perhaps there is work to be done to help them Build Trust on their team and in your organization.

 If you are unsure of your senior team’s ability to Trust each other and function as a high-performance team, then contact us and we can assess their effectiveness on the Four Behaviors that Build Trust™. This is the same team effectiveness assessment that we use in our Team Quest™ Program. Have us conduct this assessment and review it with the top senior leader of that team (CEO, President, General Manager, etc.). After that, if you decide your team is not where it should be on the Four Behaviors that Build Trust ™ and you decide to have them go through the Team Quest™ Program, we will credit the assessment cost portion of your fee towards the full cost of the Team Quest™ Program.

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